To Missionaries, living the Gospel in a radical fashion is a way of advocating for the poor and the earth. The devise, Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation is a distant horizon that, however, continually attracts and directs their fragile and sometimes contradictory steps. One of these steps is to invest in the agroecology promoted by the Landless Movement of Brazil. Pointing out in writing their commitments and challenges helps and encourages them to be faithful to this mission.
Evangelizing is the commitment of every missionary. “To evangelize is to make the Kingdom of God present in the world” (EG n. 176). One of the settings where this mission becomes more arduous and urgent is the economy. In today’s world, income and capital concentration has reached obscene levels; it is a scandalous expression of a growing and structural injustice, a deadly social sin.
A deep and urgent conversion
Eight individuals have the same wealth as half of the world’s population! The problem is not, therefore, the lack of financial resources, but their appropriation by individuals and corporations that use them to speculate instead of investing: today, more than ever, financial investments yield more profits than productive investments.
The Second Vatican Council (GS 63) called on Christian communities to act in economic and social life, having as priority the dignity and the integral vocation of every person and to the good of all society.
Pope Francis, in his most recent message to social movements, explicitly said, “It is time to stop the locomotive that is taking us to the abyss ” The initiative “The Economy of Francis and Clara”, particularly aimed at young people, with a focus on new models of life and society, is in the Pope’s desires an enormous challenge: “to give the economy a new soul.”This challenge comprises at least two main lines of action: first, directing the economy at the service of life and not of profit and, secondly, distancing it from all the processes of death that are destroying Creation.
Pope Francis asked this with humility and firmness in the same speech to social movements: “I want to ask in the name of God the large extractive companies – mining, oil, forestry, real estate, and agribusiness – to stop destroying forests, wetlands and mountains, stop contaminating rivers and seas, and stop poisoning people and food.”
Touching the wounds of the poor and of the Earth
These new commitments, however, in Brazil are not born out of nowhere, but from the experiences of sharing and from hopes that open gaps for light, such as the solidarity of communities in the urban peripheries, or the resistance of indigenous peoples.
The Landless Rural Workers Movement (MST), the largest social movement in the world, is an example. For more than thirty years, the Movement has worked with rural production cooperatives and marketing of rural products. Today, there are 160 cooperatives and more than 1,000 associations, comprising 450,000 families in 24 Brazilian states. In just the first 6 months of the COVID pandemic it carried out solidarity actions in several states of the country providing 3,400 tons of food.
It started fifteen new community vegetable gardens to strengthen and insuring this help.
For their part, the Comboni missionaries, through their even sometimes small and frail experience in Brazil, learned to listen more and more to the cry of the poor and of the Earth Through their socio-environmental pastoral commitments, together with the local Church, they had been addressing the “ecological sin”.
The best formulation of this “sin” was given during the Amazon Synod where REPAM (Red Iglesias y Minería – Churches and Mining network) was a protagonist. “Ecological sin”, is a “sin against future generations”, a “transgression against the principles of interdependence” and a “breakdown of the solidarity networks among creatures”.
Some missionaries, therefore, (see Network Justice on the Rails) act against violations caused by the predatory extraction of large mining corporations or share with their communities the suffering caused by the impacts of illegal gold mining. Some others are committed to the defense of peoples and their territories, together with the Indigenous Missionary Council (CIMI) or the Pastoral Land Commission (CPT).
A new proposal and our support
The missionaries believe, in profound communion with Pope Francis, that the abundant life evoked by the Gospels begins with the right to Land, Housing and Work for all people.
In the deep sanitary and economic crisis that many countries go through, food insecurity has once again come to haunt Brazil. About 20 million people live in poverty and at risk of malnutrition: it is the anti-Kingdom, a blasphemy hurting the heart of God! It is the clearest proof of what the Pope has said over and over again: “This economy kills!”
Recently, the MST planned to raise R$ 17.5 million (about US$ 3,2 millions) by issuing an Agribusiness Receivables Certificate (CRA), a type of fixed-income bond used to finance the producer or an agricultural cooperative, backed up by the real economy, that is, production itself. The purpose of this financing is to fund the production, mostly pesticide-free, of rice, corn, milk, soy, grape juice and brown sugar by seven cooperatives.
This Movement’s agro-ecological projects and its support to family farming are prospects for circular, collaborative and sustainable economic processes in which it makes sense to believe. Because of all these reasons, based on their pastoral practice, on the Gospel in which they believe and on the cry that they continually hear, the Comboni Missionaries in Brazil have decided to enter into this financing initiative by investing part of their funds.
Meaning and perspectives
“This support is only a first step to help us recognize how far we still need to go, to ‘give economy a new soul’, in a very practical way,” say the Comboni Missionaries. “We are part of a continental ecumenical movement, the Churches and Mining network (REPAM), which is promoting research, discernment and commitments to free the economy from predatory and devastating extractivism.”
Church investments, too, can contribute to fueling or to the weakening of deadly economies. The Mining Divestment Campaign is a tool to raise awareness in religious life and people in general about violations of mining business and the symbolic and prophetic potential of an ethical distancing from these corporations.
“The next step of our commitment will be to deepen the control of our investments and, possibly, direct them even more towards productive activities that are coherent with our values. We are thus joining the recent initiatives taken in this same sense by the Claretian and the SVD Missionaries, as well as the proposal of the ‘Laudato Si Revolution’ launched by the Franciscans and Jesuits, and also the ‘Laudato Si Action Plan’ coordinated by the Vatican Secretariat for Integral Human Development,” is the Comboni missionaries statement.
The path is still long, but it reveals a progressive awakening of Religious Life towards the paradigm of Integral Ecology and the Economy of Francis and Clara! (Landless Movement – MST©opaidetheo/123RF.COM)
Jean Paul Pezzi