How should this impossibly ugly reality that is playing out in the Ukraine at this time as Russia’s attack continues be addressed? Whose rights and whose responsibilities come into play? How does one respond to an evil, unjust act without aggravating the situation? Pope Francis has called for this day, which is already a day of fast and abstinence, to be observed even more determinedly. He has also offered to mediate while in his FRATELLI TUTTI he has totally rejected war.
But we have to face the fact that this is not the only reality of unjust and brutal aggression in our world, this world as a family of families. Families of all kinds, human as well as the families of nature or creation, are suffering in many ways from an abuse of rights and total denial of responsibilities. This focus can be a powerful source of reflection for our Lenten observance in 2022.
To prepare the MARCH and LENT DAILY THOUGHTS I researched the topic mainly from a local South African perspective as March is Human Rights month. However I have taken a wider view than human rights, of Family Rights. Although the UN Declaration of Universal Rights Article 16 does recognize the family as the natural and fundamental group unit of society entitled to protection by society and the State, the only charter that has a specific family focus is the Catholic CHARTER OF FAMILY RIGHTS which addresses a right to life, to marriage, to work, to shelter and more. Many constitutions do include some of these but generally not from the perspective of a family’s right. The right to life is included almost universally and yet is also almost universally ignored as an unborn person is not recognized as having rights and abortion is common everywhere. The SA Constitution is lauded as being one of the world’s best but it seldom specifically mentions families, and never refers to animals and nature which have rights too in God’s plan of creation. Laudato Si 5 states “Authentic human development has a moral character. It presume full respect for the human person but it must also be concerned for the world around us and take into account the nature of each being and of its mutual connection in an ordered system.” t also contains many general references to the interconnectedness and human responsibility for creation.
I found very little reference to responsibilities accompanying rights anywhere, except in a variety of resources for children. I adopted the very helpful A BILL OF RESPONSIBILITIES FOR THE YOUTH OF SOUTH AFRICA www.gov.za/about-government/government-programmes/bill-responsibilities. which states, “I appreciate that the rights enshrined in the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa are inseparable from my duties and responsibilities to others. Therefore I accept that with every right comes a set of responsibilities.” It appears to me that the actual Constitution and its Bill of Rights focuses exclusively on a vast range of human rights. Duties do appear from time to time but duties and responsibilities are not quite the same concept. Once, the term “responsibilities” does appear in the Founding Provisions under the heading Citizenship. “All citizens are equally subject to the duties and responsibilities of citizenship.”
Another resource used in developing the DAILY THOUGHTS was the MORAL REGENERATION MOVEMENT’s CHARTER OF POSITIVE VALUES which uses the terms “committed to the spirit of ubuntu” and “we dedicate ourselves” to showing respect and similar values as ways of fleshing out responsibilities. https://static.pmg.org.za/150324MRM_Charter_of_Positive_Values.pdf
Many suggestions around the concepts, and the applications thereof to rights and responsibilities, are included in the MARFAM LENTEN FAMILY CALENDAR for 2022 aiming to prepare for Easter by becoming an eco-friendly family. The DAILY THOUGHTS for the month include quotations from Pope Francis from LAUDATO SI, AMORIS LAETITIA and other documents along the same lines. For details go to www.marfam.org.za/family-matters Download the MARFAM LENTEN FAMILY CALENDAR and follow the DAILY THOUGHTS also on social media. .
Did Pope Francis really say in a tweet “giving up smoking, drinking, sweet drinks or anything like that is useless unless it does some good for someone else?” I could conclude with the observation, “A suggested Act of Love and Sacrifice and a Daily Reflection on the aspects of family life in a World of Families can not only do good for someone else but even for one’s own material and spiritual self.
For a start we can discern our rights and responsibilities as we join in the Ash Wednesday observance and day of fasting and prayer. In Laudato Si’, Pope Francis denounces war and laments its effect on all members of God’s creation. “War always does grave harm to the environment and to the cultural riches of peoples, risks which are magnified when one considers nuclear arms and biological weapons” (LS 57). TR FAMILY WEEKLY 2 MARCH 2022