Today Old St. Pat’s celebrates its 11th Solidarity Market. Although this will be my first
market with you all, I’ve traversed many markets before. Sometimes they are simply called
fair trade markets, or fair trade bazaars if you’re feeling a little fancy. I’ve been to holiday
markets and alternative holiday markets, but I can’t say I’ve ever been to a solidarity
market. I know what you’re thinking, “Does it really matter what you call it?” Regardless of
what we name these marketplaces, their content typically stays pretty consistent: there are
fair trade vendors and artisans, there are unique and artfully crafted products, and there
are shoppers and buyers. The focus is generally centered around the what: the shopping,
the products, the notion that the cause you are supporting is good. What about the why?
Solidarity. To me, the answer lies in the incorporation of this very special Catholic Social
Teaching principle. Even if we don’t fully understand the nuances of the fair trade business
model, we are at least reasonably familiar with the principle of solidarity. This Catholic
Social Teaching tenant reminds us that we are all connected; that we belong to one another.
Most importantly, it reminds us that we have a responsibility to care for one another, and
in order to do so, we must make ourselves familiar with the realities of our brothers and
More than one billion of the world’s population survives on less than $1 per day. We
live in a society where being poor is criminalized, where those who experience poverty
are trapped in a cycle of disenfranchisement and exploitation, preventing any hopes of
economic mobility. By providing opportunity for economically disadvantaged populations,
cultivating transparent partnerships, and ensuring safe work conditions and livable
wages, the fair trade model aims to combat this widespread poverty and exploitation.
This is economic justice – removing the barriers which prohibit others from securing the
foundation for a dignified, productive, and creative life.
The why. Participating in fair trade markets isn’t just about feeling good about ourselves
or looking good to others. It isn’t just about stuffing stockings, but by all means, tuck as
many fair trade gifts under your tree as you want this year. It’s about the much-needed and
often forgotten connection. It’s about living out our values of mercy, compassion, justice,
and human dignity in the marketplace and in our everyday lives. It’s about solidarity. I
remember reading somewhere that our connectedness and solidarity is best understood as
a multiplication problem: When you are doing multiplication, if there is a zero included,
the product will always be zero. When any of our brothers and sisters are forgotten or
exploited and left at zero, we are all at zero. May we never forget this.
Kayla Jackson is the Social Justice Ministries Coordinator at Old St. Patrick’s Church.