Text - Julian Filochowski on 'A theology of protest in a globalised world'

 This is an edited version of the speech made by Julian Filochowski as he stood down as Director of CAFOD after 21 years, delivered on 11 July 2003 to the 25th annual conference of the National Justice and Peace Network in Swanwick. The church is a global people, united in sacrament and solidarity, and we are all companions on a journey, following the Lord. Let us look at the word, "companions". If we split it open, we have "com" and "panis" - people with whom we break and share bread - companions on the journey. Jesus was a bread-breaker and bread-sharer. You could say we are a bread-breaking, justice-seeking people, striving to follow the Lord in a globalised and globalising world, in a divided and broken world. We seek to witness to this in our prayer, our work, our campaigning, our protests, our advocacy, our lifestyles and, indeed, in our whole lives. The term globalisation is complex and ambiguous. On the one hand, globalisation is about global interconnectedness with all the resonances of community. The networking of movements - Justice and Peace, peoples' organisations, faith communities, and development agencies - represent the emergence of a global citizenry responding to global threats, fostering a global ethic and protecting our common home, Planet Earth. On the other, globalisation is about global economic liberalisation, with the harsher resonances of markets and profit. We are globalised whether we like it or not and, in the end, anti-globalisation resistance is useless. Yet, globalisation is not like the weather; it can be and must be shaped and regulated, but, towards what? Towards the global common good. Pope John Paul II would say, towards "the civilisation of love". We must move away from the global common bad, which is the suffering of the poor alongside the whimsical and grotesque excesses of the wealthy. The income of the richest one per cent in our world is equal to the combined income of the poorest 57 percent, and the gap is getting wider. That is the global common bad - the growth of that inequity. The 1990s was the first decade of the new globalisation. It culminated, in the jubilee year, with a global charter, the millennium development goals. This comprised eight major promises and figured 18 targets relating to child mortality, maternal mortality, education, gender equality, HIV/AIDS, the care of the environment, and the provision of water. The key goal was that by 2015 we would halve the percentage of people on our planet living in absolute poverty on less than a dollar a day (65p). It is a contemporary statement in the secular world of the global common good. But, sadly, these commitments were completely absent from the globalisation processes of the last decade. Today, there is online education, with the prospect of a global open university, and instant communications which inter alia protect and promote human rights and gender equality across great political and cultural divides. And yet, 72 per cent of internet users live in the rich countries, home to only 14 per cent of the world's population. A computer costs a Zambian teacher four years' salary, whereas it costs a British teacher less than a month's salary. We're bothered about computer literacy but 850 million people in our world today cannot read or write their own name. The 1990s saw the percentage of people living in absolute poverty in East Asia and the Pacific halved - a fantastic achievement. However, in Africa, 58 million people more were living on less than a dollar a day in the year 2000 than in 1990. So we see there are winners and losers of globalisation. What does it mean to live on a dollar a day? In Zambia, I saw that it can mean children taking it in turns to eat, and perhaps eating only five times a week. In the shanty towns of Nairobi or Bujumbura you see people living in squalor, mud and stench that would make you vomit. Their dignity is taken away. The World Bank says: "the distribution of the gains of globalisation has been extraordinarily unequal" - in other words, they have been a downright human disgrace and catastrophe. The United Nations Development Programme has said the past decade was marked by an increasing concentration of income, resources and wealth amongst peoples, corporations and countries. Jesuit Jon Sobrino says that 1.2 billion people in 2003 seeking to live on less than a dollar a day is a "macro-blasphemy". He and other Latin American theologians speak of crucified peoples. To be crucified is not simply to die but to be put to death. There are victims and there are executioners and there is very grave sin. The list of structures of injustice that crucify people is a long one - the arms trade, corruption, international debt, unfair trade and many, many more. A globe is beautiful, it's round, it's equal, it's special, but globalisation today, as it is experienced by the poor, is ugly. The greatest harm that the word "globalisation" does is to delude us with a make believe pseudo unity and universality of humankind, which is epitomised in the "global village" phrase. Africans say, "no". They had globalisation with the slave trade; they had it again with colonialism; now they are on stage three. It's not "global village," they say, but rather "global pillage". Globalisation tantalisingly promises unity, but it lacks justice. It's a counterfeit unity, with the single-minded end being the pursuit of economic opportunities, the maximisation of profit and the accumulation of wealth. This unity of the "haves" is centripetal, moving inexorably from the periphery to the centre. In this model, the "have nots" are marginalised and redundant. Authentic unity and universality of the human family comes with a centrifugal movement, from the centre to the periphery, and so inclusive. The challenge, is not whether globalisation is good or bad but how we humanise it and make it inclusive. To redeem it, we have to put the cause of the crucified peoples at the centre. We must make a commitment to the global common good, to human development for every person. A strategy and a theology of protest means that we have to begin with our experience of the poor and our option for the poor. We have to work WITH globalisation, AGAINST globalisation and TOWARDS globalisation. WITH globalisation - in the sense of using the forces that can benefit humanity - particularly the internet and the web, because information has become a basic human need. Schools and universities in the south, peoples' information centres, civil society organisations all need to be wired up to this global network. But working AGAINST globalisation, by doing a critical analysis to expose its anti-developmental, and de-humanising consequences, to challenge the orthodoxies of the economic globalisation bandwagon. That is the act of denouncing. But the prophet also announces. We have to work TOWARDS globalisation by announcing our alternatives - our reforms. Now to the theological side of protest. If we are a bread-breaking and justice-seeking people then we are also a people of hope. Protest has to be driven by hope and not by negativity. Even if we are saying something is wrong, we have to be saying it because of our profound conviction that human persons can be different, that justice is possible. In other words, it is hope as passion for the possible that is the grounds of protest. These are seven characteristics of legitimate and effective protest, identified by CAFOD over the years. First, protest is informed by the voices of those who suffer; second, it is underpinned by analysis that provides an accurate diagnosis and effective solutions; third, protest is participatory; fourth, protest is non-violent for protest that harms lives is not legitimate; fifth, consistency and coherence, that is protest should addresses our personal lifestyle and responsibilities as well as the larger issues; sixth, protest is truthful when it unmasks sinful structures and macro-economic orthodoxies; and, finally, protest should leave space for the spiritual and religious. I have just returned from an international Caritas congress in Rome with the theme - "Globalising Solidarity". Delegates came from 198 countries. It was an inspiring meeting - a microcosm of the church today - bread-breaking, justice-seeking church. Our experience of protest was discussed, particularly the Jubilee 2000 debt campaign, which, I believe, changed the world. As a gathering we were not intimidated or overwhelmed by globalisation. We have a cosmic God who cannot be absorbed by globalisation. In campaigning, advocacy and protest we can change our world; another world is possible. This new world will be one where the crucified peoples are taken down from the cross and nobody put up in their place. Complete text can be found at: www.cafod.org.uk

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