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Brazilian Dialogue

World Forums a freeing opportunity to speak openly about injustices

Vando (Valdenicio Santos de Oliveira), the co-ordinator of one of our partner NGOs in Alagoas, attended the World Social Forum in Porto Alegre. Vando's group works in a favela in the shanty town suburb of Maceio, some 20 miles from the city and now containing 130,000 inhabitants. The favela where his group works is called Grotto of Joy, an echo of the biographical novel, City of Joy, a slum in Calcutta.

Porto Alegre in Rio Grande do Sul, southern Brazil, was the site of two world events this past January. First came the World Education Forum to hammer out a model of education making the value of the human person its goal and purpose.

Then, hard on its heels, came the World Social Forum. More than 120,000 persons from all over the world attended.

The WSF on these wonderful days of Jan. 23 - 28, was an image of God's kingdom realized already here on earth with all the planet's diverse races, cultures and religions united in the search for viable alternatives (i.e. to war, to globalization, to environmental devastation) for the world, a society in which all people would feel themselves to be the subjects of their own history.

The WSF was looking for ways out of the many evils created by unrestrained capitalism and by the fundamentalist donkey created by those who think that they are the owners of planet Earth. At the forum, voices were freed, voices that had been silenced by oppression, by political persecution, by cultural and religious discrimination. All participants experienced the joy of freely speaking their mind in public.

Young people too were there in great numbers. At their debates, their discussion centred on how to achieve universal peace in a world free of prejudices, repression and exclusion.

The 2004 World Social Forum will be held in India. India too will welcome "the world" seeking, in ever larger numbers, the harmony and respect among peoples necessary for our planet. We have to be tough, but without ever losing our capacity for tenderness.

Vando's group, Centre for Popular Education and Citizenship, has been working for a year now in Grotto of Joy, a slum of 10,000 in the shanty town of Benedito Bentes, 20 miles from Maceió. Until now they've conducted their work out of their shoes. In February they obtained a parcel of land and now they are hoping Rainbow of Hope for Children will help them build a community centre from which they can organize the favela to become a community of true citizens. Readers' comments are invited. -- AG

Valdenicio Santos de Oliveira