Launch of 22nd Spring for Life Campaign: the pathways to democracy lead us to faith and justice

Guaranteed rights for black people. A socio-ecology that takes into account life on Earth without destroying the environment and the species that inhabit the biomes.  A trail of faith coupled with love and the fight for justice.  These are the pathways to “democracy without end”.  And the 22nd Spring for Life Campaign, launched on Tuesday 27 September at the Conceição da Praia Ceremonial Hall, is based on these three pillars.

The launch was run by CESE in partnership with the Advisory Service for Rural Grassroots Organizations and the Conceição da Praia Ceremonial Hall.

Under the umbrella theme “Walk with Faith along the pathways to Democracy,” activist Benilda Brito, theologian and philosopher Leonardo Boff and journalist Magali Cunha debated racism, affection, the environment, faith, what the churches did during the dictatorship and the importance of their role in the defence of rights, and how all this is linked to our fight to strengthen democracy, particularly now, at the political moment we are going through.

In her talk, Benilda linked the thinking of professor Renato Noguera, about the agriculture of affection, to that of Lélia Gonzalaz, about how this affects us as humans, in order to talk about racism. She explained that, just like seeds, affections need to be watered to grow and to harvest joy, love, etc.  But just like affection, racism also needs to be watered every day to grow. And it has been.

“Structural and institutional racism only exist because individuals exist.  And day-to-day racism is what affects us most as black people.  Because racism is violence.” She cited the example of the 26 September police operation in Complexo da Maré in Rio de Janeiro to illustrate her assertion and asked:  “How does this affect you? They closed 35 schools, 4 health centres, they arrived before 6am, without a police warrant. Five people died, many others were wounded. We need to talk about this. About the democracy of life.  There is no democracy with racism. Professor Florestan Fernandes has said: to find out if a country is democratic, take a look at black people’s living conditions.  Do young people thrive? Are there public policies? Is their access to rights the same? Everybody has a space to talk. What is yours? Is it of someone who is anti-racist?  Indignant about racism? This needs to affect you.”

Boff, socio-ecology and democracy based on the poor

In his talk, Leonardo Boff didn’t deviate from his pathway. He argued for the pursuit of democracy according to its oldest definition, based on everything that is of interest to the people. “Everything should be discussed and decided by the people themselves.  In the democracy we have, those who are there now represent the descendants of the Big House.  A plan for themselves. They’ve never had a plan that includes everybody.”

And he added, “Analysts of our democracy say, ‘If we compare our current democracy with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, with respect for our Constitution, with Social Justice, it’s quite farcical.’ That’s why the majority is marginalized.”

To illustrate a fairer democracy, Boff recalled discourse born in Latin America: Human Rights yes, but based on the last, not on the bourgeoisie. “Our basic right is the right to life, to the basic means of life – work, food, a home, health – it starts at the bottom. Involving all the others.   It starts in the family, in the community, in the unions, everywhere, until it reaches the state apparatus.”

He noted that he has been fighting for a socio-ecological democracy for more than 20 years: social, involving everybody; and the new citizens, which is nature, Mother Earth. “The UN has defined the rights of Mother Earth. We have to incorporate our brothers and sisters of the Earth. And then democracy will grow and enrich itself.  The day we discover that we only have one Common House, including nature, and we accept it as our brothers and sisters, then there will be planetary democracy.  This is our great dream.”

The evangelical churches and the military dictatorship 

The opening of the 22nd Spring for Life Campaign included the launch of the book “The evangelical churches during the military dictatorship: from abuses of power to Christian resistance.” Journalist Magali Cunha, one of the campaign invitees, is one of the book’s authors and talked about the writing process and what the work means. She cited recent attempts by the Federal Government to silence information gathered by the National Truth Commission (Comissão Nacional da Verdade: CNV).

“We need to ensure that the CNV’s report emerges from the website where it has been buried and that this documentation becomes available to people once again. And that there are reparation policies that make sure this memory doesn’t die.  We still have open wounds.  It’s no coincidence that the police went into Maré like that.  The dictatorship is still very much alive. And it’s because it hasn’t died that we have police who torture and kill, and we have politicians praising torturers.”

As she announced the launch of the book, Magali noted that, given the central role the evangelical churches have played since 2019, it’s very important to activate the memory that these same churches participate politically for the defence of Human Rights, putting life into the commitment to this defence.

She stressed that we need this memory so that there will no longer be a military dictatorship in Brazil. “It’s important that people learn from this memory, cultivate this memory, and ensure that the names of those who gave their lives for human rights in our country are also be praised.  To walk with faith along the pathways of democracy, in the Christian sense, is to take this memory forward.”

You can download the book (in Portuguese) here.


The 22nd Spring for Life Campaign

In unconditional alignment with the political moment occurring in Brazil, the theme chosen for this edition is “Walk with Faith along the pathways of Democracy.” This year, the campaign focuses on raising discussions about the constant attacks on Brazil’s democratic institutions, as well as the expansion of our coordination with our church bases through reflections about the social demands CESE experiences in its Diakonia for the defence of rights.

Sônia Mota, CESE’s Executive Director, reminded us that, for 22 of the 50 years CESE will commemorate next year, the organization has celebrated the arrival of spring with this campaign. “In the Spring for Life campaign we always raise an important theme so that we can reflect and hope. This year is even more significant for us. Faith has the incredible power to help us jump over great existential chasms.  We understand that there will only be democracy when everyone in the country has a dignified life.  This is the democracy we want,” she declared.

Bianca Daébs, CESE’s Advisor for Ecumenism and Inter-religious Dialogue, pointed out that the launch of the 2022 Spring for Life Campaign constituted a meeting between generations and trajectories that inspire us to hope for new times. “It was a marvellous and beautiful event.  Magali provided a summary of CESE’s history and of the Ecumenical movements’ commitment to Democracy and the Human Rights agenda. Benilda talked about this dialogue of faith, not only with African-origin religions but, above all, with the Lives of Black People. And Boff brought the historical and inspirational legacy of Liberation Theology and added commitment to environmental issues.  So, on the eve of an election so important for democracy in Brazil, we have created a historical landmark!”

You can see more photos of the event here

 Watch the full transmission of the launch of the 22nd Spring for Life Campaign