Special note: This is our fifth in a series of six articles on how Vincentian characteristics (Congregation of the Mission) help to guide our mission as Misevi. Today our focus is:
Attention to the realities of present-day society, especially to the factors that cause an unequal distribution of the world’s goods, so that we can better carry out our prophetic task of evangelization.
In MISEVI programs, lay adults are invited to pay attention to the realities of present-day society to better serve the people of God. As a MISEVI member, the Vincentian Mission Corps (VMC) shapes our Volunteers (Missionaries) in the Vincentian charism, teaching our young adult Volunteers/Missionaries to open their eyes to the realities of systemic injustices such as racism, white supremacism, colonialism, and patriarchy. They also learn about the importance of living and working in community to build alternative systems based on love and justice.
To pay attention to the realities of injustices means we must name what we notice. We teach our Volunteers to bravely name the systems of oppression they encounter. If we as Vincentians do not identify injustices we encounter, we risk accidentally participating in them and perpetuating them. In the case of racial injustice, we may be unintentionally complicit in upholding policies that harm Black people or inflicting micro-aggressions through unexamined implicit bias. Different MISEVI countries might identify different systems of oppression, but they are all united by one common factor: unjust systems are created so that a small percentage of people can maintain control over an unequal amount of the world’s goods.
Jesus teaches us that we must challenge those who are more interested in maintaining their power than allowing those who have been denied their human rights to have life more abundantly. Identifying harmful realities and systems of oppression does just that and is the first step of carrying out a prophetic task of evangelization. A prophet’s job is to speak uncomfortable truths in order to better build the kin-dom of God. Naming injustices helps to disrupt oppression in real time, interrupting harm being done against God’s children.
MISEVI Volunteers/Missionaries are invited to a unique task of evangelization. Typically, we think of evangelizing as a job for those with privilege: a call to spread the word of God to those living in poverty. But our experience in VMC shows us that those who are most impacted by injustices already know the word of God. In fact, they are the ones who best know how to overturn the systems of oppressions impacting them. This shifts the role of our Volunteers from evangelizing those who are poor to evangelizing those who are asleep to the realities of the world. Our Volunteers are called to be evangelizers for justice, to help God’s kin-dom come.
MISEVI members pay attention as they develop relationships with those most impacted by the harmful realities of present-day society. They learn about the factors that cause an unequal distribution of the world’s resources, directly impacting again those who are marginalized by systems of oppression. Missionaries around the world use their voices to speak with these folks to better carry out the prophetic task of being evangelizers for justice, using their transformational experiences of service to be agents of systemic change.