Guidelines on International Solidarity

I Starting-Point and Fundamentals

1. The World is Moving Closer Together

The world is characterized by tremendous changes which shapes all areas of people’s economic, political, social, cultural and religious lives. This change also brings an ever tighter net of interdependence, which is increasingly becoming a challenge that affects the daily life of the individual and is characterized by the key word globalization. New markets, players, rules and standards have evolved giving rise to new means of communication.

2. Opportunities and Risks of Change
This new net of inter-relationships brings opportunities as well as risks. It opens up development opportunities for some, while decreasing them for others. Thus, the world is moving closer together but, at the same time, there is a growing exclusion of the poor and disadvantaged. More and more estrangement and isolation among people, and an ever deepening gap between North and South, between East and West, and between the generations. The challenge is to actively and consciously mould this transition to benefit all people in the One World within the concept of a global responsibility.

3. Global Responsibility and Solidarity
In view of globalization, a universal solidarity is the prerequisite for a conscious shaping of the transformation. This solidarity provides an answer to the growing inter-dependency of people. For Christians, it is based on the fact that we are God’s children, and as such, all people are brothers and sisters. In view of the magnitude of the challenge, new ways must be found to strengthen solidarity in spite of a growing individualism. It can be shown that solidarity grows where people are interconnected in faith.

4. Responsibility for Justice, Peace and Conservation of the Environment
The gap between rich and poor continues to widen. Poverty destroys the most fundamental human rights: it prevents access to food, health care, and education. Today, the fight against poverty must direct the international community’s thinking and actions in the area of development policies. This struggle is the fundamental basis of international social justice and peace. A universal solidarity must also not lose sight of the responsibility for future generations and all who share creation with us. All actions must therefore be examined in the light of their social compatibility and their lasting effects.

5. Solidarity in Action a Reciprocal Obligation
Solidarity in action is a give and take that is based on reciprocity. On the one hand, those who are able to do more are obligated to share what they have, be it of a material or spiritual nature. On the other hand, those who are weaker also have an obligation to take responsibility for themselves, and do all they possibly can to improve their situation. Solidarity cannot be a one-way street, but must be seen as a process in which the partners learn from one another and grow with each other.

6. The International Social Question
In the context of the globally emerging mutual dependencies, the Social Question has become an International one. The widening gap between those world regions, which are rapidly developing and therefore characterized by widespread prosperity, and those parts of the world, which cannot keep up with this development and are characterized by growing poverty, requires decisive counter-measures.

7. The National Social Question
The existence of an International Social Question does not mean that urgent social questions are not continuing to need attention on the national level. Even within individual countries there is an ever-widening gap between high-income and low-income sections of the population and a growing tendency to allow the low-income classes less influence in social decision-making processes. This development is increased by the growing urban-rural gradient and the widening differences with regard to regional income.

8. The Social Question as a Challenge for the Kolping Society
From its very beginning, the Kolping Society has always felt committed to make a contribution to the solution of the Social Question. Father Kolping, himself saw in the Journeyman’s Association a suitable instrument to work toward solving the Social Question. While in the beginning, the focus of his endeavours was on the National Social Question, the International Kolping Society began in the early 1970’s to get seriously involved in making contributions to the solving of the International Social Question.

II Solidarity Requires Structures

9. A New Dimension of Solidarity

Contributions to the solution of the International Social Question and to a universal solidarity demand not only the commitment of every individual, they also require specific structures. While solidarity used to be an expression of traditional social interconnections, an expansion of concrete solidarity towards a global dimension is required today. In the social movement that Adolph Kolping established, he saw a structure of solidarity, which went beyond traditional solidarity interconnections and was intended to make a solution of social problems in an expanded solidarity community possible.

10. The Development of the Individual’s Talents
The Kolping Society, as a community of solidarity, wanted and still wants to enable each individual to develop his or her talents in order to participate responsibly and cooperatively in the development of a society that practices solidarity from a global perspective. Through the development of his or her talents and aptitudes, the individual is enabled to make a corresponding contribution in the context of the mutually supportive groups, of which he or she is a part, i.e. in the context of the universal solidarity that encompasses all peoples.

