Acting Social Justice Coordinator
It is often said that we as a community look to work towards ‘justice’ and strive for a ‘just society’. Such phrases are commonplace in the grounds, assemblies and mission at Loreto Normanhurst and, in fact, most religious schools and organisations. The secular Australian community strives for a sense of justice in a myriad of social justice issues. Such a world is, at times, very loud and incredibly complex. It seems as if the number of worthwhile causes and organisations is growing each week and the desire to ‘do good’ and ‘act justly’ does not seem to make a dent in tackling very real issues. The phrase ‘social justice fatigue’ has been uttered in the media more than once and points, I think, to a deep sense of confusion when faced with such overwhelming issues of gender inequality, refugees, climate change, homelessness, disability… the list is endless. In spite, or perhaps because of this, the call to justice remains.
On Social Justice Sunday, 29th September 2019, I attended Sunday Mass at St Francis Xavier, Lavender Bay. Presiding Priest, Fr Phil Crotty SJ, challenged the congregation to view social justice as small actions which, when viewed as a whole, has the power to make real and lasting change in the world. He spoke on social justice in two ways: action and awareness. There are those who are able to use their talents, skills or wealth to take very real, concrete action in tackling social justice issues, and just as important, is developing a sense of solidarity and awareness of the people who are at the heart of such issues.
Judaism, strives for justice, as do all major world religions. Within Judaism is a concept of Tikkun Olam (world repair). Put simply this phrase has come to connote a pursuit of social action/justice, to repair the world. This phrase is found with Jewish Rabbinical writings and teachings and is most used to assist those who are at a disadvantage in society. Jennifer Noparstak, who works within the Baltimore Jewish Council, writes:
“The most modern and broadly understood notion of tikkun olam is that of ‘repairing the world’ through human actions. Humanity’s responsibility to change, improve, and fix its earthly surroundings is powerful. It implies that each person has a hand in working towards the betterment of his or her own existence as well as the lives of future generations. Tikkun olam forces people to take ownership of their world. It is them, not God, who will bring the world back to its original state of holiness.”
At Loreto Normanhurst we live out this call to human action, responsibility and awareness each day. A deep sense of justice permeates through the school, led by our Social Justice Captain and Social Justice Leaders. In this complex and noisy space of justice, we are called to live in solidarity with all people of the world through awareness raising initiatives in our classrooms, social justice groups and as a whole school community. We share in the joy of students who give generously of their time to serve their community or raise funds for those affected by the sex slave trade in Cambodia through our support of Project Futures. We also give generously – of time, money and goods in Project Compassion and Loreto Day causes. While social justice and charity are not the same, they both have an important place in developing people for others, in line with the vision of Mary Ward.
In Term 4, the focus of social justice will be the annual St Vincent de Paul Society Christmas Hamper Appeal. This is an opportunity for our whole school community to give generously and come to an understanding of poverty in a first world country such as Australia and to be the human response to this issue. Each Tutor Group will put together a Christmas hamper for a local family doing it tough this Christmas season. Look out for more information on this in the coming weeks.
Mr Phillip Merchant
Acting Social Justice Coordinator