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Brazilian Dialogue

Struggle for land distribution ongoing

I've just returned from a three-week visit to Rhineland/Westphalia. I want partly to thank the many benefactors there who have participated in land reform and street-children projects in Brazil. But I went, too, to answer invitations to speak on justice issues in schools, to women's groups and a variety of other audiences.

Such justice education work is most necessary on a volunteer level now that government cutbacks to non-governmental organizations have resulted in their eliminating paid education positions.

Why is justice education important? Because justice is not an optional part of our faith, but is its very essence. And most of us really do want to change unjust events and trends when we become aware of them.

For example, the Oct. 23 newscasts on both radio and TV told of the growing gulf between rich and poor in Canada. The graphically illustrated statistics were shocking. Even Paul Martin felt compelled to comment, saying, "we're trying," to reporters asking about this report. Trying to bridge the gulf, that is.

But the spread is galloping out of control. Where 20 years ago the richest 10 percent of our population "earned" some 30 times what the poorest 10 per cent earned, now it is some 300 times as much.

I read in a diocesan paper in Germany that that country's development aid to poor countries has dropped to less than .03 per cent. Precisely Canada's position. And yet both countries pledged some years ago to boost their giving to .07 per cent. Is that the kind of thing motivating the G-8 countries to meet annually? Deciding how they can best keep the interest on "debt" flowing from Third World countries, plus keep their lucrative trade advantages, without their giving back one penny more than is absolutely necessary to keep the system going?

We have to face it: there is sin in this system, lots of it. The poor nations give us $100 in return for every one dollar we send them. And on top of economic oppression we add social and racial oppression.

"How come those poor people are allowed to have children?" one Grade 8 student demanded.

The question was welcome as this is a popular First-World view and needs to be addressed.

"Poor people have as much right to have children as do rich people," I began. "Restricting that right is what we do with animals. Do we really want to dehumanize the poor like this, in addition to dehumanization their poverty has already done to them? And anyway, though a slum may lead you to say "over-population," remember that, at least in Brazil, the hinterland is rapidly emptying and that's where the people were and still ought to be if land were fairly distributed." We can't change the world unless we change minds! The educational challenge remains.

Al Gerwing