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The Universal Call to a Culture of Encounter and Solidarity

By: Evelyn Monteiro

April 4, 2022

The Culture of Encounter and the Catholic Church

The global ethos of plurality is undergoing severe interruptions, sometimes in the direction of forming conflicting identities and divisive walls. The world is afflicted with acute xenophobia and political and ideological conflicts (Taiwan, Ukraine) with potentially disastrous consequences. Cyberspace is impacting postmodern generations beyond recognition today. The world of co-thinking and relationships that Pierre Teilhard de Chardin foresaw seems to be emerging in ways totally unforeseen. Technological advancement of connectivity is a double-edged sword: it unites and benefits humanity, but it also creates tensions in human relations and in God-human relationships. Persistent indifference and atrocities against vulnerable groups speak volumes about the ethical deficiency in our global culture. Ethical apathy to care for the other is hidden sinfulness hounding our global society. In discerning the world-system, Pope Francis has presented to humanity two illuminating social encyclicals: Laudato Si and Fratelli Tutti—the first on the interconnectedness of the world and the second on social friendship and solidarity.

The emerging global scenario must awaken human conscience and consciousness in a new way. We are rapidly moving towards anomie infected by the virus of indifference. The unprecedented climate change and the pandemic have dramatically revealed the interconnectedness of our world. Caring for each other is the only way out of this imbroglio. Fratelli Tutti develops the theme of the Good Samaritan and reaffirms that human life is a sacred and inviolable gift. Its universal call to a culture of encounter and solidarity encompasses the whole world and transcends every human barrier, embracing everyone.

The Church can no longer be complacent with offering mere palliative care to the people through its many pious practices and charitable and developmental ministries. Jesus’ “ever ancient, ever new” mission-manifesto (Luke 4:16-18) underscores the biblical fundamentals of care and justice (cf. Amos 2:6-8; Isaiah 8).

The Way Forward: Love Beyond Walled Hearts

We need to carve out a way forward towards global social friendship and solidarity with creative openness and concrete action. This way forward is guided by a prophetic call to look beyond the self and the world we see in front of us to all peoples with whom we share a common human nature and a common home (Fratelli Tutti, n. 88, 97).

Humanization of our societal communities is the dire need of the times. It calls for an acknowledgment of the worth of every human person (Fratelli Tutti, n. 106). The fundamentals of human life are the “inalienable dignity of each human person regardless of origin, race or religion, and the supreme law of fraternal love” (Fratelli Tutti, n. 39).

Human beings cannot survive as isolated islands. Against attempts to create sociocultural and religious isolation, a culture of encounter will make elements that are seemingly a barrier into a bridge of relationship. Identity and dialogue are not enemies. Encounter and dialogue with those unlike ourselves will strengthen and enrich our own identities and birth a caring approach which is the sine qua non to build bonds of solidarity among all peoples. A careful discipleship reading of the pope’s prophetic message will enable us to think of constructive ways to promote and respect the dignity and rights of each person for the common good. Church and society would stand to gain to listen to the call to “love beyond!”; to confront and break down walls “in the heart” and build bridges of solidarity.

Need for Bridge Builders

No matter where, people usually harbor unfounded suspicion and misgivings about “outsiders” who are taken for “invaders” and unwelcomed by “insiders” (Fratelli Tutti, n. 41). The pathetic plight of these “outsiders” and the desensitizing effects of human indifference is one of the principal moral issues of our times. All deserve “social, economic and political justice” and inclusion. Religions can become promoters of the culture of encounter and guarantors of solidarity with the faceless “outsiders.”

The Church needs to take proactive measures to awaken our dormant conscience to this urgent concern and to usher in a fundamental change. We need bridge builders of reconciliation and peace to welcome, accept, and integrate the excluded – migrants, refugees, the displaced, LGBT individuals, the marginalized poor, and women in our ecclesial communities and the wider society. To incarnate this moral imperative requires a daring metanoia, a “change of heart, attitudes and lifestyles” (Fratelli Tutti, n. 166).

Teach the Ethics of Care: A Vital Human Value

A culture of encounter and dialogue is foundational to root out the many divisive boundaries and establish an equitable society in the world. To ensure a more humane future, we are urged to communicate the ethics of care in a variety of interrelated contexts through the process of education.

Every person of goodwill can become a prophetic witness and agent of the culture of care to overcome the many existing sociocultural and economic inequalities plaguing the world. The moral sensibilities and responsibilities of the human person need to be awakened, nurtured, and schooled in families, parishes, and educational institutions at every stage of life. The young are our hope for they are open to change and want change. Ethics need to be taught, as Socrates once affirmed that it is a branch of knowledge that teaches people what one ought to do. This move can bear fruit through a well-planned strategy to communicate the clarity of the social meaning of existence, the inalienable dignity of each person, the spirituality for loving and accepting all as brothers and sisters (Fratelli Tutti, n. 86). Social movements such as Black Lives Matter can reimagine concrete ways of creating widespread consciousness of the need for a culture of encounter to forge global solidarity.

Engage Religions and Faith Leaders

A religious ethos continues to influence the lives of most people of all walks of life in most countries. Engaging religions and faith leaders along with people of goodwill in defining the moral framework is very essential for, as Klaus Schwab has remarked, faith is “the source of moral and ethical guidance for individuals and communities.” Religious leadership must initiate, create, and sustain a movement for respect and care of human and ecological life and for openness and acceptance of diversity and difference, for true faith seeks attitudinal conversion founded on equality and justice. Friendly gatherings of encounter and dialogue among people of different religions and ideologies can be organized to promote neighbourhood communities of solidarity. For as Pope Francis reminds us, “there is no alternative: we will either build the future together or there will not be a future.”


We-Inter-Are! We are all connected: my acts or lack thereof impact the life of the other. We need to redefine humans and communities. Only together can we mend the garment of humanity, can we change the game! Let us dream together as co-travelers, for love is taking responsibility for others and becoming agents of caring interconnectedness of humanity. We are not naturally born as brothers and sisters, rather we must learn to become so every day!