Pope Francis speaks, urges Democracy 'molded in concrete actions that watch over the dignity of all its inhabitants'
VATICAN CITY, July 1, 2019 /PRNewswire/ -- Jennifer Gross and Peter Stengaard represented Blue Chip Foundation at the Pan-American Judges' Summit on Social Rights and Franciscan Doctrine June 3 and 4, 2019, opening discussion for the two-day event with a speech that welcomed the judges and embraced the spirit of the event. The summit, organized by the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences – now headed by Professor Stefano Zamagni – brought together more than a hundred magistrates, judges, activists, and philanthropists from around the world.
The political pressures judges face are serious – and they require dramatic solutions.
"In California, our judges have come together and created a defense fund to help judges who are under attack by special interest groups who want to remove certain judges for unjust reasons. As judges, we work together and stand up for each other if anyone unjustly challenges one of our judges in California. We all need to stand up together to protect the integrity of our justice system," said Judge Tamila Ipema, president of the National Association of Women Judges. "There can be no justice if judges do not have independence to do the right thing under the law. Being a judge today is a dangerous job. We must recognize the courage of the judges who are doing the right thing by not giving in to the pressures; judges who remain independent, and we must defend them when they are attacked."
The summit's overarching goal was to consolidate a permanent Pan-American Board of Judges in Defense of Social Rights. The board can help coordinate efforts to optimize policies centered on people's social, economic and cultural rights, as well as promote training and provide assistance to help defend judges who are politically pressured to violate people's rights.
Equal access to justice is incredibly important, as noted by Judge Bernadette D'Souza of New Orleans.
"It is our responsibility and ethical duty as judges to ensure that low-income litigants are able to navigate the court system in order to avail themselves of the relief they deserve. By depriving our poorest citizens of civil legal services, we reinforce an inequitable system that inhibits both individual and community progress. Promoting equal access to civil legal aid for all is an essential step to creating communities that support our most vulnerable members of society and provide justice for all," said D'Souza.
Compounded with a lack of equal access to justice is the physical safety of those thrown into the legal system – and it's an issue across the globe, not just North, Central and South America.
"We must ensure that each human being has the ability to explore the path of his or her own happiness. Integral human development is upheld by the Social Doctrine of the Church and should be protected by the legal parameters of each nation. Each of us must vigilantly fight to not only protect the right of each human being to unfold into their own, but to also uphold a safe environment in which to do so," said Gross, co-founder of Blue Chip Foundation.
Gross also acknowledged the need to regulate clean water, acknowledge climate change and create legislation to mitigate environmental damage, and put systems in place to deal with the catastrophic natural disasters that are imminent due to climate change.
Pope Francis spoke at the summit as well, taking the podium after representatives from Ecuador, Peru, Brazil, Paraguay, Chile, Colombia, Mexico, the Dominican Republic, and Ecuador made their contributions to the discussion.
"We are living in a historical period of changes, where the soul of our peoples is at stake," Pope Francis said. "A time of crisis – of dangers and opportunities – in which a paradox is verified: on one hand, a phenomenal normative development, and on the other, deterioration in the effective enjoyment of rights consecrated globally," said Pope Francis. "The injustice and the lack of tangible and concrete opportunities behind so much analysis, incapable of putting itself in the other's feet – I don't say shoes, because in many cases those persons don't have any – is also a way of generating violence: silent, but violence in the end."
The challenges judges face in defending social rights can be extreme. Social injustice is ingrained in many societies across the world, and Pope Francis cited Laudato Si' to illustrate his point.
"For its healthy development, a politico-economic system needs to guarantee that democracy is not just nominal, but that it's molded in concrete actions that watch over the dignity of all its inhabitants, under the logic of the common good, in an appeal to solidarity and a preferential option for the poor," he said.
Gross also encouraged the board to promote training to defend judges facing pressure and uphold judicial policies centered on social, economic and cultural rights.
At the summit's conclusion, the participants signed a declaration that calls on every country to achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals.
The declaration also says: "We understand that it is impossible to live in peace and democracy when our political and social processes strive to disenfranchise people and destroy the environment. We caution against any attempt to exploit the judiciary in order to limit Human Rights in political and economic scenarios, denature judicial functions and destroy democracy."
Putting the right support systems in place will empower judges to limit the actions that are destructive and degrading for both the planet and humanity.
"I admire the courage of all our judges here today who risk their lives against evil in the form of organized crime and chaos found in governmental institutions led by immoral leaders. Never has there been a time where your fortitude to exercise your judicial power is needed more," said Gross. "Within this board, we can call ourselves 'lovers of justice,' overcome political pressures, and create a worldwide movement based on the unrestricted defense of social rights."
About Blue Chip Foundation
Blue Chip Foundation works to promote global peace through responsible conflict resolution, alleviation and prevention of issues that cause conflict, and faith-based initiatives that engage communities to effect positive change.
SOURCE Blue Chip Foundation