Christmas, hungry or not hungry?

Image: Elyeser Szturm
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By JUACY DA SILVA*

We are also motivated to these merely welfare actions, even if only for a day, imagining that in this way, we will be collaborating to end hunger in the world

Throughout each year, repeating itself for decades or even centuries, in almost all countries around the world, people are called, convoked, motivated to celebrate different “commemorative” dates, when, they should stop a little and reflect, more deeply, what is the real meaning of such commemorations.

We can mention, just by way of example, some of these dates or days that refer us to some concrete aspects of our reality: Earth Day (is it that we are taking due care of our planet, with mother nature that is being rapidly degraded ?); Women's Day (which has suffered so much violence, exclusion and discrimination in all countries); Children's Day (do we really care about the fate and future of children who roam, are abused, starve in the midst of conflicts, whether family or wars? ; Mother's and Father's Day (do we really value, like do our mothers and fathers deserve or do we abandon them, especially at the end of their lives?); Day of the Person with Disabilities (do we carry out actions so that these people can live in an inclusive society with dignity?); Migrant Day ( Are we aware of the drama experienced by millions of people, especially children and the elderly who are fleeing poverty, hunger, violence, conflicts and wars, in search of new opportunities in life?); Day of the Poor (does it happen that do we realize that in fact billions of people live in poverty and extreme poverty, without the slightest dignity that human beings should have?)? of elderly people is increasing rapidly and that the vast majority of these people suffer discrimination, prejudice, abandonment, mistreatment and experience hunger, misery and poverty?), Indigenous Day (how does our country and others around the world treat their original populations , with respect and dignity or destroying their cultures and decimating them with violence?), Workers' Day (do we know that slave, semi-slave work still exists or that the wages that the vast majority of workers receive are not enough to have a dignified life? World peace day (do we realize that armed conflicts and wars (true human stupidity) have claimed lives and imposed suffering on tens of millions of people and are still present in several countries?)

These are just a few dates that should lead us to reflect on the reality that surrounds us, whether our family, our community, including our faith community (our church or religion), our city, our state, our country. , well, the whole world?

Regrettably, all of these dates, including Christmas, were gradually and increasingly continue to be appropriated by the capitalist spirit, as special dates to “leverage” sales, profits, income accumulation, wealth in a few hands and, massifying, alienating people from the concreteness of day-to-day reality, acting as a true anesthetic in the individual and collective conscience.

In the collective imagination, on the occasion of these dates, it seems that everything is a party, that the world, all the people were living in a large amusement park, with its carousels, its ferris wheels, its lights, lots of music, abundant food and joy and all people always happy.

This also happens with Christmas, which refers us to the incarnate God, to the “Child” Jesus, to the Messiah so long awaited by the prophets of the Old Testament, to the Christ who freed humanity from its sins, to the Christ who preached love and never hatred and the violence; to Christ who was not born in a luxurious mansion, a luxurious maternity hospital or a five-star hotel, a “resort” where only millionaires or billionaires can attend and afford to indulge their momentary pleasures; but yes, He came into the world in the form of a family of poor migrants, without the minimum economic and financial conditions to be accommodated with dignity, without any maternal assistance so that Our Lady could give birth to this child, this boy who, throughout of his adult life, even preaching only love ended up being condemned, unjustly arrested, tortured and crucified, but that would change the course of history and humanity; he was born in a stable, that is, in the corner of a corral, among the animals, certainly not a welcoming place, but which is still at the center of human history.

However, the figure of this humble and liberating Christ, who lived and lived with the poor, the excluded, the prostitutes, the sick, the abused and the oppressed, gave way to Santa Claus, a friendly old man who very skilfully became the central figure of great Christmas marketer, used in the 'best possible way' and with all the propaganda and persuasion techniques leveraging commercialism, consumerism, materialism, waste (mainly food) and alienation on the part of people who at most think that “outside” of our homes, of our gated communities, of high standard, of luxurious apartments, which not only momentarily, but throughout the year and years, simply ignore that there are more than 2,3 billion people in the world living in poverty, of whom almost a billion are in extreme poverty and literally starving, not just on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, but throughout the 365 days of each year, over decades, centuries.

The Catholic Church through Caritas International and in Brazil, the CNBB through the hands of Caritas Nacional and its representations in Archdioceses, Dioceses and Parishes, in the same way that practically all other Churches, Religions, sects or philosophies and non-governmental, philanthropic organizations have called attention to the fact that millions of people in Brazil in this year 2022 will have nothing to eat, will not celebrate Christmas, there are more than 33 million who are suffering the pain of hunger on a daily basis; more than 120 million people living in poverty, millions of unemployed, millions of underemployed, millions of hungry children, hundreds of thousands of people who do not have a roof over which to live with dignity and who make streets, viaducts and squares, marquises their “homes”, living in complete abandonment and in the most abject condition, far from what human dignity demands.

