Think the future. Live solidarity
Three events make it clearly evident that we are at a turning point, which also poses new challenges to Caritas. The pandemic has had us on tenterhooks for over two years now. In Germany, the structural weaknesses of the welfare state are more apparent than ever, exacerbating individual struggles and pushing people to an economic breaking point which threatens their livelihood. Moreover, the pandemic has also caused the social gap in Germany to widen even further. During this crisis, many people living in precarious circumstances have experienced insecurity on a whole new level. They feel left behind.
At the same time, the pandemic poses new questions regarding global solidarity. The same can be said about the climate crisis, whose consequences are starting to be felt even beyond the Global South. In summer 2021, Germany witnessed the death of over 180 people, caused by disastrous floods, which showed many just how important socially fair climate protection is.
In January 2021, supporters of former President Trump stormed the Capitol after he lost the election. These upsetting images are proof that democracy and its values are not only being trampled on in Hungary and Turkey. In Germany, too, self-proclaimed "Querdenker” ("lateral thinkers”) and right-wing populists are contesting these ideas more and more loudly and promulgating social division.
Every single person counts for Caritas
Poor prospects for a good future? Yet, the future is still unwritten! The way we think and the things we do change the world - time and again. Over the course of the last 125 years, several million women and men have actively lived this conviction in their work, in the name of Caritas. "See a need and act on it” is not a marketing slogan of the German Caritas. Instead, it sums up our self-conception as Christians: every single person is important. Every single person has rights and potentials. We are completely committed to enabling everyone to realise their potentials and allowing them to unfurl - regardless of origin, age, gender, religion or income. We help, advise, care for and support wherever needed.
Actively shaping change
Changing times challenge societies and make way for innovations. In its 125-year-long history, Caritas has often been the initiator of such processes. Not least of all because Lorenz Werthmann, the founder of Caritas, had already made the point of recognising social hardship, calling it out and finding ways to remediate it together with others. Caritas has never simply been a bystander, but always a driving force of social progress. Consequently, Caritas has named its jubilee year’s campaign: Think the future. Live solidarity. #DasMachenWirGemeinsam.
We want to develop new practical ways to improve the way people get along with each other for as many as possible and strengthen solidarity - in our neighbourhood, in Germany, in Europe and worldwide. The time seems right. The Covid-19 pandemic has taught us that not everything we have grown used to is necessarily the best solution for all time. The hardship caused by the pandemic has resulted in numerous new social innovations. Seldom has there ever been a time when so many people were willing to talk about new forms of social security in order to prevent exclusion and poverty in the long term. This awareness could and should serve as motivation for us to look at aspects of how we live together from a future-orientated perspective and to draw the right conclusions.
This also forms part of the legacy of Caritas’ beginnings: you and I can become a strong we. The activities of the campaign in the jubilee year are therefore to be marked by collaborations - ones we are familiar with, e.g. between volunteers and full-time employees, as well as ones which are less common, e.g. with the sciences, business and environmental organisations. Always on board: the people with whom and for whom "Caritasians” work. The campaign aims to enable encounters and create spaces in which new ideas on how to face the challenges of our time can flourish.
(Re)vitalising the values of Caritas
The campaign also serves to strengthen Caritas’ self-assurance as well as to reanimate the values Caritas stands for. The Cologne Association talked about this with its employees and published the results in a value compass in 2021. In these guidelines, four categories describe what Christian behaviour encompasses and the principles employees found to be most important in their day-to-day work: charity, justice, sustainability and diversity. The jubilee year offers many opportunities to reacquaint oneself with one’s own convictions and exchange views with colleagues. Humanity, respect, solidarity, dignity… what does the Caritas’ profile entail in your opinion?
If Caritas wants to live up to its own standards, it must challenge society to enter into a debate about the future. Based on its values, its experience and its professional expertise, Caritas must make its positions and demands be heard. Caritas will then be recognised and valued as a strong shaping force of society and will remain so even after the jubilee year.