More Spiritual Reflections

Spiritual Reflections


Global Solidarity

Sr. Jacquelyn Ernster, OSB
IHM Center, Scranton
May 12, 2010

Global Solidarity Prayer

Pablo Casals, the Spanish cellist, once said, "We ought to think that we are one of the leaves of a tree, and the tree is all humanity. We cannot live without the others, without the tree.

In another context, Paul-Eugene Roy, archbishop of Canada in the 1920s, said, " To live in society doesn't mean simply living side by side with others in a more or less close cohesion; it means living though one another and for one another." Tonight's prayer service explores the underlying theme of those two quotes, global solidarity, a word not readily defined. It is not found in the dictionary which leads us to believe it does not have a universal meaning. Nonetheless, it is a word or phrase often used.

One source says it is "action on behalf of the one human family, calling us to overcome the divisions in our world." Another source says it is "a central value or key concept by which we can strive to achieve a new sense of humanity's oneness, its unity, and its common interests."

Pope John Paul II says in one of his writings, "solidarity with the human family consists in a firm and persevering determination to commit oneself to the common good."

The common theme running in these definitions is oneness, unity, concern for each other and commitment. We are called to commit to the common good, that is a call to common action to address the fundamental causes of injustice and the sources of violence in our world.

Solidarity means being with people in joys and in sorrows, serving the world from a variety of angles. There are zillions of ways to create solidarity. Let me share a few with you.

USA: In a recent incident in Phoenix, Arizona, and eight year old Liberian refugee was raped by four boys only to have her parents shut her out of the house because of their shame. Their culture dictated their actions. The neighbors were able to intervene and reconcile the parents to their daughter.

India: Abbas Be, a beautiful teenage girl in Hyderabad, has chocolate skin, black hair and gleaming white teeth and a lovely smile. Money was tight in her family so when she was 14 it was arranged for her to take a job as a maid. Instead she was locked up in a brothel, beaten with a cricket bat and told she would have to cater to customers or face death. Through assistance she was able to run away and start a new life elsewhere. A micro-finance loan has enabled her to become a book binder to support herself and her sisters.

Rwanda: Claudine spent much of the genocide period imprisoned in a rape house. She escaped and afterward found she was the only one left alive in her family, she was pregnant, homeless, and 13 years old. Someone from Women International found her and paired her with a woman bank employee from Brooklyn, New York. For $27 a month Claudine can feed and educate her two children and get training for herself in making beadwork to support herself.

Pakistan: The father of a 14 year old boy whose hands were blown off while he was playing with a piece of unexploded ordnance expressed anger over the government's failure to remove the landmines before telling people it was safe to return. The International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL) is a global network in over 70 countries that works for a world free of landmines and helps survivors lead fulfilling lives. They received a Nobel Peace Prize in 1997 for their efforts.

Haiti: For Ms. Jan, a dancer with Haiti's National Theater, tragedy has turned into opportunity. During the January 12th earthquake, a stone wall collapsed on her leg. For days afterward, she lay waiting for help in a sea of broken bodies on the grounds of the General Hospital. When a medical team finally gave her attention, infection had set in, making it impossible to save the leg. Eventually she was connected to a team of prosthetics from New England. They pledged to help Ms. Jean walk and dance again. "She has a great attitude," they said, "we figured she would be a strong patient who could get back on her feet quickly and be a positive role model to other amputees." Even those who are victims have a responsibility to others.

Ghana: A young Sister was helping the local women harvest palm oil to make soap to sell in the market place. But because they lacked the proper equipment it was a slow and laborious job with little return. Sister attended the Hilton SLDI program and learned how to budget, do a needs assessment, and write grants. She was able to get a grant from an Irish Foundation and now the ladies are able to make enough soap to buy food for their families and pay for education for their children.

I recently read a novel entitled, Little Bee, in which a young Nigerian girl by the name of Little Bee escapes a raid on her village in which all of her family is killed except her sister who eventually is caught and killed also. Little Bee runs and runs and eventually ends up in England and is befriended by an English woman. In her journey because she is a stowaway, she ends up spending two years in a deportation center. They are commonly used in the US also where immigrants can spend up to three or four years waiting to be deported. During this time, there is very little opportunity to keep in contact with family. The atmosphere in the centers is often debasing.

A conversation with Little Bee and the woman went like this:

Sarah: How long did you say they kept you in that place, Bee?

Bee: Two years.

Sarah: Oh, Bee, I had no idea how hellish they are. I was imagining a sort of high-security hotel, I suppose. Is it true they keep it deliberately cold in there? Is it true you have to apply in writing if you just need a Tylenol?

Bee: I smiled. "If you are planning to have a headache, you need to apply 24 hours in advance."

Immigration reform is on the national agenda now, deportation centers are part of the American scene as well. Is this an opportunity for global solidarity through support of ethical immigration laws?

In each case cited, we are invited to accompany, neither lead nor follow, but be companions to, and work with others in their efforts for empowerment and justice, not speaking for them but with them. It is our oneness of spirit that creates global solidarity. There is a difference between solidarity and charity. Both are needed in this world, but should not be confused. Solidarity has a knowledge base, understanding another culture, understanding the political basis of the condition, understanding one's-self so we can more realistically understand others.

Solidarity involves an ongoing relationship, hence we cannot have a concrete relationship of solidarity with everyone in the world. That is why we focus on specific people or projects. In your own context that focus has included your missions in Peru, your sponsorship of Friends of the Poor, your joint efforts in Haiti, and your cooperative sponsorship of ASEC. These projects and others give you the opportunity to get to know the culture, the conditions and the people while not overwhelming you. That focus gives you the opportunity to be responsible in the relationship since we are in the same world and we are members of the same human family and we need to work together for the benefit of all.

In Little Bee's case, she tries to make sense of all that is going on around her. At the end she says, "Yes, this is it, something has survived in me, something that does not need to run anymore because it is worth more than all the money in the world, its true home is the living. And not just the living in this particular country or in that particular country, but the secret, irresistible heart of the living. I smiled back at Charlie (a little boy) and I knew that the hopes of this whole human world could fit inside one soul. This is a good trick. This is called, globalization."

It is that oneness with others that global solidarity leads us to, that understanding that the human race is whole, that the communion of saints is the total body, that one pain affects the rest and one joy light to all. As Paul says in Ephesians 4:3-6, we must strive "to preserve the unity of the spirit through the bond of peace: one body and one spirit...our Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all."