Page 6, 6th May 1977

6th May 1977
Page 6
Page 6, 6th May 1977 — Dom Helder Camara's dream of 'a multi-national for peace'
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Dom Helder Camara's dream of 'a multi-national for peace'

D M HELDER CAMARA, the fragile Brazilian Archbishop whose explosive passion for justice has echoed through every country in the world, has a dream. As his agile and embracing arms express what his broken English cannot, he speaks of building "a multi-national for peace".

His dream is of a world-wide network of peace activists and researchers who will be as efficient in their struggle for justice as the present multinational business corporations are in keeping down the price of raw materials from the Third World or in maintaining a pool of cheap labour by threatening to transfer their operations from one poor country to another.

Such a dream is not utopian, although it may be long-term. Many years of experience with the poor of his own Third World country have taught Dom Helder a stark realism.

It is only when those who believe in struggling for justice non-violently are as united and as efficient as a multi-national corporation that they will present an effective challenge to the military-industrial complexes of the West or to the oppressive regimes of many Eastern bloc and developing countries.

As I sat in Londonderry last week, with Dom Helder and other delegates to an international consultation on nonviolence, this dream seemed a tangible possibility.

The experience was at once uplifting and profoundly -disquieting — uplifting because here were more than 40 delegates from all nations of the world who were committed to work for a common ideal of creating a more loving and human world.

It was disquieting because as we began to hammer out the practicalities of co-operation we realised that we have as yet only one toe timidly placed on the road.

In England alone, where we can hold meetings, issue newsletters and attend conferences at will, we are hopelessly disunited and ill-informed.

1 sometimes think that the network of solidarity and infor

mation is stronger in a country like South Africa, for all its censorship and oppression, than it is in Britain where we lack any sense of urgency. One has only to glance around one's own parish to realise the lack of communication between the variety of groups who share the common goal of creating a more caring community.

The group that organises day trips for pensioners has little to do with the youth club cornmittee. Those who run the citizens' advice bureau have lit

tie contact with the Third World action group or the racial justice committee. Where such groups do meet there is often division over leadership or clashes of ideology.

There are, too, those individuals who are isolated into inaction because they feel that their lone voice or solitary letter to an MP is a futile straw cast against a stone wall of structural injustice.

In the 1960s radical action in Britain was in part expressed by a mass student movement which demonstrated, held national conventions and looked to "gurus" like Martin Luther King and Ghandi for inspiration. There was a sense of national action and solidarity.

In the 1970s the picture is very different. The age of gurus is dead, and those concerned for change are now to be found in community work and organising at a local level. The "community movement" has been born.

In the long term this approach will bear more fruit, it is more attached to reality and to the everyday concerns of or

dinary people. Concern is now focused on the need to improve the quality of life and increase people's power over their local environment.

What has been lost, however, is any sense of a national vision.

As the picture has become more complex, moving away from the single issue such as "ban the bomb" or the Vietnam War to the diverse needs for better housing, more meaningful employment and simpler living, the problems of holding on to any sense of belonging to a wider movement for change have increased.

It is this sense of 'belonging' and co-operation that we must now seek to re-establish — not for the sake of uniformity, because there will always be diverse groups working in ways that best suit them, but for the sake of unity and effectiveness.

We must co-operate to en sure that our efforts do not overlap and thus squander precious resources: we must communicate so that we have an overall view of the constructive movement for change taking place in our area.

If every person who read this article were to bring together the groups in their parish and community to discuss how they could share their experiences and skills, offer each other pastoral care and draw in isolated individuals, we would have taken our first step towards our multi-national for peace and justice.

If we are to have international co-operation we must first have a clear idea of what is happening in our own community. Justice is about the liberation and fulfilment of ordinary people, and only ordinary people can achieve it.

Alex Cosgrave




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