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:
Extractivism is a short-sighted model of development seen around the world that exploits natural resources on a massive scale, creating significant economic profits for the powerful few in the short term, but too often resulting in minimal benefits for the communities where these resources are found.
Columban missionaries see close-up the growing threat of a massive depletion of natural resources and destruction of the environment caused by Extractive Industries. We challenge the model of development promoted by many multinational corporations, governments and international financial institutions that is based on the intensive exploitation of natural resources.
Extractive industries are a bedrock of our current economic model. In order to stop the damage being caused by these industries, we need to reimagine what our economic looks like.
St. Columban, known for his mystical relationship with the natural world, is quoted as saying, "if you want to know the Creator, know Creation." Today, Columban missionaries carry this spirituality of care and respect for Creation as integral to our missionary identity and way of participating in God’s mission.
The United States is responsible for a portion of the deforestation happening in the Amazon, including the recent fires that made headlines. Many US manufacturers and other companies source materials from the Amazon region.
Copyright © 2021 Columban Center for Advocacy and Outreach, Washington, D.C.