Earlier this month, the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to Bangladeshi economist Dr. Muhammad Yunus, pictured above, and to the Grameen Bank that he helped found. They were awarded the prize “for their efforts to create economic and social development from below.” In 1976, Dr. Yunus helped found the Grameen Bank which has been a leader in small village banking.
In awarding the Nobel Peace Prize to microfinancers, the Nobel Commission makes a strong statement that parallels our own Franciscan Peacemaking approach to “preemptive peacemaking.” They recognize that one of the contributors to conflict is economic disparity. If people can be assisted in creating their own support and development within the economic system, then they are able to offer their gifts to the larger effort of human social development and avoid conflict in the first place.
This concept of microfinancing works from the perspective that one of the elements missing from persons who are poor in their own social and economic development is capital for enterprise. Microfinance institutions like the Grameen Bank make small loans to socially related groups (e.g., women in a small village, men who are farmers in the same region, neighborhood organizations) so that they can create small businesses.
These loans are most often small ($50- 100 $U.S.) and paid back over a short period of time. The loans are used for start-up capital in small enterprises like small farm production, sewing cooperatives, grain banking and a host of others. Through this start-up capital, individuals can sustain their business and greatly improve family income.
Chapter 2005 passed a resolution directing the provincial leadership to move some of the Province’s investments into “community investment.” This is another way of discussing microfinancing. At their October Provincial Council meeting, the leadership of the province approved the overall strategy, submitted by the JPIC Directorate, for helping the Holy Name Province fulfill the demands of the Chapter 2005 Community Investment Resolution. Over the next several months, the parameters and shape of this investment strategy will be shared with the province.
It is humbling to realize how our province is working with others to bring peace.