Matteo Ricci College
Poverty Education Center

Eric Sype

  • Eric Sype Bio
  • Justifying Social Justice 

    I was first introduced to Pedro Arrupe’s Men and Women for Others in one of my classes last fall.  From a classroom in Seattle, Arrupe’s wisdom seemed to hold the solution to all of society’s problems.  The Father had given humanity a clear, articulate instruction manual for how to save the world.  Now, reading his address while living in a developing country, getting ready to start an internship in an impoverished rural community, my reaction to the Arrupe’s words is more realistic than optimistic.  For only in a developing, impoverished country can one see the type of oppression Arrupe sought to abolish.  However, the Father’s words have not only provided an opportunity for reflection on social justice as a whole, they have given me guiding principles for my work here. 

    Arrupe’s description of privilege oppressing others resonates with me now more than it ever could have before.  Of the over indulging habits of the privileged Arrupe wrote “thus denying, inevitably to those weaker then themselves their proper share of the God-given means for human development” (10).  The daily routines of my life here have shown me how true Arrupe’s words are.  I live in a community that only gets sent running water once a day.  Most of the houses are made with tin roofs, and concrete walls and floors; it is resoundingly clear how much the United States has over invested in comfort. As Americans, we are taught that any development is good development and we continue developing with the notion that this is what society is supposed to do. However, we have become so concerned with building ourselves up, that we have forgotten about anyone else, as well as what implications our development might have on others.  Why is it more common for an American to have an IPhone, than a Nicaraguan household to have running water?  Just as Arrupe wrote, we have bought into a flawed and oppressive society.  Coming from such a society, it is important to be constantly reflective on how to stand for social justice while I am here.

    For Arrupe, to act socially just is to act lovingly. He wrote of love and justice as dependent ideas, that need each other “Just as we are never sure that we love God unless we love others, so we are never sure that we have love at all unless our love issues in works of justice” (7). He follows this with characteristics that an individual must hold in order to be just.  In summary one must give respect to all, never use privilege given power to oppress others, and actively work against unjust systems.  It is these standards that I plan to hold myself, as well as my internship project to.

    Arrupe’s guiding principles serve equally as well for an evaluation of my time in Nicaragua thus far.  All three of the Arrupian characteristics of social justice can be reflected in one simple aspect of my life in Nicaragua, a shower.  As I stated before, running water is only sent to my community once a day. However, my family has a freshwater tank with a motor to pump the water into through house.  The tank is mainly used to fill buckets with water for washing dishes or clothes, as well as showers.  My host father showed me how to use to motor to take showers when I first arrived.  Although, within a few days, I realized that I was the only one using the motor to take a shower.  Everyone else in my family takes bucket showers.  This may seem trivial, but by using that motor for my shower, am I showing my host family respect?  As an extremely privileged guest in their home, what are my actions saying much more clearly than my broken Spanish ever could?  If I am not actively pursuing social justice in my home, how can I ever hope to have a positive effect on this community?