The Catholic social teachings
The VSF's core values are inspired by and fully align with the Catholic social teachings of solidarity. The organisation was established as a practical reaction and response to the call for solidarity made by Pope Francis.
“I would like to make an appeal to those in possession of greater resources, to public authorities and to all people of good will who are working for social justice: never tire of working for a more just world, marked by greater solidarity" - Pope Francis.
But what are these social teachings and principles? They fall into categories of solidarity, human dignity, community and participation. It is on these foundations that we operate the VSF International.
What is solidarity?
Solidarity is a multi-faceted concept with each facet holding meaningful implications for us as individuals. Solidarity is a truly universal bond linking all human beings together, from every nation, race and belief. It is the understanding that we are all in this together, regardless of situation, social standing or affluence, we are all responsible for each other as equals. Well illustrated by Alison Gelder, “Regardless of whether they have a belief in God or practice a faith, people instinctively feel that there is a deep bond between us all; a bond that goes beyond family and kin to extend to the whole human race. The name of this bond is solidarity.
This bond is much more than a “feeling of vague compassion or shallow distress”. It is in fact a commitment to the common good. Solidarity runs backwards and forwards through time, linking us not only with the other people who are alive at this moment but also with all past and future generations. It is the principle and value that causes us to care about the slave trade in the 18th Century, the impact of floods on the people of Pakistan in 2010 and about the impact of climate change on our children and grandchildren."
To fully understand solidarity, it is useful to consider the opposites of solidarity. These are inequality, exploitation, oppression, greed, selfishness, discrimination, prejudice, intolerance, injustice, wretchedness and suffering. So what does this mean in practical terms? It means each and every human being has a right to food, drinkable water, a roof over their head, to security, to freedom and to independence. Furthermore, it is the right of every human being to not suffer in isolation but to be a part of a community. Everyone should have a right to self-determination, to education, to employment, and ultimately, to equality.
Community and participation
Our present-day culture challenges our togetherness and instead promotes a form of extreme individualism, a competitive consumerism that creates an artificial desire to have more, to own more and quite falsely, to ‘be more’. In the place of basic human qualities such as love, forgiveness and integrity, our culture enslaves us to the falseness of fame, wealth and achievement. Our culture trivialises inner dignity and personal value and in its place, our worth is seemingly based on our social status, our wealth and our success.
Human dignity is based on the concept of equality, believing that each of us has been created in the image and likeness of God. Human beings have an inherent and immeasurable worth and dignity; each human life is considered sacred. It is the belief that we are all completely and undeniably equal before God. It is through this belief that we are able to think no less of somebody because they are different to us, though they may be from a different race, culture, religion, country or financial situation. We appreciate their value and respect their dignity above all else.
How do these principles affect you?
Solidarity "is not a feeling of vague compassion or shallow distress at the misfortunes of so many people, both near and far. On the contrary, it is a firm and persevering determination to commit oneself to the common good; that is to say to the good of all and of each individual, because we are all really responsible for all" - Saint John Paul II - Sollicitudo rei socialis.
So what is to be done?
Solidarity is much more than an idealistic principle; it is a moral value. A value on which action is based. Love is the verb, solidarity is the action. It is the practical response to the commandment to love one’s neighbour as oneself. It is for this reason that we are not simply asking for donations, we are asking you to participate in solidarity with us.
The VSF receives no public funding, it relies on donations from people like you. We therefore ask that you extend your expressions of solidarity through generous giving. Furthermore, we ask you to partake in practical ways. Volunteer your time to mentor those in need of your knowledge or skill, to help them strive to succeed beyond their current means.