Participants stand shoulder to shoulder in DRC

Shoulder to Shoulder: The importance of solidarity

Solidarity is an act of hope.

Solidarity means moving in the direction of pain in the world, standing with those who are suffering and taking up their cause as if it were your own. Doing so is both an act of hope and an imitation of Christ.

Vitor Westhelle once said that “the cross is a way of life that we live out. It is a practice that involves risk. It is a story that, if truly told, courts danger but also moves into hopeful solidarity, the solidarity of those who are moved by the pain of God in the midst of this world, or by the pain of the world in the midst of God.”

If you follow the calling to pursue justice, you are bound to encounter pain. In these moments, we have to be extra careful to resist the urge to look down at others. We must avoid seeing them in a state of pity. We must also avoid looking away, deciding to turn away from the suffering that happens in our world. Our calling is to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with those who are suffering, following Christ’s example.

A Haitian community works on a double dug garden bed in Lompre.
A Haitian community works on a double dug garden bed in Lompre.

Solidarity produces buy-in.

Plant With Purpose aims to cultivate solidarity in a number of ways. First, we aim to work with communities by rejecting the myth of us versus them. The aboriginal activist Lilla Watson once said “if you have come to help me you are wasting your time. If you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.”

We also seek to promote solidarity within communities through group activities. These call for high amounts of community interaction as well as participation. Farmers learn sustainable agriculture techniques through peer-to-peer learning environments, a method of learning that has been seen as the most effective in rural areas. Financial empowerment activities are done through community savings groups, again relying on group solidarity for their success.

These activities reinforce the idea that communities, ecosystems, and villages thrive when everybody works together. Collective action is far more effective than simply the sum of individual efforts.

Farmers learn from each other at a Farmer Field School
Farmers learn from each other at a Farmer Field School

Development is best done as a group effort.

Does this work? Everything we’ve seen for the most part points toward a resounding YES!

We’ve heard of instances in the Congo, where when armed groups approached young men in some of the villages where we work, the older men strongly dissuaded them from participation in these groups. Their environmental collaborations showed them that there was much more to gain by working together to restore their land.

We’ve seen cases in Haiti where churches of different denominations and backgrounds have come together to meet the needs of families in the area. The church leaders have realized that their differences were no reason for families to go on suffering. They agree that they can do much more together.

In Thailand, we’ve heard community members speak highly of the unity that their village has seen in recent years- something that many of them cannot take for granted as former refugees. Since working together to protect their forest, they’ve been able to gain rights. They now have opportunities to pursue a new beginning.

Want to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with some of our partners on a monthly basis? You can by being a Purpose Partner for just $22 a month. Want to learn more about the program? Click here!

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