11. The Kolping Society as a Globally Acting Social Structure
As a rule, solidarity structures can unite only those who share the same convictions, the same interests towards a common goal. Up to now, such solidarity structures have therefore often been limited nationally or regionally. The International Kolping Society very deliberately aims to be a solidarity structure that operates world-wide and thus breaks down outdated concepts of solidarity. In the program of the International Kolping Society, it says: As a world-wide community, the Kolping Society regards promoting and maintaining international co-operation and solidarity as an important task, even and particularly within the Organization itself.

12. Solidarity Begins in the Kolping Family
The smallest mutually supportive group within the Kolping Society is the Kolping Family. The International Kolping Society considers the development and support of Kolping Families and their integration into the International Kolping Society as a first step in the promoting of a universal solidarity. As places where life is shared and experienced with others, Kolping Families provide an opportunity to strengthen the responsibility of people for themselves. Through democratic structures, they make a contribution to a democratic development of people’s life in society and the political arena, as well as to the solving of the Social Question and to a society that is geared to the common good.

13. Solving the Social Question is an Obligation
The solidarity between the Kolping Families and the various leadership levels of the Kolping Society world-wide can and should be a significant contribution to the fact that the Kolping Society can, on all its organizational levels and with all its different groupings, make an efficient contribution in the context of its real objective, i.e. participation in the solving of the National and the International Social Question.

III Holistic Development as Goal

14. The World Between Over- and Under- Development
On examining the Social Question and with it, as background for the demand for more social justice, it becomes clear that part of humanity lives in absolute poverty and often does not have the most basic provisions for survival. On the other hand, one can see that certain social classes have an overabundance of every kind of material goods. The Catholic Social Teachings has therefore deliberately countered the concept of under-development with the term over-development. They have called on the international community to recognize its concrete, political, and social responsibility to regulate economic conditions world-wide in such a way as to generate a development which is based on human dignity, so that all people can live in peace and justice. This requires both a critical rethinking of one’s own life style and a high-priority support of those people who can not satisfy even their most basic requirements and are in serious difficulties.

15. The Objective of Development
This brings up the question of the objective of every human development. Development does not always consist of an ever greater availability of material goods, but should rather focus always on the individual. At the centre of all development, including the economic and political spheres, is the human being in his or her unalienable dignity. A global development, based on human dignity, must be oriented toward the common good of humanity as a whole and the prospects of life for generations to come. The Kolping Society follows this holistic concept of development and sees its mandate in safeguarding and promoting human rights and to champion their political implementation. It supports people in al parts of the world and their efforts to organize themselves, and it takes part in developing and shaping the structures of a civic society. Since the individual is the starting-point and the objective of all development, the Kolping Society sees a special task in giving people assistance in satisfying their emotional, religious and physical, spiritual, and cultural needs. The objective of a holistic and ongoing development of the human being takes into account the private as well as the social nature of a person.

16. Promoting Human Rights in all Areas
This holistic concept requires that human rights are taken into account comprehensively, from personal, religious, cultural, social, economic, and political perspectives. Here, the Kolping Society sees its function predominantly in the safeguarding/protection of life at any stage, the support of the family as the basic cell of society, the commitment for justice in the work place, the safeguarding/protection of the rights of the individual and of societal groups in the political community, and the recognition of the right of the human being to his transcendental vocation. It is strictly against any discrimination according to race, language, religion or sex and it is especially committed to fight against discrimination of women. Enabling people to achieve this holistic support and safeguarding/protection of human rights requires the wholehearted commitment of all members and groupings united in the community of solidarity that is the Kolping Society.

17. Forms of Support for the Individual
Beside the general safeguarding/protection and support of human rights, the Kolping Society sees a special function in the support of the individual. This support of the individual spans from charitable support and assistance to occupational training right up to improving and/or renewing the structure of societal life.

The Kolping Society understands the support of the individual to be the continuous and holistic development of the person as whole. This enables them to see, evaluate, and act, according to their faith and the signs of the time. Here the Kolping Society is very aware that the support of the individual is a constant and never-ending process encompassing all dimensions, from the physical, emotional, intellectual, cultural, occupational, social, political, psychological, right up to the spiritual and religious side of the individual.

