Monday, May 01, 2006


I - If one were asked to summarize the social teachings of the Church in one word, we could adopt Pope John Paul II’s favorite term, “Solidarity.” The dictionary defines “solidarity” as “agreement of all elements or individuals”; or as “unity of a group or class that is based on community of interests, objectives, and standards”; or as “mutual dependence.”

In the recently-published Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, we discover a more profound description of Solidarity from the tradition of the Church.

(1) Meaning and value. Four dimensions are highlighted in the concept of solidarity:

--a) the intrinsic social nature of the human person;
--b) the equality of all persons in dignity and rights;
c) the common path taken by individuals and peoples towards an even more committed unity; and
--d) the bond of interdependence between individuals
and peoples.

In this light, solidarity would be opposed to individualism, class conflict, imperialism, isolationism as well as any form of dictatorship. It is based on the dignity of every person and of all persons in human society.

(2) Solidarity as a social principle and a moral virtue. The relationships of interdependence, particularly in a globalized world, impel us towards genuine ethical-social solidarity. As one of the key principles for the social teachings of the church, solidarity becomes the starting-point for our conduct in society.

As a moral virtue, solidarity disposes us to determine the order of institutions – i.e., from “structures of sin” to structures of solidarity. In this regard, it is helpful to keep in mind how the Church defines virtue in the first place:

A virtue is a habitual and firm disposition to do the good. It allows the person not only to perform good acts, but to give the best of himself. The virtuous person tends toward the good with all his sensory and spiritual powers; he pursues the good and chooses it in concrete actions. (italics supplied)

It is in this light that Pope John Paul II defines solidarity as a “firm and persevering determination to commit oneself to the common good. That is to say to the good of all and of each individual, because we are all really responsible for all.”

(3) Solidarity as a Christian virtue. Solidarity, as a recurring theme in the social teaching of the Church, has been expressed in various terms, such as “friendship” by Pope Leo XIII, “social charity” by Pope Pius XI, the process of “socialization” by Pope John XXIII, and “a civilization of love” by Pope Paul VI. It also refers to the “preferential option for the poor” which Pope John Paul II defines as a “special form of primacy in the exercise of Christian charity.” In the Compendium, solidarity takes on the lapidary phrase of “solidary humanism.”

Thus, solidarity is closely linked to charity with the distinctively Christian dimensions of “total gratuity, forgiveness and reconciliation.” It enables us to discern a new model of unity of the human race—towards “communion” which is the soul of the Church’s vocation to be a “sacrament.”

Some witnesses of solidarity among the saints, cited by Pope John Paul II, are St. Peter Claver, the apostle of the Negro slaves in Cartagena, and St. Maximilian Kolbe who offered his life in exchange for the life of a fellow prisoner in the concentration camp in Auschwitz. We can also mention Blessed Mother Teresa in her work of charity among the poorest of the poor in Calcutta. Their lives exemplify the meaning of solidarity among fellow human beings, as described by the late Holy Father:

Solidarity helps us to see the “other”—whether a person, people or nation—not just as some kind of instrument, with a work capacity and physical strength to be exploited at low cost and then discarded when no longer useful, but as our “neighbor,” a “helper,” to be made a sharer, on a par with ourselves, in the banquet of life to which all are equally invited by God.”

(4) Solidarity in the life and message of Jesus Christ. The perfect exemplar of solidarity is the person of Jesus of Nazareth, who reveals man to man, and “is one with humanity even to the point of ‘death on a cross.’ ” Jesus reveals the transcendent love of God-with-us (Emmanuel).

In his disdain for any form of social discrimination and his special attention to the outcasts of society, his acts of solidarity shine forth with the Christ-modeled charity of total generosity, forgiveness and reconciliation. Ultimately, Jesus’ life and death wrought redemption, restoring a broken world in his love—a sign of grace, life and hope for the countless poor, the lame, the blind, the homeless, and the unwanted in our society today, or what Mahatma Ghandi has once described as “the last, the least, and the lost.”

(5) Solidarity and the common growth of mankind. As a dynamic principle, there is an intimate connection between solidarity and the common good, between solidarity and the universal destination of goods, and between solidarity and peace. “The process of development and liberation takes concrete shape in the exercise of solidarity, that is to say in the love and service of neighbor, especially of the poorest,” notes Pope John Paul II.

Solidarity, on the one hand, recognizes the space given to human freedom for the exercise of social responsibility and what the CBCP statement calls, “heroic citizenship.” On the other hand, it reminds us that we are all debtors of society of which we have become part and that we all have a common obligation to continue humanity’s journey towards future generations—an allusion to promote human life and the integrity of creation.

It is in this context that Pope John Paul II states that “the solidarity which we propose is the path to peace and at the same time to development.” He concludes by transposing Pope Pius XII’s motto, Opus justitiae pax (peace as the work/fruit of justice) into his own saying, Opus solidaritatis pax (peace as the fruit of solidarity).

II - How then do we forge solidarity in our world today? In one sense, the globe has shrunk in terms of travel distance and real-time communication. In another sense, the world has become more diversified, fragmented, and endangered in terms of ecological degradation and, what some have called, a clash of cultures and civilizations. Wars within and beyond national borders, man-made and natural disasters, epidemics, and threats of terrorism characterize the beginning of the third millennium of the Christian era. The world has indeed become a better and safer place for many; but for many more, the experience has been the opposite—as millions continue to struggle with the stark realities of poverty, disease, war, and insecurity.

