US President Barack Obama’s first visit to the Vatican on March 27th sparked discussion and concern about the growing moral and economic struggles faced by a world of increasing income inequality.
Pope Francis has dubbed inequality as “the root of social evil” and ventured on to speculate that the world economy today is on the verge of “near collapse” with social inequality, youth unemployment, money-worship, and war all yielding to a worrisome ‘trickle-down’ effect; encouraging a new tyranny and falling into a state of idolatry with money as our ruling god.
What has resulted is a society built on “unfair economic structures that create huge inequalities”, with President Obama has calling such inequality “the defining issue of our time.”
As of today, the world adult unemployment rate is sitting at 6% with youth unemployment at a whopping 12.6%, and an estimate of 75 million people who are currently unemployed globally, according to the ILO.
Youth unemployment is most definitely the hardest hit, and one of the biggest concerns.
“Young people are thrown away when their natality is limited. The elderly are also discarded because they don’t serve any use anymore,”
“..In throwing away kids and elderly, the future of a people is thrown away because the young people are going to push forcefully forward and because the elderly gives us wisdom”
Pope Francis (interview with La Vanguardia newspaper, Spain)
Growing youth unemployment and a hostile world economy will lead to a lost generation with the fear that “our world cannot take it anymore. Our global economic system can’t take anymore.”
In a world that values economic and financial gains produced largely through war and conflict and the proliferation of the selling and trading of arms is an example of a world flawed by the obsession and greed of and for money with the sacrifice of fundamental human rights and the feeding of a ‘throwaway culture’ where “..we have put money at the centre.”
What this calls for is new efforts for solidarity through worker’s movements and “to fight for social benefits, a dignified retirement, providing low-wage workers with what they need to rise out of poverty and care for their families.” Pope Francis concludes that “that is justice”.
As far back as 1891, Pope Leo XIII called for and affirmed the right of workers to form movements, associations, and unions to seek justice and fairness among workers. The Catholic faith has always taught us that addressing inequality can only be achieved through just working conditions and wages.
Our own Joseph Cardijn began the Young Christian Workers movement in 1912, addressing this exact problem. He called for young workers worldwide to come together and take positive Action in their lives and communities, to stand up for their individual rights as a young person and a worker.’
Joining unions and movements such as the YCW can positively reinforce the global instability and inequality of our youth by giving ourselves and others a voice and a cause to help stop or prevent this growing inequality and re-instill hope and faith into those who find themselves lost to the greed of our global economic system.
I hope these speeches by Pope Francis and the President will help to draw attention to the areas and the people in the world who need it most. The Catholic teaching is an influential opportunity to apply these learnings and begin to address these problems, starting on a local level.