Although international relations are inevitable in today’s globalised world, nevertheless, some people are still ambivalent about them, owing especially to the unfair dealing between nations. What does the church say about the foundation, benefits and the challenges of the international relations?
Unity of humanity in the Bible
In the Old Testament the church infers the foundation of the unity of the human family from the creation accounts. All human beings share the image and likeness of God, the Lord of the universe. This universal brotherhood is further implied in God’s covenant with Abraham the father of nations. Against the tendency to wrap upon herself to the exclusion of others, prophets constantly reminded Israel of her vocation as a means of gathering all peoples in one house of God (cf. Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church 430).
The universal brotherhood becomes more explicit in the New Testament where Christ, by his arms widespread on the cross, he embraces and gathers into one all peoples, for “…all the barriers of enmity have already been torn down (cf. Eph 2:12-1) so that for those who live a new life in Christ, racial and cultural differences are no longer causes of division (cf. Gal 3:26-28).
Further, by the Pentecost experience “…the church fulfils her mission of restoring and bearing witness to the unity lost at Babel….the human family is called to rediscover its unity and recognise the richness of its differences, in order to attain ‘full unity in Christ’” (CSDC 431). Precisely, the Christian message is an appeal to all people towards a unity of human family saved in Christ.
International relations as human need
Therefore, the political, economic, social organisations are but only the external manifestations of the inner need to cooperate, thanks to the awareness that they are living members of the whole human family (cf. John XXIII, Pacem in Terris, 1963). However, if these international relations are to create a true spirit of family they have to be founded and guided by certain values and attitudes.
That fundamental value is “The centrality of the human person and the natural inclination of persons and peoples to establish relationships among themselves….” (CSDC 433), to build a reasonable human international community committed to the pursuit and ensuring common good. This necessitates some organisation.
For ordered and peaceful existence, the church favours the presence of the “universal public authority acknowledged as such by all and endowed with effective power to safeguard on the behalf of the all, security, regard for justice and respect for rights” (CSDC 441). As John Paul II remarks in his Message for World Day of Peace of 2003, this has to be created by mutual agreement between states, not an imposition or “global super-state.” International organisation should be motivated by interest among nations to honestly cooperate with others in order to guarantee, mutually, the right to development.
Inequality in international relations
Nevertheless, the Church regrets some behaviours, attitudes and structures that systematically favour development of others and keep others down. That is why she affirms that the war against under-development needs a determination in breaking the structures of sin that permeate the economic, financial, social and political mechanism. “Development is not only an aspiration but a right that, like very right, implies a duty” (CSDC 446).
In his Sollicitudo Rei Socialis, 32, 1988 John Paul II says: “Collaboration in the development of the whole person and of every human being is in fact a duty of all towards all….” rooted in the shared origin and destiny of human family, equality between persons and nations, the centrality of the human person who is the destination of earthly goods and the solidarity that should characterise a human society.
The church encourages the underdeveloped countries to avoid remaining stagnant by collaborating and accessing international market. Further, she advices those who control the market: “The spirit of international cooperation requires that, beyond the strict market mentality, there should be an awareness of the duty to solidarity, justice and universal charity” (CSDC 448).
Human person at the centre of international relations
Evidently, international relations are typical of human interaction willed by God for united human family. To achieve international relations that express really the universal brotherhood every person and every nation is called to be truly committed for the good of the other, otherwise, international relations become a stage for competition, search for self-interest, and at worst, a tool of oppression.
A Ghanaian Ashanti proverb goes: “The ruin of a nation begins in the home of its people.” This is true also for international relations. Their quality begins in family, in school, in work places, between ethnic groups. Indeed, it is the quality of interactions between persons that gives form to international relations.
As for Franklin D. Roosevelt here is his option: “In the field of world policy I would dedicate this nation to the policy of the good neighbour.” I find this useful also for self-introspection: what is my policy in my personal interaction with others?