Friday, September 23, 2011

We need courage

Leonardo Boff's weekly columns are available in Spanish from Servicios Koinonia and in Portuguese on his blog. Some of his older columns are available in English at

by Leonardo Boff (English translation by Rebel Girl)

On September 14, one of the most important Brazilian religious figures of the twentieth century, Cardinal Paulo Evaristo Arns, celebrated his 90th birthday. On returning from the Sorbonne, he was my teacher, when I was still young, in Agudos-SP, and then, in Petrópolis-RJ, when I was a monk, he was my professor of Liturgy and Patristic Theology. He forced us to read them in their original languages, Greek and Latin, which gave me a deep love for the classics of Christian thought. Then he was elected Auxiliary Bishop of São Paulo. Because he was defending human rights and, risking his life, had denounced the torture of political prisoners in the dungeons of the organs of repression, Pope Paul VI made him a cardinal to protect him.

Prophetic, but meek as a St. Francis, he always kept the dimension of hope, even through the long night of the dictatorship. All who met him could invariably hear, as I heard, these strong, firm words: "Be brave, go forward, from hope to hope."

Bravery or courage, here's a necessary virtue nowadays. I like to seek the deepest meaning of human values in the wisdom of the native peoples. Therefore, at the Earth Charter meeting that took place in The Hague on June 29, 2010, in which I was always actively involved along with Mercedes Sosa when she was still alive, I asked Pauline Tangiora, an old Maori from New Zealand, which was the most important virtue for her. To my surprise, she said, "courage." I asked again: "Why courage, exactly?" She answered:

"We need courage to stand up for rights where injustice reigns. Without courage, you can't get to the top of any mountain. Without courage, you can never get to the depths of your soul. To face suffering, you need courage. Only through courage can you reach out and lift the fallen. We need courage to beget sons and daughters for this world. To find courage, we have to unite with the Creator. It is He who awakens in us the courage for justice."

For this is the courage that Cardinal Arns always instilled in all who courageously opposed those who held democracy hostage from us, detaining, torturing and murdering in the name of the National Security State (the security of capitalism, actually).

I would add: today we need courage to denounce the illusions of the neoliberal system, whose theses have been thoroughly refuted by the facts; courage to recognize that we are not going towards global warming but that we are already in it; courage to show the causal links between the undeniable extreme events, that are consequences of this warming; courage to reveal that Gaia is seeking her lost balance, which may involve the removal of thousands of species and, if we're not careful, ours too; courage to indict the irresponsibility of those who make decisions, who still hold to the vain and dangerous goal of growth and more growth, taking from the Earth goods and services it can not replace and therefore making it grow weaker day by day; courage to recognize that the refusal to change the paradigm in relation to the Earth and the mode of production can lead us uncontrollably to a path of no return, thereby compromising our civilization; courage to choose the option for the poor against their poverty and in favor of life and justice, as the Church of liberation and Don Paulo Evaristo Arns does.

We need courage to argue that Western civilization is in fatal decline, unable to offer an alternative to globalization; courage to recognize the illusion of the Vatican's strategies to recover the lost visibility of the Church and the fallacies of the mediagenic churches that reduce the message of Jesus to a cheap sedative to alienate consciences from the reality of the poor, a shameful process of infantilization of the faithful; courage to proclaim that a human race that came to perceive God in the universe -- the bearer of consciousness and responsibility -- can still rescue the vitality of Mother Earth and save our attempt at civilization; courage to state that, all in all, life has more future than death and that a small beam of light is more powerful than all the darkness of a dark night.

To announce and denounce all this, as Cardinal Arns and the indigenous Maori Pauline Tangiori did, we need courage, lots of courage.

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