The spring of every two years is marked by the celebrations of the World Social Forum (WSF), this year at its 16th edition. It began in opposition to the World Economic Forum in 2001 in Porto Alegre (Brazil) and returned this year to Brazil (Salvador Bahia) after Tunis and Montreal.
The choice was not due to the vigorous and beautiful cultural and historical features of this city, still impregnated with colonial and Afro-Brazilian memories, but down to political motivations. This is in contrast with the supposed apolitical and areligious standing proclaimed in the Charter of the guiding principles of what is, unfortunately, the only free platform of movements and ideas. The inspirational motto, “Another world is possible” was almost absent. The former presidents Lula and Dilma’s stories, instead, and the Brazilian difficult political moment have dominated this WSF.
The Workers Party (PT in its Brazilian acronym), is a leftist party and has ruled for 13 years. Under its rule, there has been a greater distribution of wealth and the gap between the poor and the rich was reduced, but with one huge limit – development was sought with the looting and exploitation of raw materials without, or almost no productive inversion. It was the so-called Latin American Extractivism Pact, followed also by Chavez in Venezuela, with the results everyone knows, in Ecuador, with a president in a Swiss asylum because of corruption charges, and in Bolivia, where Evo Morales clings to an oligarchic power supported by the cocaleros. In 2016, there happened what is remembered as the “white coup”. Dilma, the president at that time, was replaced without any kind of popular consultation, by her vice-president, Temer.
In the last two years, Lula, Dilma and some representatives of Lula’s former government, have been sued for acts of corruption in which, strangely, even the current President Temer was also ever present. The current government is now dismantling social policies built in the previous 13 years, Temer’s popular consensus goes beyond 3%, the militarisation of some areas, such as Rio, brings back the memory of dictatorship times, the political debate focuses on national security, while the political opponents murders are repeated and unpunished. It is the case that occurred during the WSF, of Marielle Franco, the municipal councillor of Rio and member of the opposition Party Socialism y Libertad.
In October, there will be new presidential elections, Lula currently having 42% of the consensus, is excluded by a second level of guilty conviction that the Brazilian people consider without any legal basis. As a result, Brazil is today a politically divided country, economically fragmented, with an Episcopal Conference ambiguous in many choices. The WSF, even though in many ways rich of positive events and with the usual welcoming and warm atmosphere, has suffered the loss of its historical memory and its ability to criticise.
The theology of Liberation has always been the WSF inspiring soul with its presence, sometimes hidden but always fruitful, rich of resistance, creation and transformation strength. The WSF 2018 motto “To resist is to create, to resist is to transform” is an echo of it. And this certainly refers also to Pope Francis’ messages to the popular movements. Catholics, Christians churches and many righteous people, even those not religious, recalled Pope Francis’ election as a special day it was March 13, 2013 and this year’s WSF started on March 13th through 17th.
From that day on, the priority has been to unite faith with social and political commitment and today we are talking about “liberating political spirituality”. The context, however, is not very exciting in Latin America as in many other parts of the world poverty and inequality increase, finance crushes the real economy, resources are concentrated in a few hands, the market has become an absolute and omnipotent god, who can do anything and is served by all institutions. The consequences are an exponential increase in racism, especially towards migrants, Indians and Negroes, the worsening of living conditions for many people; the persecution and, in several parts of the globe, the murder of the opposition social leaders.
The Church has a historical debt with the poor, because with a certain theology, moving away from the Gospel message, had somehow legitimised slavery, poverty, war, and colonialism. This awareness inspires her today humility, perception of weakness, and request for forgiveness. But this is not enough.
Today it is a matter of reorienting the paradigms of reflection, revisiting the central “theological places” of faith, freeing the message of Christ from philosophical and theological encrustations, coming from ideologies rather than from revelation. Language, analysis, a certain dogmatic expression of faith brakes and perhaps even prevents the acceptance of Jesus’ Good News. The idea of the “reparatory sacrifice”, for example, recalls Marcelo Barros, transpires a mentality of violence, while the “liberating martyrdom” would bring back the gratuitousness of mutual love.
The idea of an original sin uniting all mankind under a vague slavery of evil, cannot be the base of Christian spirituality: what do Congolese pygmies have in common with the North Americans people? We must ask ourselves about the relationship between our Eucharistic communion and our commitment to history; reviewing the concept of creation as an event of the past while Jesus’s Gospel speaks of a God always working among us and directing our eyes to the future when God will be all in all, according to St. Paul’s expression; rethinking the resurrection as not linked above all to a material tomb, but to the event of “gathering in unity the children of God who are dispersed” as St. John expresses it (11, 52).
The WSF can be indeed an ecclesiastical movement because the Kingdom of God is always beyond and “other” even from the established Church; nevertheless, it lacks a spirituality capable of supporting its journey and the nowadays theology of liberation seems incapable of arousing it.
Today, it is urgent to discover how mercy and joy are needed experiences to open new spaces of Christianity and social life, and to live “the intimate relationship between the poor and the fragility of the planet, the conviction that everything in the world is connected, the critique of new paradigms and forms of power derived from technology, the call to seek other ways of understanding the economy and progress, the value proper to each creature, the human meaning of ecology, the need for forthright and honest debate, the serious responsibility of international and local policy, the throwaway culture and the proposal of a new lifestyle”.
Marielle Franco is becoming the symbol of a civic and religious youth who gets out of their illusions and interests, able to risk oneself so that the dream of another “possible world” becomes reality. Perhaps even the organising committee of the WSF and the theology liberation must also learn from her, leaving out ideological choices they have to focus on building the “New Possible World” by pursuing the common good, of all, and this is the dream of the Father’s Kingdom in today’s world.
– Gian Paolo Pezzi