“Anyone who has two shirts should share with the one who has none,
and anyone who has food should do the same.” (Luke, 3:10)
While the powerful coordinated their evils from Rome or from Palestinian palaces, John the Baptist, the son of a priest, broke away from the temple structure and went out into the desert. There he started to crisscross the region of Jordan, spreading his political and religious message: like “the voice that calls in the wilderness”, today we are calling to “prepare the way for the Lord,” making straight the paths and crooked roads of so many people who can no longer see the horizon (cf. Luke, 3:1-6).
After strongly denouncing the “generation of snakes” (the race of vipers), John responded to those who still resisted: as we shout “down with tyranny, out with oppressors!”, sharing what we still have, so that no one else will die of hunger! He even directed his words to tax collectors and soldiers: “the axe is ready to cut the trees down at their roots,” and we need to change the ways of the nation! His words have never been so relevant. Human and environmental rights are universal rights!
The time of advent is a time of even more hope, seeking strength from the depths of our being. That we may, through the following text, look at the gloomy situation through the experience of those who continue to dream of announcing the gospel, of those who are always capable of experiencing the birth of good news.
We are coming to the end of 2021. At this point, in relation to civil society we can see that we are experiencing varied threats and harassment due to exceptional practices and measures, which are a daily threat to democracy. We are faced with the challenge of dealing with the so-called “hybrid war”, in which the field of communications has become a constant arena for dispute narratives, without the values of solidarity prevailing, values that reflect the more complex social issues that affect the most vulnerable.
This situation is even more complex than during the dictatorship, because a spirit of hate has been unleashed, in which any movement or person who falls outside the imagined civil standard, such as someone who is black or from a traditional population, is considered to be outside the logic of the market or of Judeo-Christian morality, and is the object of persecution and criminalization. The predatory use of resources as an easy solution to balance the accounts, seen in the dominance of agribusiness and its heavy load of pesticides, in the radical deregulation of the world of work, in the privatization of strategic sections of the economy, all demonstrating how close neo-fascism is to neo-liberalism. In addition to the widespread brutality, we have seen thousands of families bereaved because of a virus that could have been better managed. Lives that could have been saved.
We end the year adrift in a sea of uncertainty. More than social policy setbacks, we are talking about lives cut down, seen as dispensable.
Here, we would like to highlight some essential points about the current situation:
- A distorted understanding of human rights when confronting the pandemic, leading to negationism and anti-vaccine movements, reviving reactionary and anti-scientific positions, which are said to be supported by the notion that the right to freedom is an absolute individual right and overrides all other rights.
- Hunger, poverty and misery have taken over the lives of millions of Brazilians – Brazil is on the map of hunger, the government responds by dismantling a state programme (Bolsa Familia) and, in its place, setting up an election programme (Auxilio Brasil), which will leave millions of people with no welfare support.
- Worsening labour relations with the growth of precarious work and unemployment, with an increased number of precarious job vacancies, combined with the continuing practice of undignified labour, particularly for migrants, rural workers and others.
- Systemic attacks using genocidal practices against indigenous peoples, whose lands have been invaded for illegal mining and deforestation purposes, in addition to systemic attacks on leaders and the communities that resist them – the same has been seen with other traditional peoples and communities.
- The dismantling of environmental policies and the advance of deforestation and attacks on various Brazilian biomes, in particular the Amazon, which plays a strategic role in the climate emergency, as well as open season on threats against environmentalists.
- The criminalization and attacks on human rights defenders continue unabated – something that will worsen if the new rules in the antiterrorism law are approved; this also applies to certain aspects of the new National Security Law.
- Violence against young black people from the peripheries continues to rise, with massacres and even more pronounced police violence.
- Marked racism continues and, since it is structural, is reproduced in institutional arenas and social relationships.
On 10 December, now more than ever, the defence of human rights and the strengthening of social movements and grassroots organizations are essential parts of the struggle. This is why CESE continues to reassert its commitment to life and human dignity.
This year, the date bears witness to a profound crisis of civilization in Brazil, in Latin America and the world. At the doors of elections, we must come together, in the hope that united we can go out onto the streets and halt this disaster, this loss of rights, this impunity. We need to believe in the cycle of history, in order to return, with more democracy, to the path for Good Living, for Peace and Justice for humanity, and for nature, which welcomes us.
ECUMENICAL COORDINATION OF SERVICE (COORDENADORIA ECUMÊNICA DE SERVIÇO: CESE)