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The Justice, Development and Peace Commission (JDPC) are the structure through which the Church responds to social issues affecting all men and women created in the image and likeness of God. The manner of this response is based on the Social Teachings of the Church (STC).

According to the Vatican II document, every Catholic – both Clergy and Laity – by virtue of our baptism, is commissioned to stand up for justice and peace wherever we find ourselves.

This is why the JDPC is not regarded as a Lay Apostolate Society, but a unique structure (commission) to which bishops, priests, the religious and the lay faithful automatically belong.

However, the Church entrusts the duty of identifying, fighting and correcting all unjust structures in the hands of only a few of the faithful who volunteer as active and registered members of the JDPC on behalf of the entire Church, while the rest of the faithful are expected to participate by way of moral, material, logistic and financial support, etc.

Why the JDPC?

According to Pope Paul VI, when sin takes the form of a structure, one requires another structure to adequately combat and overcome it. It is clear that in the modern world, cases of injustice, corruption, bad governance, discrimination and other societal ills have assumed alarming dimensions at all levels of human existence.

Consequently, the JDPC structure emerged as part of the mission of the Church towards the holistic salvation of man (that is, both Spiritual and Physical).

How the JDPC was born

The Church has always been concerned about human rights, justice and peace for the fact that they promote human dignity. This is in conformity with the Church’s belief that every person is made in the image and likeness of God.

However, it was not until the publication of the Encyclical, Rerum Novarum (1891) by Pope Leo XIII, that the Church took an official stand on human rights, the rights of workers in particular. Pope John XXIII published Mater et Magistra (1961) and Pacem in Terris(1963).

It was in response to the desire expressed by Vatican II that Pope Paul VI created the Pontifical Commission for Justice and Peace on January 6th, 1967. The roles and objectives of this commission are clearly defined in the encyclical Populorum Progressio by the same Pope.

According to the Fathers of the Church, wherever the Church exists, there must be a structure of justice and peace. The Synod of Bishops’ Second General Assembly (November 30, 1971) teaches: “Action on behalf of justice and participation in the transformation of the world fully appear to us as a constitutive dimension of the preaching of the Gospel, or, in other words, of the Church’s mission for the redemption of the human race and its liberation from every oppressive situation”.

Consequently, the commission exists at regional, continental, national, provincial, diocesan, parish levels, as well as any other place where the Church is found. On the African continent, the issue of human rights has been tackled, as can be seen in the SECAM document: “Justice and Evangelization in Africa”. The African Synod (1994) picked the concern. And in Nigeria, the bishops through the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria (CBCN) continue to speak strongly for human rights and social justice, especially during the dark days of military dictatorships

JDPC in the Archdiocese of Lagos

The State/Government is not a society. It is only part of society and exists to serve the society. The Church too is also part of the society and cannot isolate herself from it. Therefore, the activities of the Church cannot be confined solely to the sanctuary, Parish rectories, convents and mission fields. Hence, the JDPC, which started in the Archdiocese of Lagos in the early 90’s, is the development agency of the Church in partnership and cooperation with relevant Non-Governmental Organizations (NGO), Community-Based Organizations (CBO), Community Development Associations (CDA), other Civil Society Organizations (CSO), individuals, and governmental agencies.

The Church cannot remain silent in the face of brazen injustice in the society. Such silence could be understood to be tacit consent or support for the oppressor. As the saying goes, neutrality does not favour the oppressed but the oppressor. Hence, for the Church to remain silent would mean a political decision by the Church in favour of the oppressors.

Inter alia the many social works and Community Development Projects/Programmes, the Lagos Archdiocesan JDPC is actively engaged in promoting human rights, good governance, transparency and accountability, alternative dispute resolution, and peace building.