World Day of Social Justice
The theme of this year’s World Day of Social Justice is social justice in a digital economy.
As a result of the pandemic, technology has come to play an increased role in our lives. We order goods and services online, go to school and church online, socialise via Zoom and WhatsApp is our constant companion.
For those of us who have access to this technology it has made living, and working, in lockdown possible. Some businesses have been able to survive and even thrive because of the digital economy. Yet, some have been left behind.
We are reminded that humans are created with a vocation to work. Pope Francis notes, ‘The goal should not be that technological progress increasingly replaces human work, for this would be detrimental to society. Work is a necessity, part of the meaning of life on this earth, a path to growth, human development and personal fulfilment.’  While technology has great potential to benefit humanity, at present it is also widening divides. This has been evident in the current pandemic. Here in the UK, some pupils have found it difficult to access the digital technology needed to pursue learning from home. Similarly, young people in the developing world may have inadequate or intermittent internet access and like her in the UK a phone may be shared between several family members. Such issues can severely, perhaps even permanently, disrupted a person’s education. In all parts of the world this has the potential to negatively impact on the current generation, by limiting educational achievement and hence job prospects. As is so often the case the impact is disproportionately felt be women and girls, whose education is viewed as less important, so are pressured to work or marry. The chain of causes related to lack of access to technology and educational access, particularly in the current pandemic, has seen an increase in domestic violence and more women forced into prostitution.
Here in the developed world, it is all too easy to adopt a myopic approach, looking no further than our own neighbourhood, place of work, city or country. Such parochialism suggests that there is only one way of doing things and ignores the key principle of solidarity. We are stronger together. Wherever we are in the world, we can learn from one another. I think of Jesuit Missions’ partners who are making great strides in areas like environmental education and activism, using technology to promote social justice. For example, in Burkina Faso, solar power at the CERCLE education centre ensures that the predominantly female students have somewhere safe and with reliable lighting to work in the evenings. This allows them to study, complete their education, and enhance their employment prospects. In Malawi, the Jesuit Centre for Ecology and Development is working to help rural communities in the transition from ceramic cookstoves to ultra-efficient cookstove technology. Cleaner energy sources in Malawi are reducing the burden on women collecting firewood for cooking and creating energy to power electric lighting and small electronic devices such as mobile phones. In Zambia during the pandemic Chikuni Radio transmitted National Curriculum information to approximately 150,000 daily listeners, helping them to continue their education.
At the cutting edge of social injustice, the imperative to reach creative solutions to generate a more just society has never been more important. Unless we can see everyone as a brother and sister, our ability to build this just society in which the dignity of all is upheld is significantly undermined.
One could be forgiven for thinking that the digital economy may not be the most exciting way to get the world on board with creating a most just society. However, it is highly relevant in today’s world. Fair access to technology has the potential to expand opportunities for all.
Pope Francis’ recent Encyclical, Fratelli Tutti opens with a nearly forty-page catalogue of human rights and justice issues, a reality check of the state of today’s world. Yet, the Holy Father goes on to includes a message of hope.
Business activity is essentially “a noble vocation, directed to producing wealth and improving our world.” …In God’s plan, each individual is called to promote his or her own development, and this includes finding the best economic and technological means of multiplying goods and increasing wealth. Business abilities which are a gift from God, should always be clearly directed to the development of others, and to eliminating poverty, especially through the creation of diversified work opportunities. 
The digital economy provides such an opportunity. Our challenge is to embrace this as we strive to create a more just world.
Community Engagement Officer
 Pope Francis, Encyclical Letter Laudato Si (May 2015) , 128
 Pope Francis, Encyclical Letter, Fratelli Tutti (October 2020), 123