During my stint at Hartford Seminary, I took a course on Global Ethics which focused on the effects of globalisation on nations, communities, cultures, religions and values. Course participants were required to think about their own faith traditions and develop the connections between their religious beliefs and current global ethical issues e.g. consumerism, global poverty and environmental degradation.
Professor Heidi Hadsell, my course instructor shared with us that historic Judaism observed the practices of Jubilee which called for a periodic readjustment, in which the wealthier members of society were compelled to show their social piety (tzedakah) by helping the poor and marginalised. In fact, the Hebrew Scriptures, the Gospels and the Qur’an all encourage various forms of charity. Without a doubt, all these religious scriptures affirm the importance of compassion and justice to the poor and strongly condemn the powerful who misuse or ignore the needs of the oppressed.
Such principles are clear, but the implications for contemporary practice are much less so. These texts appeared during a time of tribal, monarchical and imperial political order. Much has changed since then. Humans must now contend with modern socio-economic and political structures that are continually shaping societies.
The modern world system is characterised by the emergence of international actors in the global stage, inter alia: i)Trans-national corporations that is politically influential and economically powerful. ii)Global media conglomerates that control not only the conduit of information but also the content. A global media conglomerate typically controls a variety of businesses that include publishers, television networks, film companies, cable and internet operations as well as broadcasting systems.iii)International institutions like the International Monetary Fund or the United Nations that create policies which would impact the world. iv)Non-governmental organisations that have political, financial, intellectual or even moral capital that may influence the course of events.v)Trans-national criminal syndicates that deal in the illegal trafficking of drugs, humans, weapons and other contraband.