Ecumenical Panel “Churches In Resistance to the Scenario of Coups In Latin America” inspires faith in World Social Forum Audience

The theatre of the Bahia Social Institute (Instituto Social da Bahia: ISBA) filled up for the Ecumenical Panel “Churches in resistance to the scenario of coups in Latin America” on the morning of 15 March in Ondina, Salvador (Bahia). The activity was organized by  CESE, Caritas Brasilia, the Indigenous Missionary Council (Conselho Indigenista Missionário: CIMI), the Bahia Ecumenical Council of Christian Churches (Conselho Ecumênico Baiano de Igrejas Cristãs: CEBIC) and the Pastoral Land Commission (Comissão Pastoral da Terra: CPT).

Based on a critical reading, the aim of the agenda was to inspire faith and remain open to the call of hope that resists (even in difficult times), as well as to echo the shouts of all the peoples and all the individuals massacred across the continent: the indigenous, quilombolas, peasants and young people from peripheral areas.

As churches, as organizations inspired by faith, as pastorals, what is our shout of resistance, given the scenario of coups we are experiencing in Latin America?  What is the very reason for our faith?  What is our shout of prophetic resistance?

Before beginning the cycle of responses from the invited panel, a homage was held for city councillor and activist Marielle Franco.  The PSOL councillor was executed on the night of 14 March in the centre of Rio de Janeiro.  “It is the divinity in which we believe, with diverse names and faces, which inspires us to go forward.  Each drop of blood spilled in our faith causes hope for resistance to blossom,” stated Lutheran pastor Cibele Kuss, from the Ecumenical Forum of Brazil.

“We are living in a time of madness and not of reason, as Chief Babau has reminded us.  We are at a time when we need to create solidarity”, declared Cibele Kuss. “God and the devil continue together in the work of colonization.  Colonization reigns today in different clothes and voices,” she asserted, noting that in Mato Grosso do Sul alone, 36 churches work in communities with the aim of converting indigenous peoples.  The Lutheran pastor also emphasized that, last year, the Ecumenical Forum of Brazil systematized a thousand reports of religious intolerance.

Philosopher and Catholic theologian Junior Aquino reflected on the activities of the social pastorals in strengthening grassroots organizations.  “We experience our spirituality by bringing down fences, conquering territories, fighting for rights.  Spirituality is experienced daily in the struggles for justice, in daily relationships,” asserted Aquino.

An approach to the advance of conservative thinking and the right in Latin America was outlined by Diego Irarrasaval, a Chilean theologian from the World Forum on Theology and Liberation.  “In many dialogues with indigenous communities, I have seen an analogy with bees, the capacity which they have to follow, contributing little by little to large collective works.  And I see that many indigenous peoples, mixed race and Afro-descendant people could recognize themselves as bees, who take the beauty of hope from one flower to another, who are carriers of beauty.  And the spirit that we call Jesus, brother, this spirit is in the ants and in the bees”, the Chilean theologian said, inspiring the audience.

“Coups are not only made with shots and blows.  These coups are regimented through discourse” warned Odja Barros, a pastor from the Alliance of Baptists of Brazil (Aliança de Batistas do Brasil: ABB), pointing out that some of the texts that feed the conservative discourse are sacred scripture.  “We need to appropriate these disputed arenas, religious discourse is a weapon across the whole of Latin America.  Our role is to confront this, to listen to the prophecy of feminist women, to the church outside the church”.

Referring to Odja’s speech “to be the church outside the churches” is one form of prophetic action suggested by writer, theologian and Benedictine monk, Marcelo Barros. “Odja spoke of the deconstruction of Christianity.  We talk and talk, but we live with this very easily and we end up conniving with it.  Diplomacy is neither faith nor ecumenism.  Ecumenism is assuming our identity and being capable of living with difference.  I am calling for us to be more prophetic, not to connive with clericalism and authoritarianism.  The church cannot be only a democracy, it has to be a communion.  This dimension of love, we must not be ashamed to witness”.  He pointed out some perspectives for the current situation.  “All violent political coups can only be conquered through much greater love”, Marcelo Barros added.


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