• The power of solidarity

    Posted by Christine

    8 April, 2014

    One of the most significant things that we’ve learnt over the last twenty years in the fight to end extreme poverty is the importance of working together. The Millennium Development Goals, for all their imperfections and shortcomings, have given us a shared set of global goals, the likes of which we have never before experienced. They have given us purpose, something to stand for as we simultaneously stand against the injustice of poverty. This has caused me to reflect on the nature of solidarity. 

    When you see a group of citizens protesting, marching in a group, holding signs and chanting slogans – they could be seen as an image of solidarity. Solidarity can be as limited as those who choose a particular issue or line of thinking. It’s outcome could create more divisiveness amongst the bystanders who watch a protest if they cannot relate to the cause.

    My own spiritual tradition is very comfortable in a march while wearing uniforms and keeping in step to band music. The Salvation Army in that moment could be described as a church whose image is a people who share a defined purpose or in the words of its music -­‐ are “Onward Christian Soldiers”.

    But is there an ethos of solidarity that is more inclusive than exclusive?

    As Christians our geographical space asks us to consider a God who loved an unloved world. The totality of social relations among humans suddenly lifts the concept of solidarity into a complex challenge, for we live in a world of stark contrast – rich and poor, love and hate, community and loneliness, inclusiveness and exclusiveness, social chaos and social order.

    Having spent time working with the United Nations while establishing The Salvation Army’s International Social Justice Commission, I received many comments from those who saw the UN as imperfect and easy to criticize. And yet, while working as a participant with the UN and as a member of a church representing civil society, the hallways became the points of conversation. Nations were stepping toward unity as they marched in time to issues requiring intervention, agreement and forward action.

    In this context, stories took the lead in motivating the solidarity. I will never forget the day at the United Nations General Assembly Hall when an 11 year old child spoke for 20 minutes on hunger. He did not read from books, research papers or site the latest statistics. He encapsulated the subject as one whose childhood knew hunger pangs more than a full tummy.

    On that day solidarity was heard when ambassadors, civil society and yes the church, rose to its feet with cheers, tears and extended applause. We stood together against an opponent bigger than all of us.

    Solidarity was the result because hunger had been understood through the voice of one little child. 

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    Christine MacMillan is the Senior Advisor for Social Justice for the World Evangelical Alliance (WEA), the Chair of the WEA Global Human Trafficking Taskforce and a member of the Micah Challenge International Board. She is a retired officer in the Salvation Army, where she formerly served as the Director of the Salvation Army’s International Social Justice Commission in New York, where she represented the Salvation Army at the United Nations.