Talking about spirituality these days in Europe gives the impression that you are out of touch with life and immediately pitches you against those who want to uncouple religions from every sphere of human endeavour. Though the human elements of institutional religions have continued to rear their ugly head, the eternal truths and values they offer about the imperatives of justice and charity on the use of wealth and power for the common good cannot be eclipsed. However, there is an element in human nature that resists the imperative of justice and leads to behaviours that consistently and systematically violate the basic principles of Human Rights and international relationships. In the final analysis, the root of our present socio-economic and ecological crises are spiritual and ethical questions of life.
In his insightful book, “A new Earth: Awakening to your Life’s Purpose” Eckhart Tolle underlines that though the human mind is very intelligent and fundamentally good, it contains a strong element which by its nature is destructive and never satisfied. This unsatisfactory dimension is responsible for the enormous suffering and misery which humans create for themselves and for the ecosystem. It brings about a distortion in human perception of the other, the self and creation thus triggering fear, greed and an inordinate quest for power and domination. This unbridled desire for power is the primary driver of our present economic system and its attendant social crises. The imperatives of true spirituality place before us the truth that that this distorted quest impedes our individual freedom and undermines our collective well-being. Nevertheless, we still possess the human capacity to make a choice for a good that is at once immediate and sustainable. Therein lies the exercise of true freedom!
In explaining true freedom, Ignatius Loyola identifies the two possible choices available to each person at every decision as a choice between two value systems. It is either a choice for power, domination and individualism, to the detriment of other humans and the ecosystem, or a choice for community and solidarity in justice and charity with other humans and the ecosystem. It makes absolutely no sense to talk about your value system; the choice you make already defines it. Pope Francis puts it succinctly when he says, “tell me how you live…I will learn to find the God for whom you live”.
Thus, any authentic search for true peace in our world today must re-evaluate our value systems and what underlies them. A sure toolkit for that is the domain of eternal truths watered by spirituality and not a capitalist value-system driven by the consumerist culture and a market economy that advocate infinite growth in a finite world. As an alternative, the AEFJN proposes an indigenous Ubuntu economy driven by quest for harmony and solidarity with the whole of creation. It is indeed a very difficult choice to make but that is the only choice that guarantees meaningful and lasting peace for our world.
Chika Onyejiuwa, CSSp