Justice Matters
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By Jeannette Arnquist

“...to emerge from this crisis better than before, we have to do so together; together, not alone. Together. Not alone, because it cannot be done. Either it is done together, or it is not done. We must do it together, all of us, in solidarity. I would like to underline this word today: solidarity.” - Pope Francis, Sept. 2, 2020

“We are all responsible for all.” – Pope John Paul II, Sollicitudo Rei Socialis, 1987

As I write this, a few weeks before publication, it looks like the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic is behind us. And even though it looked like this a year ago, it is really good news.

At the same time, we really don’t know what is going to happen in Ukraine. While the reports are very incomplete, we do know that the loss of life is enormous. We know that the disruption of life in Ukraine is beyond anything we have seen since World War II. Half of the children in Ukraine have been displaced. (By the time you read this, I’m sure that this statistic will be out of date.)

The world crises we have experienced with COVID-19 and now the war in Ukraine have clearly shown us how interdependent our global community has become. Supply chain shortages of everything from toilet paper to gasoline cause disruption in everyday life. We are all economically interdependent on moving stuff around the world. Look at the labels in your clothing. Think about your morning coffee or tea. And don’t forget about chocolate. We are all dependent on complex networks of global supply and demand.

As we approach Pentecost, let’s go back to the idea of solidarity. It seems to me that understanding our interdependence is a first step on the long journey toward the virtue of solidarity. “We are all responsible for all.”

We are connected to the miners in Africa’s Congo who dig by hand in treacherous conditions for very little pay to extract the cobalt we need for lithium ion batteries. Congo is one of the world’s least developed nations. It exports the cobalt for only a fraction of the final cost of the batteries, which are manufactured in Asia.

We are connected to the four million garment workers in Bangladesh, who work 10 hours per day in unsafe factories for less than a living wage. In 2013 the Rana Plaza fire in Dhaka killed 1,132 garment workers who were trapped in the building.

These, of course, are only two examples of the complexity of structural sin. Structural sin is not the fault of any single decision or action. It is not the result of any single particular personal sin. It is the result of centuries of selfishness and greed. These are the same structures that created chattel slavery. These same structures continue to put the economic gain of a few above human life and dignity.

But “we are all responsible for all.”
Pentecost can be considered the feast of Unity in Diversity. People from every nation were gathered in Jerusalem and the Spirit dissolved their differences. They experienced the liberating love of God. They realized that they were all in this together.

We are all in this together too. What is happening in each part of the planet has an effect on the rest. Let us open our hearts to the pain and injustice that others experience. Let us realize that they are just as precious to God as we are. Let us stand in solidarity with those who are suffering by working for international policies that support justice and peace and human dignity. Solidarity is love in action.

Jeanette Arnquist is a former Director of the Department of Life, Dignity & Justice for the Diocese of San Bernardino. She is retired and living in Tucson, Arizona where she remains active in social concerns ministries.