CESE celebrates its 47th anniversary with live streamed event about ecumenism, the defence of rights and the pandemic

This year CESE celebrated its anniversary virtually.  The morning of Tuesday 16 June saw the inauguration of a series of live streaming events, “Ecumenical and Inter-religious Dialogue”, on the institution’s YouTube channel.

The first transmission addressed the theme “Ecumenism for the Defence of Rights in Times of Pandemic” with invited speakers Anna Moser (Misereor) and Edgar Sanchez (Bread for the World: BFW) representing international ecumenical cooperation. Pastors Romi Bencke from the National Council of Christian Churches of Brazil (Conselho Nacional de Igrejas Cristãs: CONIC) and Helivete Ribeiro from the Ecumenical Centre for Biblical Studies (Centro de Estudos Bíblicos: CEBI) also participated in the dialogue, as did feminist theologian, Yuri Orozco, and all focused on current challenges and Brazilian ecumenical work in the midst of this political and health crisis.   Mediation was provided by Sônia Mota, CESE Executive Director and a Pastor of the United Presbyterian Church (Igreja Presbiteriana Unida: IPU).

Following the opening speech from CESE’s President, Father Marcus Barbosa, theologian Yuri Orozco began her speech with a cry that is ringing around streets around the world: “Black lives matter! Where there is racism, there is no democracy!”

In the theologian’s opinion, rather than COVID-19 itself, the inequalities on which Brazilian society was founded are at the root of problems resulting from the pandemic.  “The current crisis we are experiencing has a colour and a gender.  It is a black, female pandemic,” she declared.

With an eye on research that indicates that more black people are dying from the pandemic than white, Yuri noted that the virus is proliferating in peripheral neighbourhoods, favelas, communities in which the population is predominantly black and families are female-headed.  “These are population groups where poverty is prevalent in multiple dimensions.  Not only in a lack of money, but also in a lack of opportunities, of basic sanitation, education, access to technology such as the internet.  All this makes the black population and women more vulnerable.”

Precarious working conditions are further exposed in this group.  If, on the one hand, black women are on the frontline in health (as nurses, health technicians, and cleaners), they are also the majority in informal work or unemployed, or are overloaded by excessive work within their homes.  The theologian also pointed out the increase in domestic violence in the midst of isolation – a time in which women are confined with their aggressors.  “So, we could say that COVID-19 kills because there is racism, gender inequality and poverty.  It is not COVID-19 that kills, it is the State, which leaves certain populations vulnerable.  Brazil is adrift in a boat in the midst of fundamentalist, obscurantist and irresponsible opinions, opinions which often turn into public policy.  We have no government support to confront the pandemic,” she asserted, with regret.

Another population that has been seriously affected is that of refugees and immigrants.  The majority are in the informal labour market – and, with isolation, many have become unemployed and are on the streets.  Another problem here is the lack of documents, preventing these people from accessing public funds.  In response to this, Yuri publicized the campaign, “Regularization Now” aimed at advocating for public policies for the urgent regularization of immigrants so they can access existing social benefits.

Orozco continued by highlighting the importance of the work of women’s organizations and the actions of the network of inter-religious denominations in supporting vulnerable populations.  She also noted the need for church practices to provide emergency aid, without forgetting the role of denunciations and advocacy, given the fragility of Brazilian public policies.

Romi Bencke, from CONIC, provided clarifications about the systems that the pandemic has opened up, once and for all: necro-theology, necro-politics and necro-economics.

“The pandemic leads us to reflect on the context in which we live.  We cannot talk of faith without talking of the scenario in which we provide our testimonies and services.  Our theology needs to be extremely political, recovering what the essence is, which should be central to our diaconal action and practice, with the denunciation of social, racial, economic, gender and ecological inequalities, and pointing out possible prospects and solutions”, Roni stated.

