The good people do30 Nov 2022
Volunteer non-profit organisations are the subject of Pope Francis’ prayer intention for December.
The world would be a poorer place without non-profit organisations that provide a place for volunteers. On the local scene we can think of the Vinnies, the Salvos and World Vision, not to mention all the organisations sponsored by Religious Congregations. On the world scene we are familiar with Médecins sans frontières and others. Such organisations reach out to people in desperate need, often compensating for the failures of governments to care for their people.
Organisations committed to human development are concerned to do more than meet individual needs. They are also called to address social problems in society. Their gaze reaches behind the real needs of particular people to the needs for more just structures of relationships between different groups in society and between different nations.
JUST AND COMPASSIONATE SOCIETY
They are about making the relationships within society more just and compassionate. This is a challenging role. The more sharply they identify unjust structures, the more challenging their mission becomes. The institutions and people who benefit from these structures will fight to defend their privilege and try to discredit or intimidate groups that criticise them. As Bishop Helder Camara said, ‘If I feed the hungry, they call me a saint. If I ask why they are hungry they call me a Communist’.
Human development, too, touches on many areas of life about which people hold sharply different views. Some people see religious belief as essential in a fully human society. Others see it as an obstacle. Some believe that respect for women means enabling access to contraceptives and abortion. Others see these things as disrespect. Some see climate-change as the greatest challenge to faith and to society. Others see it as one challenge among many. Differences about these views can be divisive and affect the endorsement and support that they receive from their public.
Against this background Pope Francis focuses on the need for organisations to find good people. This is a challenge for all organisations, and perhaps especially for faith-based organisations. Many of these were founded and originally staffed by people with a shared religious faith. Now their staff members will hold diverse beliefs.
It becomes all the more important that they are generous and respectful in their relationship with one another, with the people whom they serve, and with the environment of which they are part. If they are to commend just and compassionate behaviour there must be coherence between their mission, between all their relationships, and their processes and procedures.
COMMITMENT TO THE COMMON GOOD
Pope Francis expands on this need when he prays for people to be committed to the common good. Within organisations this commitment demands that they always look to the good of the people who they help and not to their own financial gain, promotion or esteem.
It asks also that the organisations in which they work look first to the good of the least advantaged in society and not to their smooth relationships with government or to the security of their contracts for their programs.
This is a large challenge for organisations that work outside their own nation. It demands that they remain focused on fostering good international relations. This is not easy in a polarised world where people are pressed to take a stand for one nation and against others. That is precisely the reason, however, why it is most necessary for international organisations to try to maintain relationships with both sides and so contribute to making peace, not war.