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Honour your responsibility

10 July 2013

Children foraging for food on a rubbish dump in Dhaka  

My response to the line 'Give us this day our daily bread' from the ‘Our Father’ – a prayer I have said daily for over 60 years – has been deepened and enriched in the past 10 years by some experiences I have had in developing countries.

In January 2003, I was travelling through Sylhet in Bangladesh.

We were on our way to a restaurant to meet some other friends for a meal. It was that – meeting for a meal - which made the following experience so poignant, even though its full impact did not hit me until some days later.

Our rickshaw was held up because of crowds on the streets. I was just looking around, out of interest, when suddenly I saw a sight which, 10 years on, remains vividly in my memory.

Less than 100 yards away, young children were foraging through a rubbish dump for food.

Less than a week later, I was back in England. At Sunday Mass I stood, as usual, with the congregation to say the Lord’s prayer.

We reached the words 'Give us this day our daily bread...', and the picture of those children came unbidden into my head.

The shock was almost physical in its intensity, like being kicked in the stomach by a horse.

In that moment I became aware, more deeply than ever before, that the good things of this world - especially food and water - do belong to everyone.

'Give us this day our daily bread...' We are all made in the image of God and therefore worthy of respect and dignity; I am my sister and brother’s keeper and therefore, as a Christian, I have to honour my responsibility.

There is enough food in the world, and it is a matter of justice that the earth’s resources are distributed to all.

In 1999, the Catholic Bishops of England and Wales stated in their document ‘The Common Good’ that: 'Solidarity means that we are all responsible for each other... the human person is the clearest reflection of God among us.'

If we take this statement seriously, it means that we recognise the presence of God in all, with a special care for those who may be lacking in what they need in order to develop into happy and whole human beings.

Jesus’ promise, 'I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full' (John 10:10), is made to all. Everyone has the right to what is necessary for her or his flourishing and development as a human being, and a child of God.

Jesus does not hesitate to remind us of our responsibility to each other: 'Whatever you did to anyone... you did it to me' (Matthew 25:40).

As a man of the Gospel, Archbishop Oscar Romero took the words of Jesus to heart when he stated: 'It is not God’s will for some to have everything and others to have nothing. That cannot be of God. God’s will is that all his children be happy.'

The experience of seeing those children has continued to affect the way I try to live my life as a disciple in today’s world and I pray the ‘Our Father’ very differently.

Through my connection with CAFOD, I am blessed with a constant reminder of my responsibility to all my brothers and sisters.

Margaret Lillis is former Assistant Director of Schools for the diocese of Shrewsbury. She is now engaged in helping to develop spirituality in the parish context and supports the CAFOD schools team. 

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