Usually at this time of Christmas, we are awakened to offer some collaboration aimed at making the lives of these people, even if it is for just one day or one night, for just a small portion of this great mass of poor, hungry and miserable people who live almost occultly in our country or that as “good Christians”, we pretend not to see and continue to ignore their existence throughout the year, sometimes very close to us, like the figure of Lazarus at the rich man's door.

In fact, it's like what Christ himself refers to when he talks about the "crumbs" that fall from the table of the powerful, to feed the animals, we are also motivated to these purely welfare actions, even if only for a day, imagining that like this, we will be collaborating to end hunger in the world, in our country or sometimes close to our homes. Big mistake.

Caritas Brasileira/Nacional has for years been raising the question of charity as a transforming force in our relationships in society and, historically, the Catholic Church, in the same way that practically all other Churches and Religions usually carry out a great assistance work, sometimes even trying to replace the functions of public institutions, of the different levels of government or of the State (broad sense of the terms and not of geographic units).

Proof of this is the Fraternity Campaign, which is held every year and, periodically, does so in the ecumenical scope, having as themes various aspects of the socio-environmental reality in Brazil, including hunger, as happened in 1985 and, again, in this new year 2023, which is approaching, when the theme will be Fraternity and Hunger.

Well, Caritas, after years of analyzing the national reality, has sought to identify the causes of poverty, hunger and misery and, thus, not only promote assistance or welfare actions, but go deeper into these issues.

In doing so, it developed a methodology that establishes three levels: charitable assistance, which aims to “give the fish”, that is, to immediately assist those who are hungry, thirsty or in extreme poverty. This category includes all actions with different nomenclatures, such as, for example, “Christmas without hunger”, the mere distribution of a small “Christmas dinner”, some grocery bags or marmitex, but which end soon after and people they get hungry again.

The second level is promotional charity, which seeks to “teach how to fish”, that is, instead of mere assistance, it seeks to offer conditions so that the poor, the miserable, the hungry can qualify to “compete” in the job market, (employment and income programs), even knowing that unemployment and underemployment are mechanisms used by the capitalist system to have the so-called “reserve labor force”, which helps to keep wages always degraded, pushing the mass of workers for the penury in which they live.

Finally, the third level is liberating charity, which means “fishing together”, that is, fighting and walking, as Jesus did, alongside the poor, excluded, hungry, miserable, wronged to help awaken their conscience and realize that something is wrong with the societies in which they live or merely survive, understand the true causes of poverty, misery, hunger, violence, prejudice, racial discrimination, social, political, economic and cultural exclusion and realize that such ills can only be truly addressed through public, participatory, transparent and democratically established policies that promote inclusion, dignity, social justice, environmental justice, racial and gender justice and a society with equity and love.

Pope Francis has insisted in several of his pronouncements and texts (Encyclicals) regarding the nature of welfare, always emphasizing that this way of acting serves much more to ease our consciences in relation to all the problems mentioned in this reflection and does not promote structural changes. that really transform this reality.

For the Supreme Pontiff, the only way to put an end to these ills once and for all is through decent work, with fair wages, dignified conditions and guarantees of progress and well-being for all. This can be seen, for example, when he emphasizes his three “Ts”: land, roof and work.

Among his proposals are those of “reinforcing” economic models, hence his proposal of new paradigms contained in the Economy of Francisco and Clara; in the Global Compact for Education, in Laudato Si regarding better care for our Common Home (planet earth) and Integral Ecology; in the Apostolic Exhortation “Querida Amazonia”, in the Encyclical Brothers All, where he even questions the concentration of income, assets and wealth, all of this, in the context of the Social Doctrine of the Church.

Only in this way, we will be able, one day, who knows, to have, in fact, not just a Christmas without hunger, but a world without poverty, without hunger and without misery throughout the year and every year!

But this will only come when, in fact, we are capable of uniting our faith with our socio-transformative actions, in the context of new paradigms, including participating and practicing true liberating charity and not just charity and manipulative charity, which only reinforces the call “status quo” and does not transform the structures that generate all these social, economic and political ills.

I believe this should be a way for us to reflect more deeply and critically on the true nature and meaning of Christmas, as Jesus said shortly before his ordeal, “This is my commandment: Love one another as I love you. loved" and "This I command/command you, that you love one another". Gospel of Saint John, 15:12 and 17.

*Juacy daSilva is a retired full professor of sociology at UFMT.

 


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