Bearing Counter-Witness

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During a meeting of Buddhists, many from Vietnam, which the Dalai Lama recently held in Dharamsala, he stated in response to a question from his audience: “There are times and situations in which external factors limit the sense of religion. However, this should not frighten us because all we need is to develop a warm and open heart to live in a positive manner. Sharing wealth as Communists preach is a good thing, in theory, but it has never been applied.” (Asianews)

There are cynics who say the same thing about democracy or even Christianity: “nice idea, pity it has never been tried.” Fortunately among us there are innumerable groups, young and old, giving the lie to such sentiments and bearing witness that Christianity is indeed very much alive. JVC and IVC are two prime examples. Ignatian volunteers present a superb example (to anyone who cares to see) that the Christian ideal of sharing one’s time, talents, experience and affection with poor and needy fellow humans is very much alive today.

Is it just irony that, on the same day I read about the Dalai Lama, I also read about a new report from the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion and Public Life indicating that religious intolerance is sharply rising worldwide? Why? Why this increase of attacks on believers, even here in the USA? Isn’t every person’s religion sacred, a matter for respect?  Perhaps this phenomenon is what the Dalai Lama means by external factors which limit the sense of religion

Perhaps right there is a facet of IVC life we might become more aware of: our service is itself a counter-witness to such intolerance and violence. By expending our time, energy, resources, our very selves with others who need help, we become a living testimony that the ideals of Jesus and the Dalai Lama (and, yes, even Communists!) are alive and well and out there for all to see. The sharing we are challenged to do is effective and transformative. It works. And it speaks to the world.

Curious, isn’t it, that Jesus simply went about doing good……and what a reaction he got from the religious leaders of his day! He didn’t look for trouble. He didn’t try to provoke adverse reactions. He just did his thing: to live as an image of God and hence be a counter-witness to some of the real ills of his day, without bragging about it or making sure others saw him at it. We who bear his name can do the same.


Simon (Si) E. Smith, S.J is a New England Jesuit with a broad background and varied international experience.  He taught at different levels in Baghdad College, Iraq, Boston College, Weston Jesuit School of Theology, Jesuit School of Theology at Berkeley and Nativity schools in Boston and Worcester. His major and preferred areas of instruction are Scripture and liturgy.  He is known as an organizer and administrator, having spent a dozen years based in Washington, as Executive of Jesuit Missions for the U.S. and Canada. Si has published widely, is a popular lecturer, is fluent in French, Spanish and German and has traveled & worked extensively in the third world. And we are grateful that he also serves IVC as a Spiritual Reflector.


3 Responses to “Bearing Counter-Witness”

  1. Louise Sandberg

    Yes, too bad Christianity was only lived perfectly once, and it was fatal. All we can do is what is ours to do (St Francis of Assisi)

    Thanks for pointing out that we are so incredibly counter-cultural.

    Love, Peace and Joy,
    Louise M. Sandberg

  2. Mary Harrington

    Thank you for your thoughts Si. They are helping me deal with the shooting yesterday of that extraordinary 14-year-old girl yesterday in Pakistan unafraid to die as she raises her voice against the oppressive beliefs and violent methods of the Taliban to crush the education of girls. I feel so powerless when these events occur. Thanks for the alternate perspective for us to consider even as I give thanks for the courage of one little girl and (speaking as a mom) her parents too. May she fully recover to realize her enormous potential to help the change the lives of women in her world. with love, Mary

  3. Leroy Widney

    The foundation of Christian theology is expressed in the early ecumenical creeds which contain claims predominantly accepted by followers of the Christian faith. These professions state that Jesus suffered, died, was buried, and was subsequently resurrected from the dead in order to grant eternal life to those who believe in him and trust him for the remission of their sins.’

    Good day to you


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