CESE concludes 50th anniversary commemorative cycle with launch of the book “Zanetti: the keeper of the oil lamp” and announcing the Zanetti Human Rights Prize to honour good practices supported by the Small Projects Programme in 2024.

On Friday 15 December, CESE’s team, board, friends and family members came together for the launch of the book “Zanetti: the keeper of the oil lamp” by journalist Emiliano José.  The title refers to one of Leonardo Boff’s ideas: that the lamp is the keeper of dreams. Its oil is what keeps the flames alight – the living dreams.  Throughout his life, Zanetti was a keeper of dreams. And activists should never stop dreaming that another world is possible.

Emiliano and Zanetti’s friendship grew out of their struggle and resistance against the Military Dictatorship (1964-1985). In the words of Emiliano himself, the book attempts to do something difficult: to define Zanetti.

“He was many faceted.  Capable of loving like few others.  With an immense tenderness for people and a rare ability to build relationships.  He worked with conviction, never raising his voice.  He immersed himself in the lives of the Brazilian people, of the excluded and of workers, he understood the diversity of the world and of Brazil, without losing sight of the fact that the liberation of this diverse people will come about through political struggle,” he said.

The book attempts to retrace, in a non-linear way, Zanetti’s trajectory from childhood, describing the mischievous boy, through his athletic youth, to striking militant episodes and activist characteristics, such as his direct confrontation with the military regime, his 1972 marriage while still in prison, his escape from prison in São Paulo and his arrival at CESE.

Emiliano said: “CESE was his safe haven, where he could combine hunger with the desire to eat.  It was both a job and a political achievement for him. It enabled him to realise his dreams of transforming the world, immersing himself in communities, the poor, young people, quilombolas.  He travelled throughout Brazil doing this.  It was a tremendous political and personal achievement.  Realised by a revolutionary”.

Zanetti Human Rights Prize

At the ceremony, CESE announced the creation of the 2024 “Zanetti Human Rights Prize”.  The initiative will honour symbolic experiences in the defence of human rights in Brazil that confront various forms of violence and are implemented by the civil society organizations and grassroots movements supported by CSE.  More details about the prize will be published at the beginning of 2024.

The announcement took place at a special evening to honour José Carlos Zanetti and his life’s work in the struggle and resistance alongside people from the city peripheries and the social movements, with young people and many other sectors that work in the defence of rights in Brazil. December is the month in which International Human Rights Day is celebrated, the cause that defined the whole life of our Loving Revolutionary, an eternal member of the CESE team.  Sônia Mota, CESE’s Executive Director, described the launch of the Zanetti Prize as a moment to mark the end of the organization’s programme to celebrate its 50th anniversary, commemorated throughout 2023.  “Everyone here today was touched, in one way or another, by Zanetti’s life.  We still feel his presence.  In everything we’ve done this year, we’ve imagined what his views would have been.  We thought of this moment back in January and it is how we want to bring our celebrations to a close: during Human Rights week, honouring our Loving Revolutionary.  It couldn’t have happened in any other way, on any other day”.