Justice without Love is Empty Rhetoric
asked members of our community to share what moves them to do justice work. This month Mari Castellanos, Policy Advocate
for Domestic Issues, reflects on her childhood during the Cuban Revolution and
how the example of her parents in that dangerous time helped define her Call.
Justice without Love is Empty
I suspect my lifelong
commitment to justice is rooted in faith, family and revolution.
I grew up in a
working class, devotedly Catholic family in Havana, Cuba.
My father was a gentle, loving, faithful man, who sat on his rocking chair in
the front porch to pray his rosary, just because it was too hot to stay indoors.
He apparently didn’t care that in such a machista culture that was
considered a rather unmanly thing to do.
My Dad was a peaceful man in an increasingly
violent environment. As a salesman of medical products, he had access to free
medicines and vaccines. He often came home late at night, after taking
medicines to many who had no means to acquire them. Similarly, I remember him
giving polio vaccine shots to many, many neighborhood children. I “assisted”
him by swabbing the arms of the recipients with alcohol.
My Mother, the home grown
intellectual, had read both Jesus and Marx. As a young woman she had been courted
by a boy who, much later, would be the Cuban ambassador to the United Nations representing the Castro government. Without
the benefit of a theological education, she had made many of the connections
that were put forth by Latin American liberation theologians. Those she passed
on to me at an early age.
The Cuban revolution brought
chaos into my orderly childhood. There were bombs going off every evening,
homes like mine being searched by the police in the middle of the night, and
people arrested and imprisoned without a scrap of evidence of wrongdoing.
After the revolution’s triumph a period of peace gave us hope for justice. But,
sadly, those who overthrew the dictatorship became dictators themselves and the
cycle of violence was renewed.
My parents remained faithful
through it all. They loved me enough to send me away. The lessons I learned
from them taught me all I ever needed to make the connections between faith and
justice. Though I never saw my father again, the memory of all those late nights
giving children their vaccine shots, or procuring medicine for those who
couldn’t afford it, continued to teach me that talk of justice without love is
As an adolescent I heard the
words: “If you want peace, work for justice.” I want a world where bombs don’t
go off at night and where all children receive their vaccinations. I work for