To adopt the place of the poor is our first deed of solidarity with them. This act is accomplished by making an effort to view reality from their perspective. And when we view reality from their perspective, that reality simply must be transformed. Reality is exceedingly unjust for the majority of men and women in Latin America. It impoverishes them and pushes them out on the margins of society. To adopt the place of the poor means to assign priority to the questions the poor raise, and then honestly to face up to these problems.
Leonardo Boff – “When Theology Listens to the Poor” page ix
Our world needs people who will stand in solidarity with the poor. We need this because we need the poor in our world to have a voice. The sad reality seems to be that without people standing in solidarity with the poor, they will not have a voice in the greater Christian community.
When was the last time you saw a homeless person make a presentation at your last church council meeting, or massive nation wide conference? The poor do not have a voice.
Further proof of this is found in the common stereotypes thrust upon the poor in our society. You know, things like “they need to get off their butts and get a job” or “They are lazy and a financial burden on our society.”
Yet, my instinct is to push Boff a bit further on what it means to stand in solidarity.
Solidarity is more than making an effort.
I recently had a conversation with a wonderful person who is part of the LGBT (Lesbien, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender) community. I asked her what her community needed. She said people who will stand in solidarity with them. Meaning, they long for people who will stand shoulder to shoulder with them, encountering all the same things that they encounter.
Solidarity means risk. To stand in solidarity is to face the same risk, whatever that may be, with the people with whom you stand. Solidarity is forged shoulder to shoulder, in the context of community giving those without a voice a place of belonging.
Giving the voiceless a place of belonging is dangerous because it empowers them with a voice.
Our churches need people willing to step into solidarity and community with those who we fear. It saddens me when institutional structures take a posture of “service provider” for the poor and ostracized which seemingly forgets the importance of relationality at it’s most basic level. Solidarity and relationship gives voice, service providers do not. Being a service provider insulates a community from the risk of relationship.
We need people who will stand in the solidarity of relationship and risk with the poor. And we need to empower those who dare face that risk!
Imagine if someone who is poor would ask a question of your community… what would it be? What would it take to give them a voice?