Friday, October 23, 2009

Choosing a World of Global Solidarity

By Verne Schweiger
Director, Diocesan Office of Social Concerns

“Imagine,” the speaker asked those gathered, “a parent entering the family house. One of the children is sitting alone, crying inconsolably. Across the room another child is playing, apparently unconcerned. What does the concerned parent ask the suffering child?” After a moment, one listener responded, “What is wrong?” “Yes,” the speaker continued, “and then, what might the parent ask the other child?” Another answered, “What have you done?”

The speaker, Peter Kimeu of Catholic Relief Services- East Africa Region, then encouraged those gathered to imagine the parent as God and the children as members of His one human family. Some are crying. “Can we hear them?” he asked. Most people in Peter’s home country of Kenya exist on less than $2 a day, and 1.6 million children have lost one or both parents to AIDS. The East African region has suffered many years of drought, as a consequence of which, nearly 30 million people are currently unable to grow or afford sufficient food for their daily needs. The crying voices of God’s children are heard from countries in Asia, the Pacific, and the Americas as well. The challenges suggested to those gathered were clear. What is wrong? What have we done? What can we do?

Peter Kimeu, along with Joe Hastings, the Education Organizer for CRS, West Coast Region, visited the Diocese earlier this month to promote global solidarity as part of the social mission of our parishes and our diocese. On October 7 Peter visited Aquinas High School. The next day he met with Auxiliary Bishop Rutilio del Riego and leaders from around the diocese. And on Oct. 10 Peter and Joe facilitated a discussion of the theme “Choosing a World of Global Solidarity: How Our Parishes Can make a Difference?” at the Diocesan Pastoral Center.

One story told by Peter recounted a moment while with a CRS team distributing milk to a long line of desperately hungry people. A fellow relief worker had just given a cup of milk to a little boy who was with his mother. After drinking the milk, the boy began to cry. The man, looking down at the little boy and then back along the long line of people waiting for some milk, expressed some irritation, “What does the boy want?” he asked. “Now,” replied the boy’s mother, “my child has a little strength to cry as a normal child again.” Peter, after reflecting on the one baptism with which we are all baptized and through which we are all children in the one family of our one God, asked, “Must we leave them to be crushed out there?”

Such shared stories of human suffering from across the world are often sad, even horrific. They call out to our hearts for compassion. They plead with us for our prayerful understanding. And they have moved millions of Catholics to faithful action.

Peter’s question again: “What can we do?” We share our resources. Ninety three percent of all funds contributed to Catholic Relief Services go directly to programs of emergency relief, health and food security, human and community development, peacemaking. We make decisions as consumers, voters and advocates based upon the teachings of our Church – decisions that make a difference. Recently, when Catholics in the U.S. acted as faithful citizens in advocating that Congress fully fund relief programs such as the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), they were filling lives with hope in places like Kenya, our brother Peter’s home.

Global solidarity is about sharing resources, but it is also about sharing stories, building relationships, becoming co-responsible in advancing the good news of lives lived in justice and in peace. In this regard, Pope Benedict, in his recent encyclical Caritas in veritate, writes, “Openness to God makes us open towards our brothers and sisters and towards an understanding of life as a joyful task to be accomplished in a spirit of solidarity.”

For more information and to learn of opportunities to promote global solidarity, please call the Diocesan Office of Social Concerns, 909.475-5465, and please visit http://www.crs.org/.

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