The Malta Independent 19 April 2024, Friday
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It is not enough to be compassionate

Gejtu Vella Saturday, 2 March 2024, 08:32 Last update: about 3 months ago

Joe Borg is a man of the cloth and a well-seasoned media personality on various media platforms. Recently he penned an article titled “I do not care about poverty”.  The heading caught my attention. As a matter of fact, at the first glance, it made me hot under the collar, until I continued to read. The sub-heading clarified the heading “Helping the poor is not a matter of charity but a fundamental issue of justice.” The heading was a teaser to attract readers! 

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In the article, Fr Borg wrote about his contribution during the annual event held last year by the Nationalist MP Ivan Bartolo about social justice. Although the event was organised as part of the PN’s commitment to coequality and social justness, the audience in the Parliament’s chamber consisted mainly of government ministers, MPs and MEPs, and around two dozen persons working in the sector. Those attending had little firsthand experience of social injustice although they were aware of such injustices through their home visits and contact with their constituents or through their work.  But, personally, they did not live or were subject to social injustice.    

Rightly so, Fr Borg’s recommendation to Hon Bartolo in last year’s event was to give more space and to allow people living in different types of poverty or experiencing discrimination, inequality, and other social injustices to air their views in the House. To my mind, this was a very appropriate proposition. Politicians should hear such grievances directly from those at the receiving end of social injustices and inequalities.

The suggestion was taken on board by Hon Bartolo. In fact, in this year’s event, speakers from several walks of life, all facing different challenges, aired their experiences. It was sad to hear that notwithstanding the tightly-knit social safety net which Malta is boastful of, people are still experiencing harrowing events in their lives. Unfortunately, these issues are ignored or else are not given proper attention with persons being deprived of social justice due to institutional bureaucracy or inefficiency.   

For next year’s social justice conference, I suggest that part of the agenda should go one step further. I invite Hon Bartolo to continue with his diligent and assiduous work, together with other MPs interested in promoting social justice, and push for the necessary reforms in our society. I believe that in next year’s event, the competent authorities should give a brief account of the progress achieved regarding the testimonials eloquently delivered this year by various people who made public their bitter life experiences. Empathy is not enough. Results are crucial.  Social justice is a fundamental right and people suffering injustices must know that there is light at the end of the tunnel. Now that the “Social Justice” conference is over, work must begin in earnest. The competent authorities must act.     

Social justice should not become a partisan political debate. It is a reality and it must be addressed with a strategic plan devised by people who are well versed with these realties while funding should be secured from Government. Indeed, social injustices must take precedence over any cosmetic priorities and other non-important issues funded by Government through public funds. It is not enough to be compassionate. People do matter! We all should work to become a caring society.          

“I am not interested in picking up crumbs of compassion thrown from the table of someone who considers himself my master. I want the full menu of rights.” – Archbishop Desmund Tutu       

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