Brazil’s Bishop: ‘Reckless Development is Coming to a Dead End’

In 2010, Dom Erwin Kräutler, Catholic bishop of Xingu, Brazil, received the Right Livelihood Award for his work for the human and environmental rights of indigenous peoples and his efforts to save the Amazon forest. He has been a leading opponent of the controversial Belo Monte dam in his diocese — and warns of the connection between unchecked “development” and global warming. This excerpt is part of a series celebrating the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council in US Catholic magazine.

When Pope Paul VI in his 1967 encyclical Populorum Progressio surprised the world with his slogan “Development is the new name for peace,” he wasn’t thinking of the kind of economic growth at all cost that allows a few oligarchies and business people to get filthy rich while intentionally excluding most people and plunging many into poverty. Pope Paul called on all the people of the world to promote development that is based on justice and solidarity.

The definition of development is key. When the free market is seen as the engine of progress and the measure of all things, earth, water, air, and fire will be commodified and subordinated to the rules and powers of the market, multinational companies, and international trade.

But when life in human dignity is the goal and meaning of all development, then development will be geared toward the survival and well-being of all people, including the generations that are coming after us.

The unrelenting pursuit of increasing exports, trade surpluses, and economic growth that exploits the human family and its environment has become a dangerous dead end.

A change in the direction of our thinking and actions is urgent. What is needed is development that is oriented toward the protection and promotion of life and human capacities; toward education, health, security, housing in dignity; and toward environmentally responsible agriculture, stewardship of our water resources, and careful protection of biodiversity.

Averting climate change and saving our planet will require both a change in consciousness and concrete measures that hold all people and countries of the world accountable.–Dom Erwin Kräutler, Catholic bishop of Xingu, Brazil

Read Dom Erwin Kräutler’s whole article here.

The DREAM Walkers: Undocumented and Unafraid

I am undocumentedThere were 250,000 people on the National Mall on Sunday to demand comprehensive immigration reform for the United States. One story that touched me deeply was that of the DREAM Walkers: Juan, Carlos, Felipe and Gaby. Four undocumented students who walked nearly 1,500 miles from Miami to Washington, D.C. to stand up for undocumented people.

“Throughout our journey, we have listened to the same repeated stories: mothers being afraid of driving their kids to school because of the ever-present fear of getting detained and/or deported, and high school seniors feeling completely hopeless on graduation date because they can’t continue their studies in higher education. We think about how millions of people undergo the same fear everyday because of their undocumented status and this has to stop. That’s way we’re walking to DC; that’s why thousands gather in DC on Sunday and millions celebrate this historic day throughout the nation.”

During their journey, nearly 25,000 people signed on (you can sign on too) to support their call for leaders to fix our failed immigration system. They also faced down the Klan in south Georgia and collected stories of uninvestigated hate crimes against undocumented workers.

These brave kids–from Brazil, Venezuela, Ecuador and Colombia–were brought to the U.S. by their families when they were young, have excelled in school, worked hard, and contributed to their communities. They all face the threat of being deported. They have no access to funding for going to college. So they walk in support of the DREAM Act (“Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act of 2009”). Juan, Carlos, Gaby and Felipe chose to walk because they have run out of options. There are currently no legal pathways for them to gain citizenship, which is why they are calling on President Obama and other leaders to do everything in their power to pass real reform this year.

Here’s a 2 minute video of their trip.

‘A Hungry Man Is An Angry Man’: Christians and Muslims Together in Overcoming Poverty

Christians and Muslims attend Mass in Baghdad as a celebration for Muslims rebuilding the church.
Christians and Muslims attend Mass in Baghdad as a celebration for Muslims rebuilding the church.

The Vatican’s inter-religious dialogue council sent a “Happy Id al-Fitr” message to Muslims around the world as they come to the end of Ramadan on Sept 19-20 by inviting them into common cause on ending poverty.

Ramadan is a time when Muslims reflect more deeply on the real meaning of life by being close to God and their neighbors. As part of this, they heighten their awareness of the needs of others, especially the poor, though fasting and practices of charity.

Christians and Muslims: Together in overcoming poverty looks at poverty that is the result of human sin and the loss of human dignity but also at poverty that is chosen and embraced as an example of one’s humility before God.

Indonesian priest Markus Solo serves in the middle of enormous tensions and violence between Muslims and Christians and between people of genuine faith and extremists. Around the world, Solo says, poverty “is getting worse after the recent economic and financial crisis. Everybody knows that poverty is a real and bitter challenge for people living in the developing countries, which also happen to be religious ones.”

The Vatican message noted a link between poverty and extremism or violence, a theme Father Solo echoed. He quoted the English proverb: “A hungry man is an angry man.”

Here’s an excerpt from the Vatican’s invitation:

On the occasion of your feast which concludes the month of Ramadan, I would like to extend my best wishes for peace and joy to you and, through this Message, propose this theme for our reflection: Christians and Muslims: Together in overcoming poverty. …

In his talk on the occasion of the World Day for Peace, 1st January 2009, His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI distinguished two types of poverty: a poverty to be combated and a poverty to be embraced.

The poverty to be combated is before the eyes of everyone: hunger, lack of clean water, limited medical care and inadequate shelter, insufficient educational and cultural systems, illiteracy, not to mention also the existence of new forms of poverty “…in advanced wealthy societies, there is evidence of marginalization, as well as affective, moral and spiritual poverty…” (Message for the World Day of Peace, 2009, n. 2).

The poverty to be embraced is that of a style of life which is simple and essential, avoiding waste and respecting the environment and the goodness of creation. This poverty can also be, at least at certain times during the year, that of frugality and fasting. It is the poverty which we choose which predisposes us to go beyond ourselves, expanding the heart.

As believers, the desire to work together for a just and durable solution to the scourge of poverty certainly also implies reflecting on the grave problems of our time and, when possible, sharing a common commitment to eradicate them. In this regard, the reference to the aspects of poverty linked to the phenomena of globalization of our societies has a spiritual and moral meaning, because all share the vocation to build one human family in which all – individuals, peoples and nations – conduct themselves according to the principles of fraternity and responsibility. …

The poor question us, they challenge us, but above all they invite us to cooperate in a noble cause: overcoming poverty!

Read the whole message here. (As an aside, this message also references JPII’s 2001 address on establishing a “common ethical code,” particularly in the financial industry. It’s worth a read.)