Finding the right response to the wrongs of the world

By Steve Atherton, Justice & Peace fieldworker

Can you still get angry? If you’re at all like me, you’ll probably get annoyed more than angry and it will be about things like traffic jams, late trains or cancellations. Maybe you can get angry over domestic mishaps such as no milk for your breakfast cereal or heaps of washing-up left in the sink. Maybe you can get angry with your own failings, especially if you keep on making the same mistakes!

But what about serious issues? When did you last get angry about the proliferation of nuclear weapons, about the fact our country sells weapons to dictators knowing they’ll use them to abuse their own people, about government and industry’s refusal to act urgently on climate chaos, about the destruction of the Amazonian rainforest?

I’m afraid that my answer is that I don’t get angry at all. I’m cross with myself for only being disapproving, which is even weaker than being annoyed. We’ve had Gospel readings recently where Jesus told us that He didn’t come to bring peace and He certainly got very angry about the stalls in the temple. Maybe it’s time to be moved by people’s suffering and even to join the people on the barricades.

The Extinction Rebellion movement has brought climate issues into the news. Locally, we have a strong Pax Christi group in the diocese. They take to the street several times a year to protest against injustice and to witness that Christian values should change the way we think and act. We have had visitors from West Papua over the years and they are still being denied nationhood. In the last few weeks many more of their people have been callously murdered.

So what do we do? Protest, of course, isn’t usually enough to bring about change. Violence is never the answer. Being well-informed is essential. Prayer seems very quiet. But, in the face of evil, it may well be the best response.