My name is Paul Martin. I was born in Liverpool, England, and joined the Jesuits there in 1984. I first came to Guyana in South America in 1989 to do my Regency (full-time apostolic ministry between Philosophy and Theology studies). After four challenging but very happy years of theology in Brazil, I returned to Guyana in 1995 to begin working with the indigenous people there. This is the work I have been engaged in up until now.
Just as the indigenous people of the world are a small and often poorly understood group within the modern globalised world, so Jesuits working with them are few in number and often encounter difficulties explaining, even to fellow Jesuits, the point of this work. I was delighted to accept the suggestion of my Regional Superior to attend the World Social Forum in Brazil and the Pre-Forum organised by the Amazonian Region of the Society of Jesus. This was an excellent opportunity to renew contact with others who are engaged in similar work, and at the same time to meet many whose work is very different, yet whose desire to see a world in which all have access to the necessities of life is the same.
The atmosphere both at the Pre-Forum and the Forum itself has been one of joyful celebration of life built on a sincere desire to act justly, valuing the unique contribution of each individual. Frei Betto put it so well when he said that Christian faith is a call to share in the faith of Jesus; to understand ourselves and our lives in the light of our relationship with the Father and to allow this understanding to determine the way we act.
If I were to offer one criticism it would be to say that in emphasising the call to share the faith of Jesus and act as he acted we cannot ignore the cross. If we wish to model our lives on the life of Jesus we need to hear his warning that “anyone who wants to be a follower of mine, must take up his cross and follow me.” Just as those who held power at the time of Jesus chose to use that power to silence him, so those who hold power in today’s world will use that power to silence the voice of those who call for a different world. Christians must therefore also have faith in Christ. That is to say we are called to believe that the cross is not the final word. Rather Christ who was crucified is Risen. He does not rise to prove his enemies wrong – if that were the case we would be reading of his appearances to Pilate, to Caiaphas, to those who called on him to come down from the cross. Rather, he rises to prove his friends right – to confirm those who followed him in the faith that they shared with him.
The new world begins not when the powerful are overthrown but when those whom they seek to dominate no longer allow fear to control their lives but live in the freedom of the children of God. That is a different world, one that is, in one sense, already here, and in another, will always be a dream for tomorrow.
The World Social Forum could so easily become either a protest rally dominated by passionate speeches denouncing the evils of the world – or a carnival in which people for a while forget the harsh realities of life in a wild party of music and dance. Yet, in the spirit of the Pre-Forum, it could also be a joyful celebration of how the world could be with a commitment to the struggle that it will take to make it so.
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