The following excerpt is from Jubilee: 50 Years of Solidarity, published by Novalis. Reprinted by permission of the Publisher.
In the world of international solidarity, partnership is a word used by all stripes, so much so its meaning feels diluted. However, since the early years of its existence, Development and Peace has worked to define a meaning of partnership that is deeply and uniquely its own and lies at the heart of our identity.
The organization’s partnership policy describes the rich relationships, based on equality and mutual engagement and benefit, that should exist between ourselves and our partners. The characteristics of partnership have been learned, articulated, and practiced through hundreds of relationships and thousands of experiences. But where does this vision spring from? What is so unique about it?
Our vision of partnership starts with ‘a look.’ It begins in how we see the poor. We do not see the poor as ‘less than.’ They are poor because they are victims of injustice and oppression. But neither do we see them primarily as victims. Nor do not see them as beneficiaries, recipients or development targets. For Development and Peace, we see the poor as the protagonists of their own history. We see the poor as agents of their own development and creators of their own future. It is for that reason that we want to become partners with the poor. We want to support their right to live in fullness and dignity. We want to be an ally in their struggles for liberation.
Our vision of partnership also springs from our faith in the Nazarene and our trust in a loving God. The poor are especially privileged of this love. Like the Good Samaritan, Development and Peace responds by protecting life, by joining with the poor in their desire to achieve the fullness of life, and doing for the poor what we would not hesitate to do for Jesus. This is the ultimate test of faith and of action that is consistent with faith. We look to and we contribute to the social teachings of the church (inset) as we strive to put this vision into practice.
The vision is also rooted in how we understand social change. The rich and even those who are neither rich nor poor have no real interest in transforming the world. It is the poor who are interested in changing things. They are the true drivers of change and it is from the poor that real change will come. Consequently, when those who believe in social justice want to join in struggles against poverty and injustice, it is to the people’s movements and other organizations of the poor that we must turn, and it is their struggles we must support.
We face two main challenges in trying to implement our vision of partnership. The first is true of any organization that has a funding component. Money gives power and tends to establish an uneven relationship. This has the potential of creating dependency among the ‘funded.’ Overcoming the inequality created by money requires rare spirit and intellectual courage.
The second challenge comes from being an organization of the Church. The mandate given Development and Peace by our bishops propels us into the heart of the modern world and into the complex alliances and networks we need to effectively fight poverty and injustice. As we struggle for justice without discrimination, and therefore without regard for religion, we face accusations of infidelity by Catholic groups that consider themselves ‘pure.’
How will Development and Peace remain faithful to the mission that has been entrusted to it by the Church? How will we overcome these challenges over the next 50 years?
Near the beginning of his public ministry, Jesus visited the temple in his home town. He stood up and announced what we would today call his ‘mission statement.’ He said that he had been sent to win liberty for the oppressed and to proclaim a year of jubilee. This was good news for the poor. The men in the temple were very familiar with the idea of jubilee. They knew what God had said to Moses on Mount Sinai: “And you shall hallow the fiftieth year and you shall proclaim liberty throughout the land to all its inhabitants. It shall be a jubilee for you” (Lev. 25:10)
Jubilee was an important social regulation in the Old Testament: a time to share resources, forgive debt, grant freedom and let the earth rest. Society has a tendency towards becoming unequal. Inequality breeds poverty, injustice and oppression. These realities were far from the covenant made between God and God’s people. Jubilee was a way to restore the covenant to its true and original promise. From the beginning of his preaching, Jesus sought to restore the prophecy. Jubilee was at the heart of the good news.
This is the deeper meaning to be taken from the 50th anniversary of Development and Peace. Celebrating a 50th year is like declaring a jubilee in the biblical sense. It is a time to join the poor in their struggles for liberation. It is a time to reinvest in the radical transformation that is occurring today. It is an opportunity to restore the movement with the same prophetic power that gave it birth and which must continually rejuvenate us.
Jubilee: 50 Years of Solidarity is available from Novalis (www.novalis.ca) in English or French. 160 pages; $34.95