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Brazilian Dialogue

Letter from Brazil speaks of elections

In a letter received Feb. 7, Maria Jose Viana, formerly secretary of education for Alagoas and now a member of the state legislature, tells how Christians view the election of Lula to Brazil's presidency, and then sings her own personal Magnificat.

"We are overjoyed with our new president. He was born and grew up to maturity among our suffering people and today we celebrate the miracle of the Magnificat. Magnificat is Mary's song, and it's the song of the suffering, of the oppressed. God has taken the side of the poor. God is realizing a historic transformation, turning upside down the established social order -- those made rich by their economic power and those who are powerful through their political connections are routed, are falling from their high places.

"The poor, the excluded ones are freed, are strengthened, are victorious in their struggle. Now it is the people, the povo, who are assuming the direction of history in our country, and they will have influence throughout the world.

"Another victory was that of Ronaldo Lessa as governor in our state of Alagoas. He was opposed by Fernando Collor (president of Brazil, impeached in 1992), the candidate of the Alagoan oligarchy. We were fearful Collor would win but, God be thanked, Ronaldo Lessa is again our governor.

"Lessa is not wholly a transforming governor, but he does give some space to policies that benefit the people.

"My candidacy for a seat in the Alagoas legislature had almost as rocky a trajectory as Lula's, but elected I was, and I feel I have a mission to accomplish in this tumultuous Alagoas, so profoundly marked by violence, by corruption, by oppression, by oligarchic rule.

"The 'colonels' here waged a war of calumny and persecution against me. But again I can only cite the Magnificat: 'The Lord has done great things for me. Holy is his name.' We are truly seeing and feeling the signs of the downfall of the established order: 'The powerful are toppled from their thrones and the humble are raised up.'

"In addition to the fury of the 'colonels' and their hangers-on, I had an accident, a bone broken in one foot. The last two months of my campaign I spent in a wheelchair. Imagine criss-crossing the capital and the interior in a wheelchair!

"I believe my mandate as a state deputy is a mission, a chance to struggle for a society more just, more sisterly, with solidarity particularly on behalf of our children, our future.

"Each day of my mandate I will seek new space for democracy to grow, for the excluded to become included.

I send my greetings and an affectionate embrace to my many Canadian friends." -- Maria Jose Viana. (Maria Jose visited Alberta and Saskatchewan in 2001. I'm delighted to be able to publish here her own personal Magnificat.

Al Gerwing