Tag Archives: Brazil

23 February: Cardinal Lavigerie’s Campaign against Slavery, 2.

Pope Leo XIII

Fr Lourdel became influential at the royal court of Buganda, the main kingdom of what would shortly become the British protectorate of Uganda. He and the other missionaries, including the Protestant Alexander Mackay, would successfully lobby King Mwanga to have the abolition of slavery and freedom of religion enshrined in the treaty he signed with Great Britain in 1890.

Slavery was not a matter of abstract theology. Pope and cardinal were well aware of the real flesh and blood suffering and determined to bring it to an end. Lavigerie therefore left his diocese of Algiers and travelled through Europe, stirring up support for justice towards the victims of violence and abuse.

Instead of returning to Africa, I am going to Paris, not to ask for funds, but rather to finally tell what I know about the crimes without name which are destroying the interior of our Africa, and then to let out a great cry, one of those cries which shakes up to the bottom of the soul, of all that is still worthy the name of man and Christian in the world. What I have to do is nothing other than bringing into the light what Leo XIII has just written about African slavery.”

In his encyclical In Plurimis of 1888, Pope Leo welcomed the abolition of slavery in Brazil. He reiterated how Jesus had come to set the captives free, and how the popes, from Saint Gregory the Great onwards had urged the breaking of the chains of slavery to restore all men and women to the dignity God intended. Leo made clear that, ‘The system [of slavery] is one which is wholly opposed to that which was originally ordained by God and by nature.’ He rejected outright the theory that some people were born inferior and so could be legally and morally enslaved.

This excuse had been used down the centuries from pre-Christian times to the conquistadores in Latin America; it was how the Portuguese had justified slavery in Brazil and the Spanish in the rest of the continent, and its poison can still be felt in racist attitudes today. Pope Leo made clear that from Saint Paul onwards the Church had striven to put an end to slavery. However, human greed, as well as war had caused it to linger in Christian as well as Muslim lands until the 19th century when the successors of Columbus were still avariciously abusing Africans as well as Indians in the Caribbean and Central and South America.

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10 February: Not through vainglory: a response to Virginia Woolf

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Saint Paul never tramped the byways of Palestine with Jesus, but he knew the Jewish Scriptures – to love the Lord your God with your whole being and your neighbour as yourself. He put it this way:

If there is therefore any exhortation in Christ, if any consolation of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any tender mercies and compassions, make full my joy, that ye be of the same mind, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind; doing nothing through faction or through vainglory, but in lowliness of mind each counting other better than himself; not looking each of you to his own things, but each of you also to the things of others.

Philippians 2:1-4.

You don’t have to be a Christian believer to look to the things of others, to work towards being of one accord with your neighbours. In a diverse society such as the United Kingdom today, that should be obvious. But that sense of solidarity does not predominate in everybody. I feel that it was what Virginia Woolf missed by trying to live the illusion – her own word – that she was somehow superior to others. Vainglory sums it up precisely.

And realising that it was vainglory to affect such superiority – or so I read her ending – she filled her pockets with stones and waded into the river. Woolf was certainly struggling with despair in her last months. The Hamilton Star recently told how researchers from Canada and Brazil created word clouds from her writings in happier times and those last months.

In the cloud created from her final months, the words include: little, miss, war, nothing, never, can’t and don’t. The researchers write that these “negative words” may indicate Woolf’s “thoughts of lack of efficacy, self-criticism, worthlessness, nostalgia, melancholy and mainly hopelessness.”

This is not to deny the mental illness that blighted Virginia Woolf’s life, which surely contributed to her thoughts of melancholy and hopelessness, despite her many privileges. Nor is it possible to compare her suffering with Paul’s time in chains and prison, nor to deny the power of God’s grace to work in her heart. Suicide is an extreme form of repentance, and Woolf was aware, perhaps morbidly aware, of causing suffering to others, and as her last letter shows, she wanted to end that. Let us, for every one who takes their own life, 

be … confident of this very thing, that he who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Jesus Christ.

Philippians 1:6.

 

And let us remember, with thanks, that there is now formal and informal help for those in great distress that was not available to Virginia Woolf.

MMB.

 

 

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Sunday 21 January, 2018. A reflection from Brazil on human trafficking, 4.

 

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‘We can’t stop what we can’t see, and once we see it we can’t unsee it.’

We return to USPG for this article by Ruth de Barros, who helps to co-ordinate a USPG funded social action programme in the Diocese of the Amazon. Human trafficking is not a pleasant topic of conversation but we need to become more aware of this insidious exploitation of our sisters and brothers. See posts on October 30 and 31 last year. This is an area where Churches work together around the world.

Human trafficking has been a concern of the Diocese of the Amazon for some time.

One woman was taken to Suriname with promises of a better life. But the traffickers brainwashed her, buying her expensive gifts in exchange for selling her body. In time she had two children – children born in these circumstances are often sold and used for child labour.

Happily, this woman’s uncle managed to find her children and bring them back to Brazil. Later, with help from the church and the police, the uncle also rescued his niece, together with a five-year-old his niece had rescued from a family enslaved in the gold mines.

A common ruse of traffickers is to trick parents into sending their sons to special football schools in the hope that their sons might become wealthy football stars. These families are often living in extreme poverty with low levels of education. They fall for the sweet talk of the criminals. They send their sons, then completely lose contact with them because they have been trafficked for sexual exploitation or child labour. The Anglican Church is raising awareness about trafficking and providing legal support to help.

O God, you have created us all in your own image
to reveal your glory, compassion and love.
Help us to see your face in every human being,
and to work together for the dignity and worth of all.

‘We can’t stop what we can’t see, and once we see it we can’t unsee it.’

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Shadows of the Wanderer in Chichester.

Shadows of the Wanderer

 

NAIB has drawn our attention to this exhibition in  Chichester Cathedral’s North Transept until Monday 14th November 2016.

Ana Maria Pacheco’s outstanding and powerful installation Shadows of the Wanderer is a multi-piece figurative sculpture in polychromed wood, in which ten over life-size darkly robed figures witness the struggle of a young man to carry an older man on his shoulders.  This powerful image resonates with contemporary and topical issues of exile, migration and the displacement of people struggling to flee persecution.   Ana was inspired by Virgil’s Aeneid, where the hero Aeneas carries his lame father Anchises on his back, leading a band of refugees from the ravaged ruins of Troy.

Ana Maria Pacheco (sculptor, painter and printmaker) was born in Brazil.  Following degrees in both art and music she went on to complete a postgraduate course in music and education at the Federal University of Brazil in Rio de Janeiro.  She then taught and lectured for several years at the Pontifical Catholic University of Goiás and the Federal University of Goiás before leaving for London in 1973 on a British Council Scholarship to the Slade School of Fine Art. Since then she has lived and worked in England

Her work is deeply rooted in Latin American and European social history and culture and deals with serious narratives and enduring themes (journeys, spirituality, mythology, unchecked power) that contribute to the many layers of interpretation and meaning in her work.    It has a strong humanist message and is capable of arousing extreme emotions.

Shadows of the Wanderer

Shadows of the Wanderer

The exhibition was officially opened on Friday 15th July 2016 by David Elliott, Curator and Writer.

This exhibition has been curated by Jacquiline Creswell (Salisbury Cathedral’s Visual Arts Advisor), Pratt Contemporary and Chichester Cathedral’s Exhibitions Committee.

Chichester Cathedral: Shadows of the wanderer.shtml 

 

 

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