Mumbai: 100,000 attend forum for the world's poor

 Many Christian agencies joined over a hundred thousand people in Mumbai, India, at the weekend for the World Social Forum, the annual event for social and human rights activists worldwide. The Forum brought together social movements, civil society organisations, networks and trade unions from every continent under the slogan 'Another World is Possible.' It provides a unique occasion for exchanging experiences, building alliances and developing alternatives for people-centred development and democracy. An incredible menu of seminars, workshops, rallies, marches, press conferences and meetings tackled five broad themes: Imperialistic Globalisation; Casteism, Racism, Exclusion and Discrimination; Militarism and Peace; Patriarchy; and Communalism. Yesterday, the Jesuit Social Forum reported: "the official programme listed 319 venues, without counting the cultural events, where a meeting, big or small was scheduled to take place. Sixteen of these events, including the most prestigious conferences, were organised by the WSF or other internationally recognised bodies; 108 were promoted by Indian or South Asian organisations, 91 by international organisations belonging to different countries; and finally 48 were promoted by organisations whose national identity was not very clear to us." Roswita Cooper, one of three members of the World Christian Life Community participating in the Jesuit international delegation, writes: " 'I am because we are, and we are because I am' - these words spoken by an African speaker in one seminar I attended express well what I feel in the WSF. By the second day of the WSF I had completely lost my fear of the crowds and I am now enjoying the company of these wonderful people from all over the world. The WSF will not change the world quickly, but it will bring about changes in its participants. What touches me most and gives me hope is the strong participation of the very poor: Dalits and Adivasis. My hope and my wish is to share these experiences with as many as possible from my companions in the WCLC, so that we grow in awareness and commitment to the cause of working together for a better world." Kranti, 31, a Dalit who sweeps the streets of a village in Madhya Pradesh said: "Here I feel solidarity, dignity, and I see that there are many like me engaged in the struggle. I believe that the future will not be the same for my children." Prabhu, 29, a small farmer from Karnataka said: "I have come to complain because the government is unjust with us. We do not have any kind of social facilities, and only the rich improve their lives. I have seen here that other small farmers face the same difficulties. I feel inspired to see many social movements from all over the world struggling against injustice." Sukauzi, 28, a small farmer from Jharkhand said: "I am not sure what this WSF is all about but it defends the workers. I have not been able to attend any seminar or workshop because I speak neither Hindi nor English, but I am quite happy. I have walked along the lanes of this complex looking at the marches of various groups and talking to them". Manju, 35, a Dalit woman from Rajasthan, said: "I have come because I am against globalisation. Foreign companies come to India and our small factories close down and unemployment increases. People from all over the world have come here to voice their problems. This helps me to understand what others are suffering. Though I did not know anybody else from outside my group, I have not felt alone. It is wonderful to see people from all over the world raise their voices to shout that another world is possible. Before coming here I thought that nobody cared for the Dalits. Now I believe that there are some people for whom we are important." Source: Jesuit Social Forum/Christian Aid

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