To many people, the word SOLIDARITY reminds them of the Polish trade union led by Lech Walesa. It was a movement which restored freedom from martial law and political oppression in Poland and Walesa went on to become the President of Poland.
In sociological circles, solidarity refers to the social ties that bind people to one another. The theme for this month “A Mission to Solidarity” reminds us of the need to build relationships. In this context, we are not limiting ourselves to building relationships with people whom we know or are acquainted with. It is rather a call to be in dialogue with humanity and all that affects humanity since each person is connected to and dependent on all humanity, collectively and individually.
Solidarity is one of the key principles of Catholic Social Teaching. Pope John XXIII in Mater et Magistra (1961) reminded us that “solidarity highlights in a particular way the intrinsic social nature of the human person…” In other words, as long as we live on earth, we are intrinsically connected to one another and called to work towards the common good since the commitment to the common good flows from our faith in Jesus Christ.
At times, the understanding of solidarity may limit us only to focus on the poor and the marginalised. However, there needs to be a wider understanding of this term since solidarity is also an authentic moral virtue according to Pope John Paul II in his encyclical Sollicitudo Rei Socialis (1988).
It is not just feeling pity for the poor and the marginalised but rather solidarity means working towards building the excellence of human character. In a practical sense, it is the building of the virtues of faith, hope, and love… “and the greatest of these is love” (1 Corinthians 13:13). Practical love is the living out of what we profess and hope for.
The practice of the common good is slowly disappearing from our world that is more and more individualistic. Each one for himself or herself seems to be the clarion call of everyday.
Life in the fast lane makes us more product-oriented rather than people-oriented. By this I mean that we want results no matter what the costs are. In practical life, people need to work longer hours so as to afford a more comfortable life. By doing this, we are sure to become more isolated from our neighbours.
Today, it is difficult to get people to engage or be concerned with the plight of another human person especially if the issue does not concern us directly. This indifferent attitude may stem from a fear of involvement or inconvenience or even a skewed understanding of spirituality. But if we are to follow the model of Jesus Christ, his life and message shows us the intimate connection between faith, solidarity and the common good. This integration is a moral requirement and it is inherent in all human relationships.
“The message of the Church’s social doctrine regarding solidarity clearly shows that there exists an intimate bond between solidarity and the common good, between solidarity and the universal destination of goods, between solidarity and equality among men [women] and peoples, between solidarity and peace in the world” (Sollicitudo Rei Socialis).