In their daily lives, Columbans witness the hardships brought about by destructive global economic structures and policies. For many farmers and factory workers, poverty and exclusion from the global economy is a life or death matter. As people of faith we are called to walk in solidarity with the economically poor and call for a global economy and market that serves the people.
“We recognize the moral challenge of worldwide and local poverty, and allow this recognition to qualify all our thinking… It means supporting the struggle of the poor for real participation and against injustice.”
–Missionary Society of St. Columban Constitution
We advocate for fair trade and debt relief.
Trade and debt agreements have human consequences, and must be evaluated with regard to the effects that they have on the poor and on Creation. Columbans work in many countries affected by free trade agreements that have a negative impact on local farmers and laborers.
These agreements tend to favor the interests of transnational corporations and make it more difficult for governments to defend labor rights and protect the environment. As a result, they drive migration, exacerbate poverty, and harm the environment.
In the same way, many developing nations pay debt service to wealthy nations and institutions at the expense of providing essential services, such as access to clean water, adequate housing, and basic health care, to their people. The Church believes trade and debt policies must be just and provide for the needs of the poor, the common good and our common home, rather than the profits of foreign investors and creditors.
We advocate for sustainable development and just economic models.
Pope Francis has referred to poverty as a sign of the times and a scandal. “In a world where there is so much wealth, so many resources to feed everyone, it is unfathomable that there are so many hungry children, that there are so many children without an education, so many poor persons. Poverty today is a cry.”
We believe that the current global economic model does not reflect the Gospel values of solidarity, justice, dignity, and respect for all of Creation. We believe the global economy should serve the poor and vulnerable with care and respect and reverence for all of Creation.
There must be a more just distribution of the world’s resources. Global economic development must be both equitable and sustainable: it must hear “both the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor” (LS 49). “The need to resolve the structural causes of poverty cannot be delayed” (EG 202).
Economic Justice Resources:
At the heart of the Columban mission is cross-cultural exchange, the belief that God speaks to us through the experiences of others, particularly those who are marginalized or living in poverty, and that we should open our hearts to learn from those experiences. As St. Columban puts it: “a life unlike your own can be your teacher.”
On May 24, 2015, Pope Francis issued his papal encyclical letter Laudato Si’: On Care for Our Common Home, in which he urged the world to protect our common home and to end man-made climate change.
This month we take a magnifying glass to U.S. foreign policy regarding North & South Korea, US/Mexico border enforcement policies, and some quick takes on federal funding and more.
In August last year, the Columbans in the United States released a statement responding to the increasing tensions between the United States and North Korea, and urging diplomacy between the two nations. At the time, North Korea was conducting a series of missile and nuclear tests, which, along with threats and heated rhetoric from both North Korea and the U.S., raised the threat of nuclear escalation.
This past November, I had the chance to visit the Columbans serving on the US/Mexico border. While I was on this trip, I met a woman who had previously worked in a maquila, a factory in Mexico operated by a foreign corporation. The company paid her less than minimum wage, and required her to work over 40 hours a week. One day at work, she was badly hurt and needed medical attention. Instead of helping, the maquila fired her so they didn't have to pay her medical bills.
We are faith-based organizations and religious bodies with constituencies in the United States, and close partners and mission representatives serving in many regions around the world. We have a vision for a fair, humane, and just North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) renegotiation.
Copyright © 2019 Columban Center for Advocacy and Outreach, Washington, D.C.