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Affection and reunions at CESE’s annual evaluation meeting

CESE held its annual meeting to assess its 2021 activities, in line with health and hygiene protocols.

13 December 2021. Following two years of the pandemic, for the first time CESE physically brought together its entire executive team and institutional board to close another year of work. It was a time for evaluation and to look at the prospects for next year, but it was also a moment full of affection and reunions.  “We are survivors of a pandemic, despite the losses.  To get here, after all these difficulties, is a cause for celebration and commemoration,” began Sônia Mota, CESE’s Executive Director.

In order to connect with the space, the organization invited attendees to participate in a devotional moment from the ecumenical advent – the liturgical time for the arrival of Jesus.  Pastor Bianca Daébs, CESE’s Advisor for Ecumenism and Inter-religious Dialogue, and Bishop João Câncio Peixoto, Trustee, conducted the mystical ceremony. Referring to the work of CESE’s team, Dom Peixoto touched on the testimony of John the Baptist for the preparation and celebration of new times: “We are all Johns and Janes the Baptist.  CESE’s service is embodied by the spirit of advent, which carries the message of peace, love, justice, solidarity and hope against the unfair structures of society.”  Bianca added: “It is a time for hope and expectation of better days.  For pain to be transformed into hope.  And hope is joy.”

Continuing with the environment of faith and hope, CESE took stock of its activities during the overlapping emergencies in the current crises.  The moment was illustrated by a video which, through handmade graphic designs, presented an overview of the organization’s work during 2021. This provided a brief retrospective of operational strategies to strengthen the grassroots struggle and fulfil its mission.  Once again, the internal sectors were able to view their work as a collective, while new Board members found out a little bit more about it: “A diakonia to sow and reap good things, going against the current, in search of an alternative project and other possible ways of living,” as Deacon Luciano Santana, CESE’s second secretary, described it.

This display of the year’s main activities culminated in a presentation of the organization’s main lines of action: Dialogue and Networking; Training; Political Advocacy; Projects; Communications; Ecumenism and Inter-religious Dialogue; and Management.  The institutional board and CESE’s members collectively reflected on the highlights, obstacles and challenges that will support its 2022 planning.

To analyse the work undertaken and to remember CESE’s trajectory in contributing to the defence of democracy and human rights, José Carlos Zanetti, CESE’s Projects and Training Advisor, was honoured to be invited to speak about Human Rights Week and its message of hope for better days:

“CESE’s lifecycle has a lot to do with my personal and political life. I joined and followed the significant enthusiasm of the amnesty; the fact that the universal declaration of human rights emerged out of the rubble of the Second World War made a great impression on all of us and on CESE in particular, because of its progressive nature. The struggle for rights is inextricably linked to the struggle for democracy.

I admired its courage, its political and public exposure in the midst of the dictatorship, not only for the gesture, but also for the mass distribution of two million copies of the declaration across the entire country.  The political decision was to listen to the clamour of the people, to be on the side of those who were bullied the most – environmentalists, the indigenous, young black people from the peripheries, quilombolas and all those who experienced devastation on a daily basis.  One discussion worth having is to ask what the significance has been, whether our struggle was worth it, how much has been achieved and what we can still do.

From one side there is resistance to injustice while, at the same time, we win small victories, when a quilombola community is officially entitled or a parcel of land is distributed. These provide a foretaste of the kingdom, as Leonardo Boff says, small fragments that we celebrate and which encourage us to carry on fighting.  We remember Human Rights week in order to reinforce CESE’s significant role and to show how much it can contribute to the defence of rights and to democracy,” Zanetti declared, linking the organization’s trajectory to his own personal history as a great ally of grassroots struggles.

The day of activities closed with an ecumenical Christmas ceremony, followed by a get-together with dinner. The night’s celebrations included the special presence of CESE’s former President, Father Marcus Barbosa, who bade farewell to the team with a Christmas message.  It was a space to share our feelings, dreams and desires for 2022.