Dr. Roxanne Meshar taught Catholic theology at the University of St. Thomas, Minnesota, for nearly ten years. She received her doctorate from Catholic Theological Union (CTU), Chicago, Illinois. In 2015, Dr. Meshar was a plenary speaker at the international educators’ conference “To Teach is To Build” in Slovenia. She also worked for 20 years in the corporate world in the areas of retail management, product development, marketing and strategic planning.
Dr. Roxanne Meshar is currently a co-host on “Access to Democracy,” a local public television show featuring community leaders. She has authored several books, is a public speaker and provides adult education focused on the common good. Dr Meshar gave two public lectures while in Mauritius – on Tuesday 28th March, at Institut Cardinal Jean Margeot, Rose Hill, at 1800 hrs on the theme – Social Justice in a Multicultural Society and on Friday 31st March, organised by The Council of Religions at the University of Mauritius, Reduit, Lecture theatre 1, at 1800hrs, on the theme: ‘An Appeal for Inter-Faith dialogue in our Globalised World.’ News on Sunday talked to Dr Roxanne Meshar on these two subjects as she sees them in practice in Mauritius.
What is your definition of Democracy? Don’t you think that sometimes democracy is at the root of so many social behaviours which go beyond control? Is there no fear that democracy let into the hands of one man to decide may bring chaos?
Democracy comes in many versions as we see in countries such as the U.S. – a democratic republic or Sweden – a social democratic government. Generally speaking, democracy attempts to make sure that each person has a vote, a voice. Global history and experience show that a more open, accountable and transparent democracy will likely have more economic equality and therefore reduced poverty. Extreme inequality creates poverty, violence, drug abuse, despair and social decline. A democracy where leaders are not held accountable can be corrupted by special interests, reducing the social goods that should be available to all. Special interests and corporate money can influence political elections, eliminate safety regulations and social policies as we see today in the U.S.
What kind of a social justice do you struggle for – the one who works and pays taxes and hoards money for a better life and the one who does not work and seeks to live on the hard-earned money of the one paying taxes? How to establish social justice when society is divided into two such categories?
For me, to work for social justice is to work for the common good – this means to work for the good of all, including the environment. This doesn’t mean giving to each one equally; rather making sure each one gets what they need – which may be different. My interest is in working to ensure that human rights are protected, individual capabilities are developed as much as possible and our social goods are fairly available for all. A well-regulated economy can provide this, protect the environment and allow for social flourishing. It isn’t about who works and who doesn’t; rather ask how does the economic, social or political system prevent people from developing their capabilities?
How far Inter-Faith dialogue has brought peace and harmony in society? How to prevent radicalism and extremism when practising one's faith?
Inter-faith dialogue can promote sharing, learning about each other and even learning about one’s own faith tradition. It allows us to see the good in other faith traditions and may encourage us to learn more about our own. Sadly, fundamentalism or extremism exists in a minority of followers in all of the world’s main faith traditions. It emerges from a mistaken idea that human beings can definitely know what God “wants” and demand it of others. No dialogue or sharing occurs in fundamentalism.
In Mauritius education is free and compulsory until the age of 15 with a Nine-Year Continuous Basic Education programme and yet many parents don’t send or see to it that their wards attend school regularly. What would you advise to avoid having street children?
It helps to ask parents directly, “What prevents you from sending your children to school?” At Mary’s Pence, a non-profit organization in North and Central America, we find that parents too often can’t afford supplies or shoes required to send students to school. Sometimes they need children to work in order to make enough money for the family to eat – even if the parents are working 2 or 3 jobs! The pay for these jobs is not enough for a living wage. Mary’s Pence supports sustainable projects that help women earn enough to provide for their families. Then they are able to send their children to school and the entire community benefits.
In how many countries you visited did you come across a government subsidizing all religious bodies - giving free education with free books, paid exams fees - social welfare with pensions for widows, orphans and the handicapped, free housing or with low rent - free health services and free transport for old age persons and social beneficiaries?
It’s timely that you ask this question since I was invited to speak at a conference in Slovenia in 2015. It is a very small country but committed to the welfare of all its citizens. Women receive up to one year paid maternity leave. Full health insurance and health care are provided for all. Slovenia is beautiful with roads and parks encouraging biking and other healthy outdoor activities. The bio-tech college in Naklo, Slovenia, prepares students to manage the country’s natural resources, run their own businesses and protect the environment for future generations. Scandinavian countries, too, often provide the care and benefits you describe and the result is that their economies are among the most robust in the world.
What are your views on Social Justice?
Working for social justice is something we do over a lifetime. I believe we do it because it is the right thing to do and the way to orient one’s life for the betterment of all. As a theologian, I believe God gives the gifts of creation to everyone – not just to those who can afford it. When people are cared for, educated and paid fairly for their work societies flourish. We are social beings and the well-being of our communities contributes to our own well-being. Thank you for this opportunity to participate in the conversation on these important topics. With hope for a better world. Sincerely!