Pope Francis used an arresting phrase when he referred to the four Missionaries of Charity killed in last Friday’s attack on a nursing home in Yemen as ‘martyrs of indifference’. Neither the Missionaries themselves nor the twelve people killed with them, mostly volunteers at the home, merited much news coverage. In fact, I don’t remember seeing any outside the Catholic media. Have we really become so indifferent to murder? Or is it that the people who died were linked with the service of the poor and elderly and so of no interest to a world which is much more concerned with youth, money and power? Either way, I think it throws a useful light on International Women’s Day.
While it is undeniably true that women are still at a disadvantage in many areas of life in many parts of the world, including our own, concentrating on that disadvantage can have a dehumanising effect. When we cease to see people as people and crudely categorise them as oppressors and oppressed, for example, we actually destroy the hope of working together to improve conditions for everyone. Surely International Women’s Day, in its celebration of women’s achievements, should not overlook the fact that it is the common good we seek, the good of every man, woman and child on earth?