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Friday, October 24, 2014

World Meeting of Popular Movements: the excluded are the motor of social change

Vatican City, 2014 (VIS) – A press conference was held this morning in the Holy See Press Office to present the World Meeting of Popular Movements, to be held in Rome from 27 to 29 October. The event was organised by the Pontifical Council “Justice and Peace”, in collaboration with the Pontifical Academy for Social Sciences and the leaders of various movements.

The speakers at the conference were Cardinal Peter Kodwo Appiah Turkson, president of “Justice and Peace”, Archbishop Marcelo Sanchez Sorondo, chancellor of the Pontifical Academy for Social Sciences, and Juan Grabois, head of the Confederation of Workers of the Popular Economy, dedicated principally to organisations and movements for the excluded and marginalised.

Grabois knew Pope Francis when he was Archbishop of Buenos Aires, and emphasised that the then-Cardinal Bergoglio sympathised with the struggle of excluded workers in very difficult moments, and accompanied them in the work of assisting the cartoneros, peasants, those forced to live on the streets and, in general, the heirs of a crisis brought on by neoliberal capitalism. “Francis summons us again today, from a universal perspective; he calls to the poor, organised in thousands of popular movements, to fight, without arrogance but with courage, without violence but with tenacity, for this dignity that has been taken from us, and for social justice”.

“Our encounter responds mainly to concrete and simple objectives we share and want to pass on to our children and grandchildren, but that are increasingly harder for the popular majority to reach: land, housing and work”, he continued, also expressing the need to promote the organisation of the poor “to construct from grass-roots level a human alternative to this exclusionary globalisation that has robbed us of our sacred rights to housing, work, land, the environment and peace”.

The World Meeting of Popular Movements will be attended by the social leaders of the five continents, representing organisations of increasingly excluded social sectors: workers in precarious employment conditions; migrants; temporary workers; the unemployed and those those who are self-employed, without legal protection, labour rights or union recognition; peasants; the landless; indigenous peoples and those at risk of expulsion from the fields as a result of agricultural speculation and violence; and those who live in the peripheries and in temporary settlements, often migrants and displaced peoples, who are marginalised, forgotten, and without adequate urban infrastructure. Alongside them there are trades unions and social, charitable and human rights organisations, who have demonstrated their closeness to these movements and who, it has been suggested, might accompany them, respecting the role of grass-roots movements.

“The aims of the meeting include sharing Pope Francis' thought on social matters, debating the causes of growing social inequality and the increase in exclusion throughout the world, reflecting on the organisational experiences of popular movements and the resolution of problems regarding land, housing and work, evaluating the role of movements in the processes of peace-building and care for the environment, especially in regions affected by conflicts and disputes over natural resources, discussing the relationship between popular movements and the Church, and how to go ahead in the creation of joint and permanent collaboration”.

Grabois emphasised the importance of the two acts with which the meeting will conclude: the publication of a final declaration with the widest consensus possible, and the constitution of a Council of Popular Movements which will work to establish possible cases of global level collaboration.

Cardinal Turkson stated that it was essential for both the Church and the world to “listen to the cry for justice” from the excluded; “not only to the sufferings, but also to the expectations, hopes and proposals which the marginalised themselves have. They must be protagonists of their own lives, and not simply passive recipients of the charity or plans of others. They must be protagonists of the needed economic and social, political and cultural changes. ... The Church wants to make its own the needs and aspirations of the popular movements, and to join with those who, by means of different initiatives, are making every effort to stimulate social change towards a more just world”.

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