18. The Special Support of the Working Person
Historically the Kolping Society promotes people who work dependently. We stand for human working conditions and a just wage. However, today we understand work not only as gainful employment but we include work in the family and for the community. The problems of the unemployed are a permanent challenge for us and the global society.

19. The Special Significance of Education
The human bears primarily himself/herself the responsibility for his or her own development. Endowed with intellect and free will, one is called to develop all one’s talents. The Kolping Society therefore offers the individual the opportunity to realize his or her potential through appropriate educational programmes. A particular focus of the Kolping Society is occupational training, since a sound education is the best guarantee for permanent employment and thus comes closest to provide people with an opportunity to cover their basic needs with the wages they earn for their work. At the same time, a sound occupational education can lead to more self-confidence and thus to a strengthening of the individual’s personality.

20. The Significance of Entrepreneurial Initiative
The thus strengthened personality becomes capable of entrepreneurial initiative too. Such entrepreneurial initiative is required for the utilization of all development opportunities, for the creation of new jobs, and for the overcoming of the challenges of a changing society. The Kolping Society sees a responsibility not only in awakening and promoting such entrepreneurial initiatives, but also in taking part in the development of societal systems that allow adequate latitude to entrepreneurial initiatives and do not discourage them through bureaucratic processes.

21. Taking Part in Bringing About Social Change
Through the history, the Kolping Society has taken a stand for bringing about societal structures that become more just and more humane through the self-help of those involved as well as by means of appropriate legislation. In view of the changing circumstances, this calls for an ongoing social transformation, which requires active participation. Social transformation begins with the individual, and that means that people must change their opinions and attitudes and thus bring about the change of social structures. The Kolping Society therefore sees the focus of its work in endeavouring to bring about social transformation through the change of the individual, through his or her attitudes and behaviour. According to this concept, the individuals themselves are the ones who are really responsible for the shaping of societal parameters, and it is their responsibility to develop these parameters in such a way that they are based on social justice and oriented towards the common good. The Catholic Social Teachings call social structures and parameters that do not comply with these requirements “structures of sin” which, in the last analysis, have their origin in the sinful behaviour of the people who shape these societal structures.

IV Partnerships as Special Structures of Solidarity

22. Partnership Requires Taking the Partner Seriously
In addition to the general solidarity brought about in the Kolping Society, it is also possible to form partnerships amongst Kolping Families, Diocesan Kolping Societies, and National Kolping Societies, which represent a special structure of solidarity. In the context of a partnership, the involved levels of the Organisation strive for a cooperation in which partners take each other seriously in their cultural diversity and mutually respect one another in a practical concept of unity. Partnerships are learning communities of living together in solidarity in the One World.

23. Partnerships are Based on Free and Jointly Reached Decision
Partnerships constitute a specific obligation to a relationship of solidarity. Here too, solidarity means a reciprocal give and take, which is not limited to the material and financial aspects but allows the experience of learning with and from each other against the background of the One World.

24. Partnerships Require Dialogue and are Subject to Changes
The form of the exchange in the partnership and the closeness of the partnership relationship can change over a period of time. The prerequisite of partnership is an ongoing dialogue, and it poses specific challenges when it is entered into by organized groups from different continents and cultural spheres. Such partnerships in particular are often subject to a process that could begin with a one-sided material assistance, which is followed by an encounter on a personal basis that facilitates an exchange of spiritual values. It is precisely in the context of these personal encounters, especially through the promotion of youth exchange, that, with all the difference in the shaping of the individual by his or her culture, the common traits that unite all people can be rediscovered.

25. Partnerships and Their Relationship with Solidarity in the Organization as a Whole
Partnerships within the Kolping Society represent an especially intensive connection of organizational segments and/or groups with each other and thus a particular solidarity structure, which is more lively, if as many members as possible on the different organizational levels are involved in the partnership. In such a partnership it is possible to experience in a particularly intensive way a solidarity that goes beyond all national borders. However, the special solidarity between Kolping communities connected by a partnership must not lead to a complete exclusion of the challenges of a solidarity that encompasses all Kolping Families and organizational groupings.

Passed by the International Convention, May 1, 2002.

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