What is Global Solidarity?

On April 5th, 2006 Dr. Ron Pagnucco, Chair of the Peace Studies Department, moderated a panel discussion focusing on the study abroad experience and global solidarity. Posted below is a summary of the panel discussion that may help to understand what exactly global solidarity is and how it is cultivated.

"Study Abroad and Global Solidarity:
A Panel Discussion on 'What is Global Solidarity & How Do We Foster It.'"

Panel Discussion held on April 5th, 2006, College of St. Benedict

Co-sponsored by: Department of Peace Studies; CSB Campus Ministry; CSB/SJU Center for International Education; SJU Campus Ministry; CSB/SJU Africa Learning Community

Br. Dennis Beach, OSB, Department of Philosophy, CSB/SJU
Patricia Cespedes-Schueller, CSB Campus Ministry
Fr. William Vos, Mission Office, Diocese of St. Cloud

Dr. Ron Pagnucco, Department of Peace Studies, CSB/SJU

1. Introduction

On April 5th, a panel discussion on Study Abroad and Global Solidarity was held to bring together those interested in beginning a discussion of "What is Global Solidarity and How Can We Foster It?" The panel discussion was inspired in part by the 1997 U.S. Catholic Bishops' statement, "Called to Global Solidarity" as well as some personal discussions that some of the panelists had been having on the topic. Each of the panelists has had experience with Global Solidarity: Br. Dennis Beach has led study and solidarity trips to Central America and serves on the Board of the SHARE Foundation, a U.S.-El Salvador solidarity NGO; Patricia Cespedes-Schueller, trained as a theologian, is from Peru and has organized a May term in Peru; Fr. Bill Vos, after spending many years in East Africa with Maryknoll, has been a leader in the Diocese of St. Cloud-Diocese of Homa Bay, Kenya partnership since its inception in 1999; and Dr. Ron Pagnucco has studied transnational social movements, has been involved in the St. Cloud-Homa Bay partnership, and has led a May term in Kenya.

Rather than meeting proceedings, this report records concepts, points and examples presented by the panelists and discussed by all present. It was agreed that the panel discussion was a good beginning, and that we will continue having panel discussions on this topic in the future.

2. Study Abroad, Service Trips, and Solidarity.

Students study abroad for a variety of reasons, some of which have nothing to do with solidarity. Rather than try to incorporate a "solidarity" component into a regular study abroad program, though this might be worth trying in some cases, it probably would be better to have specific solidarity programs. Such programs would have components that would be different from the regular study abroad programs and service trips, and students would select a solidarity program specifically because its goal is to foster learning and solidarity.

Br. Dennis Beach has led a number of solidarity trips to Central America. These trips differ from the conventional study abroad programs, as well as from service and mission trips. For example, Br. Beach has taken students to El Salvador to join with the people in celebrating the anniversary of Archbishop Oscar Romero.

Br. Dennis noted that although we have certain popular expressions, such as "I got your back," that indicate solidarity, solidarity is not something we discuss a great deal in our culture. For Br. Dennis a big part of solidarity is being with the people in the country, sharing in their lives, and having fun with them. Such an experience will lead us to see the world differently. Solidarity involves cultivating an ongoing relationship, being dependable, and going back to visit the people. He prefers the "accompaniment" model of solidarity., the definition for which is "accompany the poor, neither lead nor follow, but be companions to, and work with, the poor in their efforts for empowerment and justice -- not speaking for, but with, the poor." A good reading on solidarity is chapter eight, "Being with one another in faith," in the book by the Salvadoran Jesuit, Jon Sobrino, Principle of Mercy.

Br. Dennis also differentiated between solidarity and charity. As an example of solidarity he presented the example of the SHARE Foundation, which will only help fund a project in El Salvador if it meets three criteria: it has citizen participation; it develops local leadership; and it fosters women's empowerment. This differs from more "charitable" efforts, like mission projects, for example, in which volunteers travel to a country to do the work, sometimes working side-by-side with local people. And solidarity involves asking critical questions like "why is there this poverty that I see here."

Patricia Cespedes-Schueller organized a May term on "The Lives and Culture of Peruvian Women in a Global Context," in which U.S. students are taught by Peruvian women. Patricia sees solidarity as involving a focus on the poor and God, and requiring us to be in good relationship with the poor and God. For those who do not believe in God, the referent would be their ideals. Love is the basis of solidarity and work for justice, all kinds of justice, as well as of forgiveness and reconciliation.

Solidarity involves having a learning experience about your own identity as well as the identities of the people you are visiting. One should not travel to the country with the intention of trying to solve the people's problems; rather one should go as an equal, not as someone with answers to the people's problems. One should share who they are with the people, not try to become like them. For example, some people go to Peru and try to be more Quecha than the Quechas. Don't do that: the Quaechas want to meet someone from the U.S. Once one has this kind of solidarity experience, they will never forget it, and will live "in-between." Solidarity involves living "in-between" and sharing the solidarity experience back at home.

Patricia also noted that while charitable projects must be thought about carefully, sometimes charity is needed -- sometimes we need to give people food or else we will be educating dead people.

Fr. Bill Vos observed that it is impossible to have a concrete relationship of solidarity with everyone in the world, so we need to have a relationship of solidarity with a specific group of people in a specific place. This is part of the philosophy behind the St. Cloud Diocese's partnership with a diocese in Venezuela and a diocese in Kenya. A major part of these partnerships is people-to-people contact -- the dioceses exchange delegations with St. Cloud. Solidarity involves and ongoing relationship. Solidarity also involves a sense of responsibility, since we are in the same world and we are members of the same human family and need to work together for the benefit of all.

Preparation and orientation before traveling is very important, and delegates go to share in the lives of the people and to learn from them. The delegation exchanges are not service trips. These solidarity exchanges can be transformative, and delegates can become "bridge people," what Patricia is calling "in-between" people, and delegates are expected to share their experiences with people back home. There is a strong sense of mutuality in the partnerships as leadership teams composed of members from the countries plan everything together. in a spirit of equality.

3. Solidarity After Returning Home

Several suggestions were made about how to maintain solidarity once returning back to the U.S. There should not only be preparation and orientation before going and reflection during the trip, but also a group debriefing upon return. And everyone should be encouraged to give talks about their experiences to groups.

Everyone should do one thing a month that reconnects them somehow with the people they visited. This could include doing advocacy work by joining the Catholic Relief Services Advocacy network or a local advocacy group.

Everyone, especially students, should be encouraged to think about how their skills could be used to help create a better world. Students especially should be encouraged to think about where they might do an internship in light of their experience.

Due to a lack of time, we were not able to explore this particular area more fully.

Everyone agreed that we will meet again in the future to continue our discussion of Global Solidarity.

4. Conclusion

Below are concepts and points that emerged from the presentations and discussions.

Solidarity involves:

  • Sharing in the lives of the people, seeing how they live
  • seeing the world differently
  • equality
  • ongoing relationships
  • dependability
  • accompaniment
  • empowerment
  • charity
  • just relationships
  • mutuality
  • broad participation
  • asking why there are the unjust social conditions we see
  • good relations with God and the poor
  • sharing who you are with those you visit
  • not trying to be like those you visit
  • learning about yourself as well as those you visit
  • thinking of the global common good
  • becoming "in-between" or "bridge" people
  • reflection before, during and after the solidarity experience
  • sharing your experience after returning
  • engaging in solidarity actions regularly after returning
  • reflecting on the experience to help you think about how to use your skills and education

A final major point is the suggestion that we should have specially designed and designated solidarity programs among our study abroad offerings which students would select because they specifically want a solidarity experience in another country.

Report submitted by Ron Pagnucco.