Rose Marie Berger: Davos, Meet Nairobi

By Administrator 01-29-2007

"God weeps," Archbishop Tutu told participants in the ecumenical gathering near the conclusion of the World Social Forum in Nairobi, "and says, 'Who will help me so we can have a different kind of world, one in which the rich know they have been given much so they can share and help others?'" More than 50,000 community activists, social reformers, religious leaders, and movers and shakers met at the seventh World Social Forum in Nairobi, Kenya, this January to compare strategies on transforming global economic systems to benefit the majority world, rather than maintaining economic systems that produce immoral disparities: one percent of the world's adults owns 40 percent of the world's wealth, while the bottom half combined owns less than one percent.

The World Social Forum was launched as a counterpoint to the annual gathering of the world's power elites at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. But lately there's been a hint of cross-fertilization between the two. With changes at Davos that allow religious and moral leaders to challenge the priorities of business and political leaders, and changes at the World Social Forum to promote effective and efficient collaboration between grassroots activists, legislators, and the business community, maybe another world really is possible.

In one small example, Catholic Jesuits from across Africa brought a whole delegation to the WSF from their ministries and communities. They offered a seminar on the theme "Social Transformation in Africa: an Ethical Face," which included this focus on advocacy in the context of Catholic teaching:

1) Advocacy deals with structures of power and decision; it must be critical and constructive towards the people we challenge, and at the same time avoid confrontation.
2) Advocacy should facilitate the building of communities and this is a value in itself; we communicate and campaign in community.
3) It must always be done from the perspective of the oppressed and excluded and promote a value-based leadership.
4) It involves study, research and analysis - a contemplative vision of the world leading to radical action.
5) It is based on the rich tradition of Catholic social teaching; for example, on the principle that the goods of creation are meant for the benefit of all.
6) It implies discernment.
7) Advocacy is relational, and involves thinking, feeling, and action.

Rose Marie Berger, a Sojourners associate editor, is a Catholic peace activist and poet.

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