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The difference between charity and solidarity

2016-08-18

There are currently over 1.5 million organizations and billions of people who practice charity in their daily lives. Even the pope himself is asking for this virtue with the care for the elderly, marginalized and those who are lonely or forgotten. 

While donating time and money is the most common way this selflessness is practiced throughout the world, donations only go so far and do not get to the root of the problem to answer the main question. 

FR. GEORGE GREGORY GAY
Congregation of the Mission
"I ask people, I say, now the people you've helped are they any better off now then they were 10 years ago when you started helping them? And if you say no, then really is that charity? Is that a sign of God's love helping people to grow in their humanity? It's not.” 

The Superior General for the Congregation of the Mission and the Sisters of Charity, Fr. George Gregory Gay, has practiced and witnessed this charity for the past 12 years. He says there is one form of charity that not only helps, but turns the outcome around: systemic change.

FR. GEORGE GREGORY GAY
Congregation of the Mission
"The idea is how do you help those who are poor rise up from their poverty. Instead of giving them a hand out, our idea is giving them a hand up, so that they can become more responsible for their own lives.

Systematic change is a way to set up policies and programs so the poor can help themselves within these difficult situations. Even Pope Francis has spoken about it in his Apostolic Exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium:

"The need to resolve the structural causes of poverty cannot be delayed, not only for the pragmatic reason of its urgency for the good order of society, but because society needs to be cured of a sickness which is weakening and frustrating it, and which can only lead to new crises.” 

To avoid this crisis, a bold step must be taken. Fr. George gives an example he witnessed in the Dominican Republic of a village without water. He says when the missionaries built a well in their community, the people came alive and became self-sufficient, planting their own crops and cultivating not only food, but a deep sense of self-worth and dignity.

This is exactly the action the pope is asking for people of the world to take in this age of new evangelization, to rise up with not only charity, but with a spirit of systemic change.


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