The power of solidarity trumps fear

Solidarity+Bridge+in+Plock%2C+Poland%0A
Back to Article
Back to Article

The power of solidarity trumps fear

Solidarity Bridge in Plock, Poland

Solidarity Bridge in Plock, Poland

Solidarity Bridge in Plock, Poland

Solidarity Bridge in Plock, Poland

Hang on for a minute...we're trying to find some more stories you might like.


Email This Story






Just last month there was a burning of a mosque in Joplin, Mo., and at the same time, there were a series of attacks on mosques through the U.S., and six Sikhs were murdered  in what police described as a domestic terrorist-type incident. These events sadden and give us all pause.

Of course, insofar as Western cultures have been more heavily influenced by the Judeo-Christian tradition, one of our most cherished beliefs, deeply cemented in our minds and hearts and deriving from the Jewish tradition, is that we ought to care for the widow, the orphan and the stranger.

All three of these types of persons are often the most vulnerable among us;  the ones who are different from most of us in that they do not have a husband, parents or  loving family and friends surrounding them. They are the ones, who by their very condition, invite us to be concerned for them, and the invitation is always there, however much the majority of us may not be sensitive to their plight or responsive.

The religious traditions most influencing the West require, then, that we respond to those who are most vulnerable among us, and this would, by extension, include all sorts of minorities, those who are different from us, especially those who might be victims of violence springing from distorted understandings of Judeo-Christianity.

Indeed, one does not have to be religious in order that that the vulnerability of our neighbors might make its claim on us.  History is filled with examples of non-believers who have heeded the summons of our neighbors, defended their rights, and even given up life itself for them.

Of course, in a dangerous world, it is always possible that one’s first approach to the other person might be one of fear and anxiety that this other who is so different from me might harm me, might take away from me what is mine or might endanger my beliefs, faith or religious community. Those who burn mosques or murder Sikhs are captive to such fear.

But the Jewish tradition of ethics that has shaped Western culture, points to another possibility: the other invites us first to be responsible for and to her and to act in solidarity with or for her.  Indeed, think of the many common and everyday instances when solidarity trumps fear, for instance, when we give directions to the stranger who is lost, when we respond to the beggar requesting money from us (even if we politely state that we do not have money on us), or when we simply allow the other person to proceed before us through the doorway.

Of course, so powerful is the hold of the other upon us that parents can give their lives without reserve for a vulnerable child and moral heroes like Oscar Romero or Martin Luther King care about those are vulnerable more than they do about protecting their own lives. To be sure, it would be unrealistic for us not to care for ourselves and to protect ourselves against violence. But, if the murder of Sikhs or burning of mosques represents the basest possibilities of the human spirit, moral heroes reveal to us our highest possibilities,  the triumph of the human spirit, the victory of solidarity over fear.

The spirit of solidarity lies deep within Western culture, presses us to be hospitable, and appears in the least gesture of politeness we show to another.