Apocalypse? what should we do as Christians?
Miguel Ángel Velasco cmf
UNITAR Master Arts in Development Studies and Diplomacy
B.A. in Systematic Theology
We are at the beginning of a new epoch, with the insecurity that every change of age brings about. What should we, as Christians, do in this situation? Should we get involved in the political twists and turns where the configuration of the world in the new epoch is decided? Should we leave all these issues to the politicians and diplomats? What to do? I would like to offer some thoughts on what, as Christians, we should do. It may be a suitable beginning for further analysis and conversation that will enrich and refine the ideas presented in this article.
First, we must make an effort to feel that we are citizens of the world and responsible for it. By this, I am not saying we have to worry only about vulnerable people from other countries. We know how one of the most remarkable changes of the 2030 Agenda and its SDGs concerning the Millennium Development Goals is the affirmation that the 17 SDGs are to be achieved in every country; the scheme in which the rich North has to help the poor South is broken; North and South are present in every nation-state. The awareness of being a responsible Global (Universal) Citizen implies realizing the links and implications of all humanity and committing oneself to seek global and local changes.
But how can we be aware of what is happening in other latitudes and at the levels of global international relations? How can we know where the world is heading? To understand “first hand” and without interested intermediaries, we must increase our presence in international organizations, always organized, coordinated, and realistic. We should not try to reactivate attitudes of domination typical of past ecclesiological models but opt for straightforward collaboration with others, always within the realism proper to those who know that international relations belong, fundamentally, to nation-states and their organizations. This space of presence and commitment corresponds to all Catholic Church members, but especially the laity. We should recover the impulse that Vatican II gave to the presence of the laity in the transformation of the world, through politics and international relations.
The “Mission – Vision” of the NGOs in these international forums must be based on the principles of the Social Doctrine of the Church and, specifically now, on encyclicals such as Fratelli Tutti or Laudato Si. Their actions and programs must involve coordination among Catholic NGOs among themselves and with the Apostolic See or the Bishops’ Conferences. Furthermore, the collaboration of Faith-Based Organizations (FBOs) must extend to dialogue and partnership with other Christian FBOs, those of other religions, and with all those with whom we coincide in our objectives.
Of course, Faith-Based Organizations, and Civil Society in general, have an important influence on the International Organizations of Nation-States, such as the UN. Still, we must keep in mind that decisions are made by States and their delegates, not by NGOs. To think otherwise is to mislead ourselves and raise wrong expectations. But there are other powerful reasons to be present in these organizations.
The international presence of lay and religious organizations in international forums and organizations must make us deeply knowledgeable of the international panorama. The objective must be to know the international situation well to adequately orient our priorities in the transformation of the world. It is essential to have an in-depth knowledge of the functioning and priorities of the UN, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and the 2030 Agenda of Sustainable Development Goals. For this, it is not only necessary to be present in the related forums, but also to study at university level issues such as Sustainable Human Development, Social Doctrine of the Church, International Relations, History of International Relations, and Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
The persons or groups in charge of this international presence should feel called to communicate their knowledge of the international reality to their organizations; they should transmit the conscience of Responsible Citizens of the World (Global Citizenship). These awareness-raising actions should be directed to: other members of their organizations; the teaching staff of educational entities; catechetical groups and catechumenates; schools for the formation of evangelizing leaders; the activities and celebrations of parish communities. The people of these groups, aware of their responsibility, will be relevant actors in their cities and countries, forming part of an active and committed Civil Society. NGOs, especially Faith-Based and Faith-Inspired Organizations, must build communication and collaboration networks to influence the countries, cities, and social groups in which they are present.
We, the members of the Catholic Church, the other Christian Churches, and other religions, also have an important mission. This mission is clear but not easy: to make areas of the world, countries, or human groups, which do not normally figure in geopolitical analyses, very present in international forums and in our groups and churches. If we review the first part of this article, we can see that the “important” geopolitical analyses do not refer to areas of the world that systematically do not seem to exist; we must help to resolve this situation and make international, national, and local organizations speak and care about them effectively.
Last and most important is the Church’s presence in those places and with those whom few, if any, care about. This blog is full of testimonies of this enormous work of the Church in all the areas present in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the 2030 Agenda with its SDGs. What is presented in this blog is a tiny part of all the work that the Church is developing in the world “on the street”, next to those most in need of attention. As the 2030 Agenda repeatedly states, these people and groups are present in all countries, especially those with the lowest Human Development Indexes.
We are at a crucial and, at the same time, difficult time in our world. The daily news is full of cause for concern, but there is much more in the world. The Church, and its many transforming commitments, is part of that big group of people and organizations that are not resigned, as God the Father is not surrendered to the fact that the future of humanity is full of darkness. The hope for change, for a new world, is to be found, above all, in all those men and women who, whether they know it or not, are carrying forward the contents of the Gospel. In this sense, it is also necessary to make possible an “apocalypse” of all the positive actions that are being carried out in our world; I believe that we would be filled with hope for the future of humanity.
Miguel Angel Velasco cmf