Reflections on mission for March

Fr. Denis Carter has prepared reflections on Columban mission, adapted from the experiences of Columban Missionaries on assignments around the world. There is one reflection for each week of March.

Week 1: Fair Trade

Fair Trade is one response of ordinary people that can help the lives of millions of small craft workers and farmers. By buying a genuinely fairly traded product there is that assurance that most of the money goes to the producer and not to some billionaire multinational or millionaire mogul that runs sweatshops, uses child labour and rips off the struggling farmers by paying a pittance for their produce.

For over forty years, the fair trade movement has grown and spread around the world and thousands of world shops across Europe have brought new prosperity to once impoverished workers, craft makers and farmers. This has been achieved because they pay a just and fair price for the products and deliver back to the producers a share of earnings through many social services benefits and development projects. Fair trade is the hope of the Philippine poor.

Shay Cullen (Philippines)

Reflect: How can you give more support to the Fair Trade movement?

Week 2: Globalisation

Globalisation is a process which is transforming the spatial organisation of social relations and transactions. There has emerged a consciousness that we all belong to one world and share the same space. What is unique at the present time is the scale and the intensity of world-wide interconnections. The world feels smaller, and events in one place have an impact in no time on people thousands of miles away.

For those who are strategically placed to take advantage of the opportunities for travel or investment, all this feels exhilarating, pregnant with the possibilities. But the flip side is that globalisation is a very uneven process. A phrase like global village sounds naively cosy, but for many people the experience of the global village is an experience of alienation and exclusion from most of the benefits and prosperity associated with globalisation.

Sean Dwan (Korea, Ireland)

Reflect: Identify who benefits and who suffers from globalisation. What imperatives are there from our faith to respond to the situation?

Week 3: Bleeding to death

I awake to the sound of loud knocking on the door downstairs. “Pader, pader tabangi intawen kami” (Father, please help us). I know from experience that it must be another sick person in my Philippines parish in need of immediate help. Downstairs I meet Josing with a worried look on his face. He is a poor tenant farmer in his early twenties. His wife, Ising, lies on the floor in a makeshift hammock, looking very pale and ill. She is seven months pregnant and has severe bleeding. She must go to hospital, 30 miles away, but Josing has no money to hire a jeep.

I drive them, and as I listen to the groans of Ising in the back seat I feel very angry. Why is there no ambulance in the town? Why so few health personnel? Ising dies three hours after being admitted to the hospital. The blame for her death must be laid at government policies that give priority to paying back so called foreign debts at the expense of providing basic health care for its people. How long must the poor bleed to death so that these debts can be paid.

Oliver McCrossan (Philippines, Ireland)

Reflect: In what ways does international debt affect poor countries and communities? Why should Christians get involved in the issue?

Week 4: A simpler lifestyle

I have come to the view that the community of believers has a unique contribution to make in the struggle for a more just world, and that presently we are distracted from even beginning to identify it, much less acting out of it, because of over emphasis on political lobbying and corporate campaigning. The last thing that I wish to imply is that the believing community should not engage the political or corporate world. However, such action has only limited power because the deepest roots – not the only ones – of the forces that destroy the poor, our environment and ourselves lie elsewhere…. within us.

We are enmeshed in the consumer culture that has us believing that as soon as one standard of living is achieved, a higher one should be sought. We have become immune to the truth that we are part of a rich world lifestyle where desires and life choices are at the expense of the poor, future generations and the planet itself.

Eamonn O’Brien (Philippines, Taiwan, Myanmar, China, Britain)

Reflect: In what ways could you simplify your lifestyle? How important is it to do this?

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