Social Justice and Common Goods: Policy Paper from the World Council of Churches Commission of the Churches on International Affairs Working Group on Social Justice and Common Goods

The Ecumenical Review, October 2011 | Go to article overview

Social Justice and Common Goods: Policy Paper from the World Council of Churches Commission of the Churches on International Affairs Working Group on Social Justice and Common Goods


I. Introduction

"The earth is the Lord's, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it; for God founded it upon the seas and established it upon the waters". (Psalm 24:2) The land is a common good to which today we have to add other common goods--sea, rivers, lakes, forests, the biosphere, the stratosphere, etc.--all aspects of God's world; on which after creation, God looked and declared good, that is, for the sustainability of the good life for all of God's creatures. This good creation, abundant in resources, was given to humans "to cultivate it and guard it" (Gen. 2:15).

From water to land, from the sea to the coast, from knowledge to work, from energy to territory, from joy to peace--these are the themes of an agenda that helps us to build an economy based on common goods. This economy is not founded on commoditization, privatization, war, but on people's rights, on equality and solidarity--an economy that is thus an alternative to the current model of--usually unsustainable--growth.

Throughout history the world has had a major challenge of acknowledging that we are all human beings created in God's image, called to live in community, with responsibilities for sharing resources and caring for creation. Sharing common goods, ownership, participation and right relationships are important for social justice. Yet the rivalry for goods in the market has dominion over equitable sharing of all goods and resources. The world is trapped in a death dealing system which defies God's gift of life and creation.

We are faced with power imbalances at the geopolitical level and the global domination of liberal market. Common goods are under a growing threat of commodification resulting in climate change, poverty and inequality. The power of transnational corporations is setting the geopolitical and geo-economic scene. Their power gives them a stronghold on the rules of trade and finance and exacerbates existing inequalities between rich and poor. States are losing their capacity to fulfil their main functions of regulating economy, protecting the environment, defending social cohesion and values and guaranteeing their peoples' security. At the global level, enforcement of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights has been minimal because governments are confronted by forces that do not want rules on the one hand and are constantly enhancing anonymity to escape responsibility and accountability on the other.

The World Council of Churches has long been concerned with issues of economic injustice and destruction of the earth. The AGAPE study of wealth, greed line and limits to accumulation is an important process in making clear the problems with the world economic system which goes against the biblical vision of an economy for all people. The regional studies, hearings and consultations on linking Poverty, Wealth and Ecology provide spaces and opportunities for church communities to map out the links and indicate the ills of the system, policies which contribute to disparities; and to also name groups who constitute the axis of power. The methodology of linking Poverty, Wealth and Ecology is very helpful as it facilitates a collective approach in critical analysis and reflection and in seeking transformation. It also enables us to advance our work on justice in the economy and the earth.

The Incarnation of God in order to save humanity from sin and hardship reminds all Christians of their duty to follow the teachings of Jesus Christ and to work hard for peace and justice for all God's creation. The Commission of the Churches on International Relations also has a role in reflecting on the current reality of economic, political, environmental and ethical crises and in examining the implications for common goods and social justice. The CCIA, through its Working Group on Social Justice and Common Goods, is offering this paper to the churches with the hope that it helps them continue their work and take new action in the current reality of economic injustice and ecological degradation.

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