2023-02-06 GENERAL HOUSE

6 February: International Day of ZERO Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation and Cutting

“So, God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.God blessed them and said to them… God saw all that he had made, and it was very good”. (Gen 1:27-28a.31)

How is it possible that human beings can dare to contradict God’s designs? As I began to reflect on this subject, this question came to my mind. A question that perhaps we should ask ourselves every day, in our relationships, in the way we understand human nature, in the way we understand the value of the body. If God, in His immense goodness, creates us like Himself… If God, absolute wisdom, made us equal… Who are we to propose a different way of considering the human body?

The issue we are dealing with on this occasion is not just a physical question but goes beyond the physical. We are talking about real equality, about a man not deciding what a woman should be or do or think or say… It is about recognizing what God wanted and still wants for human beings: universal brotherhood.

Pope Francis, in Fratelli Tutti, clearly denounces the fact that many women do not have the same full dignity as men. In this way, many women join the group of those excluded from our societies (children, migrants, the disabled, the elderly…). It is true that many societies are taking decisive steps in favour of the most vulnerable. However, it is no less true that these are achievements that must continue to be nurtured, strengthened, and developed.

The Syro-Phoenician woman, as the Gospel tells us (Mk 7:24-30), relates a unique story in the Gospels, which can only be compared to the figure of Mary, the Virgin. We are dealing with a woman and a foreigner, who intercedes for her daughter before Jesus. Jesus, initially, does not seem to take her into consideration and does not want to pay any attention to her. It is logical! She is a woman and a foreigner! In the concept of the time, in Israel, a woman was not given consideration, and even less so if she was a foreigner. The Jews were not even supposed to talk to them. Jesus gives us a great lesson, to which we should always be attentive in our lives. Jesus allows himself to be challenged by the needs of the most vulnerable, regardless of who they are, regardless of their social status, regardless of whether they are women or foreigners. For Jesus, God’s love reaches out to all, especially to the most vulnerable in society.

If Jesus, the Son of God, allows himself to be challenged by a woman in need, should we not do the same? Our charism encourages us to take the side of the vulnerable, the needy, especially children and young people. We cannot run away from the painful situations in our world. As Marists we are working on several projects that also serve women, as a way of empowering them and their children. We know that securing women’s rights often results in a stronger family, in more and better educated children. Sometimes we cannot reach out to this vulnerable group, but we can collaborate directly with other organizations that do reach them.

The 22nd General Chapter invites us to “avoid paternalistic approaches and empower the voiceless”. Are they represented in our teams, are they taken into account when educating their children in our works, do we allow ourselves to be challenged by them and by those who live on the geographical and existential peripheries?

Our world wants and needs us, brothers and lay people, committed to the equality of all human beings, committed to making the voices of the most needy heard, committed to being “all brothers”.

Br. Ángel Diego García Otaola – Secretariat for Solidarity


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