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Solidarity: the path to peace

A very personal reflection by Marian Pallister

Solidarity. It’s a word that the pandemic seems to have made its own.

Pope Francis uses it in relation to working together with people of all faiths and none.

Antonio Guterres, Secretary General of the United Nations, says that unless we prioritise global safety, solidarity and resilience, we face unacceptable risks and ‘are vulnerable to all kinds of threats’.

The World Health Organisation’s Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has said that ‘solidarity is needed like never before’.

And Pax Christi International calls solidarity with the people of the Philippines  ‘a cornerstone for peace’.

The dictionary definition of ‘solidarity’ is ‘agreement between and support for the members of a group’.  Whether that ‘group’ is our parish, our local community, our country or our world, the pandemic has reminded us that unless we work together as one, unless we dialogue our way to agreement and unconditionally offer our support to our neighbours in the widest possible sense of that word, peace is threatened.

In Pope Francis’s encyclical Fratelli Tutti, his exploration of the parable of the Good Samaritan shows that it is the ‘outsider’, the ‘marginalised’, the ‘migrant’ who proves to be the good neighbour, who acts in solidarity with the injured man (and with the inn keeper who takes on responsibility for looking after him).

Today, we see Sikh and Muslim communities setting up food banks for the local populations, regardless of colour or creed. We see a young Black footballer ensuring the wellbeing of vulnerable children. These are seen by too many as the ‘outsiders’ in our society – yet in truth, they are its loving heart, offering solidarity with those in need.

If only word leaders could follow that same pattern of solidarity, sharing vaccines, offering un-tied aid, working together for the environment, signing treaties that ban the weapons that cause the tensions which could lead us to annihilation. If only refuge could be offered to the refugee – is that another word in need of a definition reminder?  ‘Refuge’ – ‘a place that gives protection or shelter from danger, trouble, unhappiness’.

Are Pax Christi International and member countries like ours reaching for the stars when we aim to promote peace, respect of human rights, justice & reconciliation throughout the world?

Is it naïve to believe that peace is possible and that vicious cycles of violence and injustice can be broken?

We think not.

COVID may have been a wake-up call, but encouragingly, we’re hearing that word ‘solidarity’ coming at us from so many sources around the world – from ‘ordinary’ people like you and me and from leaders of churches and states.

Of course we face enormous difficulties. COVID itself will remain a problem. Conflict in Syria, Yemen, Myanmar, Mozambique, and too many other countries, needs to be addressed. The climate must have immediate attention. And the poverty pandemic, created by gross inequalities, is a priority.

But this Holy Week, can we remember St Teresa of Avila’s caution that Christ has no other hands on earth but ours, and in the joy of Easter, could we reach out those hands in solidarity, determined to be an organisation that uses those hands to fashion the path to peace?