At this year’s Solidarity Awards Palms Australia patron Deacon Gary Stone will speak on loving our neighbours. I worry sometimes that the phrase has become a little overused, hackneyed and so clichéd that people have stopped wanting to be told how we might do this. Are we a little awkward about love?
Palms encourages us all to love. It is one of the components of solidarity as described in Palms Values statement, which is constructed on the Micah based paradigm that we need to act with Justice and Humility, as well as Love, to achieve this higher value of Solidarity.
Those who volunteer are encouraged to engage in relationships where love, justice and humility are in balance. Emphasising this balance in Palms formation assists to avert us from loving in patronising and paternalistic ways. Love is engendered into the rights and responsibilities that in justice and with humility human beings have a mutual obligation to encourage in one another.
Solidarity Volunteering is a balanced expression of this love, humility and justice. Living out Palms’ Mission “To advance the awareness, enthusiasm and involvement of Australian and international communities in shared action to achieve just, sustainable, and peaceful development” provides a unique way to love our neighbours. In this way those who volunteer allow Australian communities to share the love within a framework of solidarity which goes way beyond simply sending funds.
I believe it is Palms’ distinctive approach to integrating the lessons of Mission and Development that makes this work. This year’s Solidarity Dinner will ask us to further study such integration as a route to a broader mutual transformation of our own as well as our neighbours’ lives. I am inspired by the evidence (both when I meet volunteers’ Australian families and communities, and when I am accommodated by communities globally who have hosted Palms volunteers) to dream about generating Solidarity Volunteering on a broader scale.
In recent conversations with Bishops, religious congregations and Palms supporters it is clear that we all share this dream. Those we prepare for solidarity volunteering provide a unique prospect for us all to be transformed; to realise that the love of Jesus, discovered profoundly in (mission) dialogue across cultures, is the basis of and integral to the relationships necessary to achieve global outcomes in human development. Development requires such mutual relationship.
In the same way the Palms experience demonstrates that love brought in mission will be hollow if people are hungry, sick and dependant on charity. Palms’ approach to sharing knowledge, skills and experience enables all to have the opportunity for self-reliance in sustainable developments that actually reduce poverty, rather than simply provide short-term relief from poverty. This avoids giving patronage and paternalism that satisfies a need to give, or have power over others, rather than authentic love, which in an equal relationship is able to be given and received by all.
The Solidarity Awards Dinner on October 11 will open our palms further by demonstrating a path to the important integration of mission and development through the collective ownership of Solidarity Volunteering. It intends to help us further explore a great potential to transform both our neighbours and ourselves through love, justice and humility.
PS. Have you reserved your place at the Soldarity Awards Dinner? Click here for your tickets!