Promoting policies towards social justice and peace


We face increasingly populist politics and growing authoritarianism. We suffer from an avalanche of misinformation online and offline, and an alarming spread of conflict and violence. All of these factors impede our progress toward a freer and more just world. For this reason, the General Commission for Justice and Peace addressed ethics in political action through reflection and debate at its 2023 Conference, inviting representatives from the political sphere and civil society. About fifty people from the diocesan commissions for Justice and Peace and the Church gathered in Murcia, both at the Theological Institute and in the halls of the parish of St. Michael, from November 3 to 5.

At the opening session, after welcoming and thanking the President of Justicia y Paz de Murcia, Joaquín Lara, Bishop José Manuel Lorca alluded to the complex situation we are living in, to which we must seek a response based on the centrality of the person. The president of the General Commission, Javier Alonso, indicated that affection is fundamental for ethics in politics. He shared the greeting of Marek Misak, of Justice and Peace Europe, who warned against polarizing forces and affirmed that each person can contribute in law and dialogue because he/she holds a promise. Finally, Bishop Justice and Peace accompanier, Javier Vilanova, pointed out that involvement leaves us with a void if we stop drinking from the Source.

The first session on ethics in political action, presented by Bernardo Pérez of Justicia y Paz Murcia, argued that politics needs ethics to be more than a mere conflict of interests. In his presentation, Carlos García de Andoin argued that democracies are dying or at risk. He shared some of the risks we are experiencing, such as citizen dissatisfaction with political parties, disdain, anger, anxiety in the face of uncertainty, the proliferation of anti-system movements, corruption, the increase in inequality, and the rejection of migrants, among others. He developed that the relationship between morality and democracy should not be from the "iusnaturalism or natural law", but from the convention or common framework reached with deliberation and agreement from different worldviews. He stated that the mission of the Catholic community does not consist in getting involved in a cultural battle, nor in defending a penalistic vision of life, paternalistic with poverty and complacent with economic fracture; on the contrary, it is necessary to create spaces for dialogue and encounter based on different options. The priority is social friendship and fostering its bond as the role of the community, the experience of shared identity and testimony in diversity. We need political representatives to be genuinely worried about the people. There are no shortcuts to the path of democratic participation. Populism or referendums are shortcuts to deliberation, debate or difficulty in reaching agreements. Technicality is also a risk. We need a democracy with greater participation and deliberation. The better the civil society, the better the democracy. As an epilogue, he proposed to demoralize politics in order to avoid marking options as "good or bad" and to distinguish what is opportune, debatable or desirable, avoiding moralizing different positions.

Saturday was about ecological justice and the rights of nature. Teresa Vicente shared her experience from the activism for the Mar Menor. She argued that talking about human rights without rights of nature is something old and alien to reality. Ecological literacy is necessary (Leonardo Boff). She provided significant data such as that in 2023 there are 50 million slaves linked to extractives' mining policies. The Mar Menor had all the possible legal protections of the natural spaces, but it was not enough to survive. Faced with the risk of death of the Mar Menor and by social mobilization, 640,000 people signed the Popular Legislative Initiative (ILP) and obtained the Law 19/2022, of September 30. The law involves the recognition of legal personality to the Mar Menor lagoon and its basin, going from being an object to a subject of rights. It has been a social movement that comes from below and becomes strong. The legal initiative is influencing European legislation. Europe has arrived with the scientific paradigm at an ecological conception, which brings us closer to the conviction of the sacredness of nature held by the original peoples, precedents in this conception. A challenge is presented to us in the "Earth Assembly" (A/RES/77/169) to be held on 22-4-2024. The achievement of the Mar Menor unites us to the path of the original peoples in all continents.

At the round table on citizen engagement in politics, different voices from Murcia offered their vision. Noelia Sanchez, from Caritas, urged what Pope Francis invites: to encounter, to understand the needs of others and to analyse the response offered to give light, hope and find the way, but she also added the necessary constancy. Martín Cuenca, from CONFER, pointed out the need for greater political commitment. The proposal of Fernando Bermudez, of Justice and Peace, was to initiate a worldwide campaign with the aim of re-founding the UN. And Teresa Vicente shared her reflection on the success of the ILP of the Mar Menor: it was able to overcome ideology or perhaps partisanship, because also in the dialogue it was indicated that ideology moves us.

Tica Font, from Centre Delàs, spoke about the citizen's commitment against nuclear weapons, through the ICAN Campaign and the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW), which from 22-1-2021 makes this weaponry illegal, after getting 50 States to ratify the TPNW. However, neither the US nor Europe, including Spain, have signed it. She analysed the contradiction between investment to save the planet from climate change and investment in weapons that destroy the planet. Today there is an increase in funding for the updating of armaments in pursuit of a credible deterrent. She ended by explaining the difference between automatic and autonomous weapons, stressing the importance of human control of any weapon with the capacity to kill. This is the goal of the Stop Killer Robots Campaign. A road to travel in hope, was the final conclusion of Eudald Vendrell, vice-president of the General Commission.

The conclusions drive our commitment to political advocacy. We cannot fail to promote the necessary changes so that the bodies of political representation work in the interests of the most vulnerable and exploited people. We must also increase our efforts to achieve adequate management for the preservation of nature. We must opt without contradictions for the construction of peace. With Pope Francis, we are grateful for the spirit and work of so many organizations that «help to compensate for the shortcomings of the international community, its lack of coordination in complex situations, its lack of attention to fundamental human rights and to the critical needs of certain groups. Here we can see a concrete application of the principle of subsidiarity, which justifies the participation and activity of communities and organizations on lower levels as a means of integrating and complementing the activity of the state. These groups and organizations often carry out commendable efforts in the service of the common good and their members at times show true heroism, revealing something of the grandeur of which our humanity is still capable» (FT, 175).

General Commission for Justice and Peace of Spain