By Bunita Kohler (on behalf of SA SDI Alliance)
From 27 – 29 October 2014 the World Meeting of Popular Movements was held in Rome. It was initiated by the Pontifical Council of Justice and Peace together with the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences along with a number of social movements.
The meeting was largely aimed at organisations and movements of excluded and marginalised communities. The event brought together over one hundred delegates from different backgrounds. Delegates represented precarious workers, temporary workers, migrant workers, the landless, homeless and people most at risk. Many bishops and other church workers also participated in the event.
The theme of the meeting was defined as: Terra, Domus and Labor (Land, Housing and Labour). Shack/Slum Dwellers International (SDI) was among those invited and was privileged to send ten delegates to the event.
The first day of the conference focused on popular movements sharing their realities, struggles and thoughts on the lack of decent work opportunities , decent shelter and adequate land. On Day 2 Pope Francis addressed the conference and thanked everyone for accepting the invitation to discuss serious social issues. He described the meeting of popular movements as a positive sign, a sign that the poor are no longer satisfied with mere promises.
“The poor are no longer waiting, they are organized. They put solidarity into action. Solidarity is not just a few sporadic acts of generosity. It means struggling against the structural causes of inequality”.
”You smell of your neighbourhoods and you are a gale of hope for your communities. Love of the poor is at the heart of the Gospel and the social teaching of the church. God entrusted land to humans to protect and cultivate the land. Land reform he said is not just a necessity but a moral obligation. Every family should have a home. We must build neighbourhoods and live together with our neighbours.The lack of job opportunities is an outcome of a social option that considers profit more than human beings, a system that views people as disposable objects which demonstrates the worst form of exploitation and a “waste culture”.What we see today is a “Globalisation of indifference” – the world has become an orphan as God has been forgotten.”
The Pope called for a revolutionary programme and a social structure that once again put people at the centre.
Pope Francis was positive that Popular Movements could be the revolutionary force to create a new order and give new energies to society. Popular movements should encourage new forms of participation and leadership that would include rather than exclude. They should create leaders that are subservient and humble and that gives space to the youth, a leadership that is noble and gentle and leaders who are truthful and who will lead by example.
In his final remarks to the delegation the Pope committed to walk side by side with the Popular Movements.
“My wish”, he said, “Is to accompany you on your journey. We will make our way together”
In summary, day two was indeed a historic and emotional day for all the delegates. The Pope treated us like brothers and sisters, was cheerful and very clearly expressed his beliefs and views on the disorder that reigns in our world today. He expressed solidarity with the causes of TERRA, DOMUS and LABOR. He said that the poor needed to be the protagonists, not the “ones being helped”. The poor are able to help themselves when they defend their right to land, housing and jobs.
Day two was a day that spoke to the hearts and minds of us all, an emotional time in which the Pope entered into our “homes”. We experienced the Pope speak from the heart and we witnessed his respect for human life and his deep love and respect for human beings.
The third and final day was devoted to concrete commitments for continued interaction among the popular movements and their collaboration with the church. The discussions on day three focused on finding solutions and alternatives to ensure a house for everyone, land for everyone and a job for everyone.
For our movement, Shack Dwellers International, this was an opportune moment to build links, to create greater solidarity and to commit to on-going coordination with other landless, homeless and jobless movements in order to strengthen the voice of the poor internationally.