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Letter from CESE´s 2022 Assembly

“The City, a Fighting Ground”

“Shout it aloud, do not hold back. Raise your voice like a trumpet. Declare to my people their transgression and to the descendants of Jacob their sins. (Isaiah 58:1)

Gathered together in its assembly on 09 and 10 June 2022, the Ecumenical Coordination of Service (Coordenadoria Ecumênica de Serviço: CESE), with its associated churches, and alongside partners from ecumenical organizations, bodies that defend rights and social movements, publicly expresses its solidarity and recognizes the legitimacy of the struggles of the Alto da Conquista and Marielle Franco communities (Homeless Movement of Bahia  – Movimento Sem Teto da Bahia: MSTB) in Simões Filho, Bahia, and the Carlos Marighella community (Movement for the Struggle in the Neighbourhoods, Villages and Favelas – Movimento de Luta nos Bairros, Vilas e Favelas: MLB) in Salvador’s Historic Centre, Bahia.

The Alto da Conquista and Marielle Franco informal settlements were set up in 2007 and 2017 respectively, and house a total of 350 families, mostly black, including a significant number of women and young people, while the Carlos Marighella informal settlement was established in June 2021, in a building abandoned by the Bahia Water and Sanitation Company (Empresa Baiana de Águas e Saneamento: EMBASA), and currently houses 150 families, including many women, children, old people and people with disabilities and co-morbidities.

On walking into this “fighting ground” during visits to these communities, we witnessed the impact of the absence of public policies to guarantee decent housing, translated into a shortage of almost 6 million homes in Brazil, while thousands of public and private properties lie empty and fail to fulfil their social function.  We witnessed the suffering of those who live under the constant threat of eviction and various forms of violence, including violence perpetrated by the State itself, which should guarantee the right to the city to all.  We saw that the violation of this right principally affects the black population and women, deepening the structural and historical inequalities in Brazilian society.

We also saw signs of hope on this ground. The leadership and autonomy of community leaders and the fundamental role black women play on the frontline of the struggles.  We  highlight here: the resignification of the territories as arenas for resistance, identity, belonging and ancestry; the experiences of fertile gardens, popular education, health and food security, in particular during the pandemic; the importance of solidarity and networking; the active presence of young people in these arenas, which suggests the possibility of continuity and the training of new leaders in the fight for the right to housing.

As Christians, we are called on to focus our gaze and help shed light on invisibility, and to denounce racism, violence against women and other rights violations, to amplify the voices of resistance, to position ourselves in service so that everyone can have a dignified life.

At this time, our committed witness demands of us the determination to maintain the measure that has suspended evictions, particularly during the pandemic; we call on the public authorities to guarantee their commitment to the right to decent housing, as well as to the resolutions and guidelines of the Grassroots Conference for the Right to the City, held in São Paulo, between 03 and 05 June 2022.

May the Divine Breath continue to inspire us along the prophetic path, renewing in us the commitment to denounce injustice; the courage to fight alongside the impoverished and violated; and the love that lets us believe that a new world is possible, bringing us closer to the Kingdom of God.

49th Ordinary General Assembly of the Ecumenical Coordination of Service (Coordenadoria Ecumênica de Serviço: CESE)

Salvador, 10 June 2022