It was the newspaper streetpole poster that did it, getting mercy into the public domain. This week’s Southern Cross has plenty to say about racism, the current hot potato, in a number of articles. In addition Fr Michael Austen writes on Pope Francis’ “conversion” to the concept of mercy during the conclave which ended with his election in 2013 and his making mercy the touchstone of his papacy. The Holy Father’s words after his election were, “Mercy changes everything. Mercy is the name of our God and without mercy we are lost.” We know that in initiating the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy he is inviting a general acceptance of this vision. So where is there a link between racism, mercy and the streetpole?
One of the elements in the racism debate is radio and Idols personality Gareth Cliff’s role. Participating in his usual outspoken way following a racist tweet by Penny Sparrow he tweeted that ‘people really don’t understand free speech at all” and was promptly penalised. He has since apologised, saying his comments had been taken the wrong way and that he is committed to non-racialism and nation-building. However, on losing his job as Idols judge and, not forgetting the very substantial income, he responded that other Idols judges have also made offensive statements but their apologies were accepted. “Can the same mercy be shown to me?” he asked. And that is where the streetpole comes in as the picture shows.
Without going deeply into that debate, I ask how does mercy fit in to the public domain and why can this be meaningful in this Year of Mercy? It is my perception and experience that the idea of a Year of Mercy, possibly also because of some of the associated churchy facets, can unfortunately be seen as very Catholic. Yet mercypole– consider Davos and the World Economic Forum which is considering the very big issue of the hazardous state of the world economy. Mercy is not for Catholics only, or Christians only, but also for Jews and Islam whose adherents do have an understanding of the Old Testament and the concept of God’s merciful love. Plus it is for non-believers difficult as that might be to conceptualise.
Mercy is a new vision, it has the potential to building a more just and loving society, through reflection on one’s own presuppositions and attitudes, sharing and caring listening, tolerance, acceptance of differences and an invitation to conversion. Racism is real, but so are many other isms and phobias too. Sexism, chauvinism and xenophobia bedevil our social journeys, but surely listening to one another’s views that are forged by history is necessary for reconciliation to come about. Years ago, almost a lifetime, on starting out in marriage ministry we were challenged by the topic of a presentation we were invited to make. “Don’t make me change, help me grow.” I believe that can apply equally to everyone, to couples and to countries. Can mercy be the key? And apart from Southern Cross posters, please more on streetpoles, banners and roadsigns. Any sponsors?
(MARFAM’S new issue of FAMILY MATTERS magazine also explores and highlights many facets and angles of mercy. See below for more info. )

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