Can we imagine a just world? Can we imagine a world in which every person has sufficient food and water to live; where all have the health care they need to thrive; where each one has meaningful work and receives just wages; where all people respect one another, as well as the earth that sustains them; where conflict is resolved in creative ways that do not result in winners and losers, but rather in solutions that are acceptable to all? The word justice has varied connotations, but in the end we can say justice is about right relationships, both with God and with one another. The foundational story of the Old Testament, God’s leading a people from captivity into liberation and covenant with God’s self, is primarily concerned with these right relationships. Then Jesus condenses the Law into two simple commands, “Love God” and “Love Others,” not separate, but commands that are mutually implied.
Rather than just dream about such a world, Catholic Relief Services works at building it, believing, “Solidarity will change the world.” Solidarity, both a virtue and a principle of Catholic Social Teaching, requires us all to be cognizant of the obstacles to the achievement of full human rights and dignity. Solidarity leads us down the path to achieving justice in the world.
So where do we begin to put solidarity into practice and personally promote a more just world? We can begin by recognizing the power we Americans wield daily, the power of the consumer. We can start by purchasing Fair Trade products, especially coffee, tea, and chocolate, but including an expanding assortment of goods. Fair Trade is a world-wide movement that is now taking off in the U.S. The Fair Trade symbols guarantee that the producers (small farmers and artisans) of the products we purchase, often from economically poor regions of the world, are receiving a fair price for their goods. In addition, organizations such as CRS and its many international partners, work to enable these producers to form cooperatives that further enhance their bargaining power in the market and enable them to improve production. They teach environmentally sound production methods, offer micro loans, and stress the importance of education for the youth.
Responsibility for justice – that is, for right relationships – belongs to everyone. Fair Trade means a win/win economic relationship. October is Fair Trade month. May 8 is World Fair Trade Day. Find out more about Fair Trade for yourself and for your parish at http://www.crsfairtrade.org, and contact your local CRS Fair Trade Ambassador Rita Sloan at firstname.lastname@example.org.