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Social Justice in a Global Village


Justice in a Global Village

A recent lecture explores the relationship between social injustice, poverty and solidarity.

Many of the social injustices plaguing the world today stem from poverty, and the best way to combat poverty is through solidarity. That’s according to Paul Locatelli, S.J., president of Santa Clara University, who said incorporating social justice into faith has been a guiding Jesuit ideal since 1975, when an international delegation of Jesuits meeting in Rome adopted justice as a single integrating principle for all Ignatian ministries.

“Loving as a compassionate neighbor in urban and global solidarity means loving fragile and estranged neighbors who differ from us in gender, race, culture, religion and national origin or social class,” said Father Locatelli, during a May 3 lecture in Flom Auditorium on the Rose Hill campus. “My great fear is our lost opportunity for learning to live as people of solidarity as U.S. policies turn more to isolationism, a divisive war and homeland fears.”

In his presentation, “Justice in a Globablizing World: The Jesuit Perspective,” Father Locatelli highlighted some disturbing statistics from the World Bank that show what a pitiful job the haves are doing in caring for the have nots.

• While rates of poverty have declined in most parts of the world, the number of people in sub-Saharan Africa living on less than $1 a day has increased from 241 million in 1990 to 315 million today.

• The combined wealth of the world’s 200 richest individuals is greater than the combined wealth of the world’s 2.5 billion poorest.

• During the 1990s, gross domestic product (GDP) grew by 1 percent in rich countries and by 5 percent in developing countries able to participate in world trade. But in countries left out of globalization, GDP declined 1 percent.

Political pressures and trade protectionism in the form of farm subsidies and tariffs on imported goods are shutting the world’s poorest countries, most with natural resource-based economies, out of potentially lucrative markets in the United States and Europe.

To achieve a more equitable distribution of wealth, however, requires more than social programs and economic subsidies handed down by bureaucrats with no contact with the poor. True solidarity, said Father Locatelli, can only arise by walking with the poor, who must have a say in social programs designed to improve their lives. Father Peter Hans-Kolvenbach, S.J., superior general of the Society of Jesus, put it nicely, according to Father Locatelli, when he said:

“Solidarity is learned through ‘contact’ rather than through ‘concepts.’ When the heart is touched by direct experience, the mind may be challenged to change.”

Father Locatelli cited a number of ways that Santa Clara is trying to bring this concept to life for its students. Through its Institute on Globalization, the university regularly hosts conferences on campus with representatives of developing countries; students spend weeks or months in a developing country as part of Santa Clara’s immersion program; and the university has launched an initiative called Global 2010, in which every Santa Clara student will go through a global experience that includes learning a foreign language, participating in an immersion program and learning through exposure to people from other countries.

“I think every Jesuit university is trying to figure out how to integrate justice into its school,” said Father Locatelli. “We have a responsibility to step up and do more morally.”

Fordham introduces students to globalization through a number of programs, including the G.L.O.B.E. program in the College of Business Administration and the International Political Economy and Development program, which prepare students for international careers; the Institute of International Humanitarian Affairs that offers books, symposia and training courses on global humanitarian issues; and the Frank J. Petrilli Center for Research in International Finance.

Father Locatelli’s presentation was the final lecture in the Sapientia et Doctrina series celebrating the inauguration of Joseph M. McShane, S.J., president of Fordham University.

— Suzanne Stevens

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