Network Invites Us to Build Harmony, Bring Justice

Global Solidarity Network Provides Spaces to Learn, Serve Globally and at Home

By Cindy Corell, mission co-worker in Haiti, and Jed Koball, mission co-worker in Peru

*This article was originally published in the PHP Post Summer 2023 Issue

Peruvians impacted by mining contamination demand a public health care plan. Photo courtesy of the Red Uniendo Manos Peru.

It is nearly impossible to start the day without laying your hands on something — some product — that cannot be traced to distant lands and the peoples who occupy them.

Your cellphone likely contains critical minerals extracted from a far-off place, a place where the extraction poisoned and made barren a once-flourishing land. Your sugar bowl isn’t as sweet as you imagine when you realize the sugarcane industry was a punishing system for those who were enslaved and a source of great wealth for those who owned the fields. The tag on the shirt you are wearing might indicate it was manufactured in Bangladesh, Haiti or Vietnam — likely a sweatshop in one of those places that does not value the worker’s rights.

It is nearly impossible to go through the day without engaging in intimate if not heartbreaking ways a global economy that has emerged from the vestiges of colonialism and ties us all together. As Martin Luther King Jr. once preached, “We aren’t going to have peace on earth until we recognize this basic fact of the interrelated structure of all reality.”

“We aren’t going to have peace on earth until we recognize this basic fact of the interrelated structure of all reality.”

– Martin Luther King Jr.

For more than 20 years, the Presbyterian Hunger Program (PHP) has addressed the negative consequences of this interrelated structure through its Joining Hands initiative. From Cameroon to Peru, Haiti to Sri Lanka, India to El Salvador and many places in between, PHP has supported networks of churches and organizations around the world that advocate for human rights. Especially, these country-specific networks advocate on behalf of communities made vulnerable by industries that provide goods and services for consumers and consumer countries.

And, it has done so with great success! In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, partners advocated for greater distribution of mining royalties for local communities. In El Salvador, partners were successful in banning dozens of dangerous pesticides. In Peru, partners created a unique law that will provide specialized human and environmental health care for communities affected by mining contamination. These are but a few of the victories we have celebrated over the years.

Sri Lankans march to demand that their stolen lands be returned. Photo courtesy of Praja Abhilasha.

Along the way Presbyterians have joined in this important work by accompanying partner networks from afar: amplifying their voices, advocating on their behalf, and praying with them in the face of great danger and risk. What we have learned is that the advocating efforts of global partners and Presbyterians together work! We have also learned that for these efforts to grow and have greater impact it requires greater solidarity both among the partner networks themselves as well as with those of us from consumer-oriented countries.

This is why today we are introducing the Global Solidarity Network (GSN). GSN is a movement mobilized by the PHP’s Joining Hands Initiative that brings together Presbyterians in the United States with partners and allies from the global South to decolonize the global economy and to promote harmonious ways of living together in our one common planet.

GSN invites Presbyterians into a space of listening and learning, inspiring all of us not only to join our global partners in creating more just lives, but also in noticing — and responding — to the injustice that harms our neighbors in our own communities.

GSN will generate energy, develop tools and build resilience for such a movement by creating space for diverse peoples from both the global North and South to come together to:

  • deepen understanding of political, economic and cultural systems, constructs and powers born out of colonialism;
  • strategize and coordinate collaborative efforts to resist and confront such powers of the global economy on multiple fronts; and,
  • build collective strength through prayer, mutual accompaniment, sharing of resources and continual growing of the network.

GSN is a place for Presbyterians with a heart for global relationships who are also committed to the Matthew 25 visions of building congregational vitality, dismantling structural racism and eradicating systemic poverty. Presbyterians have long been champions of addressing the needs of the most vulnerable and marginalized peoples around the world. Many congregations dedicate substantial funds to anti-poverty and development efforts, some even travel to places of great need and develop lasting relationships, and many more pray weekly for the well-being of their siblings around the world.

Indeed, Presbyterians care. Presbyterians are generous. Presbyterians are faithful to God´s work in the world. And, to that end, it is our belief and hope that Presbyterians also want to be empowered to do more to address the gross inequities in the world in respectful and meaningful ways.

GSN is a place where such empowerment happens through the coming together across cultures to learn together, encourage one another, act boldly, and celebrate joyfully each step we take toward the abundant life God wills for all of Creation.

If you or your church are interested in engaging with the GSN, contact Eileen Schuhmann

The work of the Presbyterian Hunger Program is possible thanks to your gifts to One Great Hour of Sharing.


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