Three weeks ago, I had to lay off eleven staff members of the Maryknoll Deaf Development Programme here in Cambodia. A major Catholic donor organization in Australia decided to cut their funding to us so that they could redirect funds to war relief in Ukraine and we then did not have enough funds to continue at the same staffing level as before.
A war in Eastern Europe results in job losses in a deaf program in Southeast Asia, one more example of the increasing globalization, the interconnectedness of the world today.
We are confronted with globalization information and realities every day: climate change, international politics, disruption of supply chains, food insecurity, water scarcity, pollution of the atmosphere and oceans, millions of people on the move seeking food, safety or asylum and many other scenarios.
Here in Cambodia, on the trivial end, we haven’t seen large jars of peanut butter for months because of globalization issues. More seriously, refugees fleeing to Cambodia because of religious persecution in Muslim countries find there are no doors open to them to move on because of the streams of refugees, first from Syria and now from Ukraine.
Globalization presents problems but it also presents opportunities for growth. Jesus and his teachings in the Christian Scriptures speak of us as sisters and brothers, as all one family, with a caring responsibility for each other and without distinctions and prejudices and inequalities. That’s globalization.
As we deal with the difficulties and tensions of becoming a world community — something we can’t stop and certainly can’t reverse — we can avail ourselves of the opportunities to recognize that we are one family and begin to exist in closer union as God intended. We can learn so much from each other, we have so much to offer each other, both in small ways and in ways that help humanity truly become the one family of God’s children.
Each of us in our own self, in our own family, in our own neighborhood and city, can be very isolated/insular/provincial/self-contained/inward-focused.
We get by, but without our brothers and sisters there’s so much more to this world and to life that we might never experience or even imagine.
Growing up in the West End of Louisville, I thought fish came in little brown squares. It wasn’t until I lived in Hong Kong 30 years later that I saw a fish — head, fins, tail and all — steamed on a platter and ready to eat. A new experience!
Again in my own experience, liking things organized and coming from the legalistic United States, I was a bit flummoxed to encounter Cambodia’s ambiguity about law. Here there may be laws on the books but they are basically ignored and certainly not enforced. It’s the way the culture has decided to live. I’ve learned to look at law a little differently. Maybe the answer to every question is not to sue or prosecute or incarcerate.
Learning liturgy in U.S. seminaries didn’t prepare me for the multitude of different expressions and expectations people have in their faith and worship: the Momma Mary of the Philippines, the three- or four-hour masses from Kenya with everyone singing and swaying, the enthusiastic embraces of the Latin Americans in our Sunday gathering. But all those expressions help me better understand how God relates to all of us and how we relate to each other.
We live in a new world of increasing complexity, increasing connectedness. May we seek greater unity so that by sharing our gifts and talents we can grow into the ONE People of God.
Father Dittmeier, a priest of the Archdiocese of Louisville, is the co-director of the Maryknoll Deaf Development Programme in Phnom Penh and pastor of the English-speaking parish. Follow his journey at parish-without-borders.org.