The pastor noted how the sanitary crisis has raised a number of questions for ecumenical and political practice, and emphasized how ecumenical practice needs to be anti-imperialist, anti-racist, anti-exclusivist and anti-capitalist.  And to trust in heretical theology as a response to necro-theology.  “The challenges we have are in the practice of horizontality, lovingness, listening, reducing the economy, and plurality, unity in diversity”.

From Germany, Edgar Sanchez, of Bread for the World (BFW), an international cooperation agency that has historically supported CESE, made reference to the previous speeches, noting that the pandemic has revealed structural disparities, for example, in terms of equity and justice.

“The virus is being used as an argument to impose restrictions and violence (physical and psychological). In this sense, BFW is very aware of the need to make and assert critical readings of policies to respond to the pandemic globally.  Many countries are using COVID-19 to shift the historical priorities of a social and public agenda, of structural justice, to policies that deny the pandemic or expose groups of vulnerable people, leaving them to suffer its consequences. BFW has pronounced on and exposed these violations to decision makers in Germany,” he noted.

Another representative of international cooperation present at the event was Anna Moser, who monitors projects in Brazil for Misereor (another historical CESE supporter) and who emphasized the importance of the work of Brazilian organizations and pastoral bodies to strengthen groups and provide emergency aid.  She also pointed out the importance of reflections made with partners in Brazil regarding alignment about the direction to follow in the coming months in the field of strengthening rights, not only emergency aid.  “It’s important to undertake advocacy for policies that have been so weakened”, she asserted.

She also provided information about the advocacy Misereor undertakes in Germany and with European governments.  “We have a great responsibility.  We are undertaking advocacy, for example, about the Free Trade Agreement between the European Union and Mercosur.  “In the way it is formulated at the moment, it’s an invitation to deforestation, to exports.  Chains of production need to respect human rights,” she declared, highlighting the importance of the further incorporation of ecological aspects into public policies post COVID-19.

CESE’s Deputy Director and Pastor for the Alliance of Baptists of Brazil (Aliança de Batistas do Brasil: ABB) Helivete Ribeiro, spoke about denunciations and particularly announcements, with examples of activities carried out by women’s groups in Rio de Janeiro, Minas Gerais and Pernambuco, connected to the CEBI (an organization of which Ribeiro is also a member).

These are woman who come together in grassroots communities in order to minimize the suffering of vulnerable people, including those who are most victimized by sexism and domestic violence.  “As long as we have strength, enlightenment from the divine Ruah, we cannot give up, or rest, because the struggle continues and is more extensive. Let us take a breath, embrace each other virtually, listening and diving into the sea of this network of solidarity, to strengthen ourselves and one another,” Ribeiro declared.

Ending the event, CESE’s Executive Director announced that this was the first in a series of transmissions.  The next events will debate themes related to the field of rights, with representations from grassroots groups and social organizations focused on gender, race, ethnicity and religious diversity.

“Ecumenism is a field that is also in dispute. We have seen the union of churches with campaigns to combat what fundamentalism considers the antichrist.  Therefore, as organizations and churches committed to a transformational diakonia and ecumenism for the defence of rights, our prophetic voice is doing something very important today, so that we can really make a difference.  In the end, our work is founded on prophetic faith, on dialogic faith, on the faith of solidarity and on the faith that resists.  We are the inheritors of an ecumenical movement that does not enter into a compact with the forces of death, because human life is not negotiable.  There are no disposable lives,” Sonia reasserted, finalizing the live streaming event to celebrate CESE’s 47th anniversary.

The roundtable conversation is available on our YouTube channel (in Portuguese) at:


Movements enliven faith and struggle!

In between the speeches, the event was enlivened with a breath of hope through statements from representatives of projects supported by CESE, such as the Guarani Kaiowa indigenous people from Mato Grosso do Sul; the Rural Women Workers’ Movement of the Northeast (Movimento da Mulher Trabalhadora Rural do Nordeste: MMTR-NE); the Pernambuco Women’s Forum; and the CAMAPET Cooperative (Bahia).