It is in this context that the framework of “Human Security” has been offered to complement the earlier paradigms of state security, promotion of human rights, and human development.

(1) From state security to human security. With the rise of nation-states in the 17th century, the concept of state security, based on national sovereignty, has been the prevalent framework in international relations. On the other hand, human security focuses on the protection of individuals, households and local communities.

In confronting menaces to peace and stability, state security is preoccupied with protecting territorial boundaries, or protecting the existing government from internal threats, such as coups or rebellions. On the other hand, human security confronts broader and border-less menaces, such as environmental pollution, the spread of infectious diseases, and threats of region-wide terrorism.

The protagonists for state security are usually politicians and the military; human security, on the other hand, involves a wider range of actors, such as civil society groups, non-government organizations, religious leaders, media, and international agencies.

Ultimately, the overriding goal for state security is to protect and preserve the state; human security, on the other hand, is people-centered and aims to protect and empower the people.

It would be instructive to relate these to current “threats” affecting the country—such as the Asian bird-flu epidemic, terrorist attacks against innocent civilians, and the reported coup attempt and Fort Bonifacio stand-off during the 20th anniversary of the EDSA I People Power revolution.

(2) Definition of human security. While acknowledging the location–specific concerns of particular countries and regions of the world, the Commission on Human Security offers a definition of human security—i.e., “to protect the vital core of human lives in ways that enhance human freedoms and human fulfillment.”

It involves:

· protecting fundamental freedoms – that are the essence of life;
· protecting people from severe and widespread threats;
· using processes that build on people’s strengths and aspirations;
· creating systems (political, social, economic, cultural, environmental, etc.) that help people attain survival, livelihood and dignity;
· including excluded minorities in the development process;
· enabling individuals and communities to make informed choices and to act on their own behalf;
· encompassing: freedom from want,
freedom from fear,
freedom from discrimination, and
freedom of future generations to
inherit a healthy natural environment.

In summary, the Commission states: “Human security complements state security, enhances human rights and strengthens human development.” As pointed out by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, it joins “the main agenda items of peace, security and development.”

(3) Basic freedoms for human security. In a landmark study of the Human Development Report 2000, the United Nations Development Programme explored the intimate linkage between “human rights and human development--for freedom and solidarity.”

Seven fundamental freedoms are outlined:

· Freedom from discrimination – by gender, race, ethnicity, national origin or religion;
· Freedom from want – to enjoy a decent standard of living;
· Freedom to develop and realize one’s human potential;
· Freedom from fear – of threats to personal security, from torture, arbitrary arrest and other violent acts;
· Freedom from injustice and violations of the rule of law;
· Freedom of thought and speech and to participate in decision-making and form associations; and
· Freedom for decent work – without exploitation.

We can place these freedoms under three general headings related to a Culture of Life and Development; a Culture of Human Rights and Democracy; and a Culture of Peace and Solidarity. These three headings also approximate the economic, political, and cultural dimensions of human freedoms.

Within a Human Security framework, these three “cultures” reinforce each other as nested paradigms, starting from the basic economic needs of human life itself and extending to political freedoms and ultimately to cultural and spiritual values. “People’s horizons,” notes the Commission on Human Security, “extend far beyond survival to matters of love, culture and faith.”

(4) Human security following violent conflict. The Human Security paradigm was originally conceived to address the inadequacy of the State Security framework during periods of violent conflict. Under a state security perspective, only the first cluster on public safety would be addressed by a military force bent on victory in the battlefield.
As was borne out in the aftermath of the armed conflicts in Central Mindanao in the years 2000 and 2003, the other clusters such as humanitarian relief, rehabilitation & reconstruction, and reconciliation & coexistence were left mostly to local NGOs and international relief agencies. Government’s role, as indicated at the left margin predominates under the cluster of public safety, but diminishes in proportion to the people’s own involvement in the subsequent stages, particularly in the clusters on reconciliation and governance & empowerment.

(5) Advancing human security in Mindanao. As an illustrative case, a human security agenda in Mindanao would involve these various components:

· Protecting people in violent conflict (refugees);
· Providing minimum living standards (work-based security; secure livelihoods; access to land, credit, training);
· Access to basic health care;
· Access to basic education for all;
· Articulating common goals, while developing multiple identities (inter-religious dialogue; culture of peace);
· Empowering communities for good governance (engaged citizenship; social auditing; meaningful elections);
· Forging alliances among civil society groups, including churches, government agencies, and local communities.

The work of Tabang Mindanaw for relief and rehabilitation in Central Mindano; of the BASULTA cluster of local NGOs and international agencies in the development of the Basilan-Sulu-Tawi-Tawi area; of the Bishops-Ulama Conference in interreligious dialogue; of numerous peace centers, particularly in the observance of the Mindanao Week of Peace—these are all ongoing efforts at building peace and human security on the island. The Commission notes:

Human security in its broadest sense embraces far more than the absence of violent conflict. It encompasses human rights, good governance, access to education and health care and ensuring that each individual has opportunities and choices to fulfill his or her potential.

Does the language of Human Security then resonate with our affirmation of Solidarity in the social teachings of the Church? In the Philippine context, it seems there can be no solidarity without human security. But neither can there be human security without that deepened sense of solidarity that the Church’s tradition offers us.

Bishop Antonio J. Ledesma, S.J.

(Keynote address, Second National Assembly of the Philippine-Misereor Partnership, SEARSOLIN, Xavier University, Cagayan de Oro City, 16 March 2006.)