Georgia Bulletin

The Newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta

©Photo by Hare Khalid/Metrography for Catholic Relief Services
A humanitarian worker registers Christian and Yazidi refugees at a distribution event organized by Catholic Relief Services and Caritas Iraq at the Church of Apostles in Fishkhabour, Iraq.

Advancing the work of justice and mercy around the world

By ARCHBISHOP WILTON D. GREGORY, Commentary | Published August 21, 2014

How very compressed our world has rapidly now become—not because it’s actually shrinking in quantifiable measurements, but each day, events and people impact one another in ways that would have been unthinkable only a few decades ago.

Last week, Msgr. Hugh Marren brought one of his houseguests in to meet with me: Archbishop Emery Kabongo, the retired diocesan bishop of Luebo in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Archbishop Kabongo had served as one of the secretaries for St. John Paul II, and so I had met him previously on a number of occasions when I visited Rome during his service in that office. I was very happy to see him in Atlanta.

Waiting for me after Msgr. Marren and his guests had departed was Msgr. Francis Phuong, who brought with him some members of the provincial leadership team for the Dominican Sisters. They currently have seven wonderful nuns serving here in Atlanta at Our Lady of Vietnam and Holy Vietnamese Martyrs parishes.

We are an archdiocesan family with important and widespread international connections. We engage the needs and the local situations of people who do not speak English or often understand our American customs, but who live and confess the Catholic faith that we share. Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport makes it convenient for people to come to Atlanta and for Atlantans to travel to every corner of the globe.

A Yazidi refugee awaits for his turn at a distribution event organized by CRS and Caritas Iraq at the Church of Apostles in Fishkhabour, Iraq
. ©Photo by Hare Khalid/Metrography for Catholic Relief Services

A Yazidi refugee awaits for his turn at a distribution event organized by CRS and Caritas Iraq at the Church of Apostles in Fishkhabour, Iraq
. ©Photo by Hare Khalid/Metrography for Catholic Relief Services

However, our world has also become so much smaller because of the impact of communications. We all watch in horror as thousands of people in Iraq are being persecuted; many of them even slaughtered because they are Christians or members of other religious communities who will not convert to Islam or succumb to the demands of the extremists who have seized vast areas of that nation.

Our own country is appalled at the violence that is currently being played out in Ferguson, Missouri, over issues of race and poverty, due justice and community conflicts. The great racial divide that we had hoped was closing for our nation remains a great chasm of misunderstanding and agony.

The Ebola virus that began in a few African countries has managed to touch the lives of people across the globe in very frightening ways. The brutality of the Boko Haram terrorists in northern Nigeria sends shivers up our spines to think that such random and disgusting violence is occurring in our world today.

We may have thought that these socio-political issues had been decisively settled in past centuries or even a generation ago. International and national events come into our homes and our lives in ways that bring us face to face with the suffering of other people every day. And the closeness and intensity of these events must impact us and spur us to respond—even though we may live a continent or several states away from these happenings.

First of all, we must pray for the return of peace and justice in all of those places where violence is the ordinary way of life. Then we must commit ourselves to be people of righteousness in our own world—categorically rejecting religious or racial bigotry. This is a special charge for those of us calling Atlanta our home—our city is a celebrated and cherished household of the American civil rights movement.

We are called to work energetically with our ecumenical partners and colleagues in promoting a spirit of harmony and compassion within our own communities so that our children are prepared and trained to work collaboratively together for the common good of our society.

I have asked our pastors within the next few weeks to take up a collection to support Catholic Relief Services’ humanitarian efforts so desperately needed in Iraq at this time. I ask all of you to write to your elected officials to urge them to support the increased outreach of our nation in caring for the displaced people of Iraq.

The work of justice in our own nation remains an unfinished legacy of the great witness of those civil rights workers from Atlanta whose courageous personal sacrifices brought such hope to this nation.

The world in which we live may not have grown smaller physically, but certainly it has expanded in need of many more people of good will to advance the work of justice and mercy, which is lacking in so many places today.