Present at the event, sending their greetings to the Ecumenical Coordination of Service (Coordenadoria Ecumênica de Serviço: CESE) and celebrating its 47th anniversary, were a number of groups, cooperation agencies, pastoral bodies, social and ecumenical movements and churches, including: CAIS; the Theologizing in the Serra Group (Grupo Teologando na Serra); Eliana Rolemberg – CESE’s former Director and representing the State Council for Development and Collaboration (Conselho Estadual de Fomento e Colaboração: CONFOCO) (Bahia); IPU from Muritiba (Bahia); Association of the Black Rural Quilombola Communities of Maranhão (Associação das Comunidades Negras Rurais Quilombolas do Maranhão: ACONERUQ) (Maranhão); ELO; GTP+ (Pernambuco); Centre for Alternative Technologies in Zona da Mata (Centro de Tecnologias Alternativas: CTA Zona da Mata) (Minas Gerais); Baptist Church of Alegria (Alagoas); Small-scale Farmers’ Movement (Movimento dos Pequenos Agricultores: MPA); Terra do Sol Training Centre; ABB; Dom José Brandão de Castro Centre; Pastoral Land Commission (Comissão Pastoral da Terra: CPT); HEKS EPER; Salvador Presbytery of the IPU; Migrant Support Centre and Pastoral (Centro de apoio e pastoral do Migrante: CAMI); Process of Networking and Dialogue (Processo de Articulação e Diálogo: PAD); CEBI-Mato Grosso do Sul; CEBI – Pernambuco; MUPPS/ CEBIC; Land Rights Ecumenical Commission (Comissão Ecumênica dos Direitos da Terra: CEDITER); CPT Bahia; Evangelical Front for the Rule of Law (Frente Evangélica pelo Estado de Direito); Presbytery of the city of Rio de Janeiro – IPU; Caririense Association for the Fight Against AIDS (Associação  Caririense de luta  contra a Aids) (Ceará); CEBI-Curitiba; Popular Forum for Nature (Fórum Popular da Natureza); Gambá; Latin American Council of Churches (Conselho Latino-Americano de Igrejas: CLAI) and CLAI Brazil; Ecumenical Movement of Londrina; Madre Maria Villac Charitable Association (Associação Beneficente Madre Maria Villac: ABEMAVI) (Ceará); Evangelical Church of the Lutheran Confession in Brazil (Igreja Evangélica de Confissão Luterana no Brasil: IECLB); Workers’ Pastoral (Pastoral Operária); Pastoral Commission for Fishing (Comissão Pastoral da Pesca: CPP); Centre for Assistance to Communities Affected by Dams (Núcleo de Assessoria às Comunidades Atingidas por Barragens: NACAB) (Minas Gerais); Movement of People Affected by Dams (Movimento dos Atingidos por Barragens: MAB); Community of Barrinhis – Caruaru; Commission for the Coordination and Mobilization of Residents of the Itapagipe Peninsula (Comissão de Articulação e Mobilização dos Moradores da Península de Itapagipe: CAMMPI); Community of Trindade; Diaconia/Recife; Black Pastoral Agents of Brazil (Agentes de Pastoral Negros do Brasil: APNs); Anglican Episcopal Church of Brazil (Igreja Episcopal Anglicana do Brasil: IEAB); Anglican Parish of the Good Shepherd (Paróquia  Anglicana  do Bom Pastor); the Xukuru People; Centre for Studies and Social Action (Centro de Estudos e Ação Social: CEAS); Adonai Baptist Church; Caritas Regional Northeast 3; National Caritas; CESE’s Board and partners from around Latin America.


Board Meeting

On Wednesday 17 June, CESE’s executive and institutional board meeting was held virtually.  The following items were on the agenda for discussion: presentation of the organization’s annual report; financial statements; project delivery in the first half of the year; emergency aid to combat COVID-19; and prospects for the second half of the year.

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