Proximity and development

Proximity and development

By Andréa Cruz
From "Economy of Communion - a new culture" N.31 - May 2010

N31_Pag._08_Andra_CruzFrom January 30 to February 6, 2010, 125 people from across Brazil met in Belém, located along the mouth of the Amazon River, at the Formation Seminar on Cooperation Projects for Development, promoted by the International Commission of the Economy of Communion (EoC). Participants included experts from Action for a United World (AMU), Action for New Families (AFN) and Youth for a United World (YFUW). The program included topics on globalization, the logic of the market, cooperation for development, the encyclical, “Caritas in Veritate”, the concept of poverty, and the profiles and roles of the associations promoting the seminar. There were also workshops on cooperation for development, including talks on the paradigms of communion, those who are involved in it and the methods for its application. 
It was an important event that is part of a wider context of experiences lived in the field of solidarity since the beginning of the Focolare Movement. In fact, since the beginning of the first Focolare community in Trent, in the 1940s, one of the first imperatives was resolving the social problems of the city, exhausted by the war.

It is important to underline that this imperative arose and was brought about as a social expression of the love that was made concrete through actions and structures according to the requests received, as an answer to the needs of the people. These actions were oriented towards the promotion and emancipation of the person, who, feeling accompanied and helped, was stimulated to reciprocate.1 N31_Pag._15_Seminario_Belem_1

Kelen Leite, in a 2007 study titled, "Economy of Communion: the construction of reciprocity in the relationships between work capital and state" (University of Sao Paulo, Annablume FAPESP), commented:"The objective of the social works of the movement is to favor a process of social organization that involves the populations in reaching personal and collective self-determination in the direction of sustainable development. This is done keeping in mind the cultural and economic realities of an area."

N31_Pag._15_Seminario_Belem_2It was the first time in Brazil that these social expressions of the charism of the Focolare Movement were joined together in common reflection. The seminar created communion among these realities - Action for a United World, the Association for New Families, Youth for a United World and the Economy of Communion - and an openness on each group’s part to cooperate in promoting new development projects. 

Maria Clezia Pinto de Santana, director of the EoC in northeast Brazil, said, "The seminar in Belém was a moment where we truly could live an experience of fraternity, of unity among generations, among diverse professions and work experiences - from the formation of youth, adolescents and children, to health - among those who have more experience and those who are just at the beginning of their experiences. None of these differences was an obstacle to building deep relationships, to exchanging experiences, to reciprocally helping one another. It was a collective look at what is being done in Brazil, and a chance to get indications on new steps to take."

It was a step ahead toward the concretization of the EoC's goals. Since 1991, the EoC has given help to those most in need as a result of an international network of a specific type of communion: the pooling of profits from the businesses that adhere to the project.
N31_Pag._14_Seminario_Belem_5Recently, an increasing awareness has arisen that this communion must generate true communion at all levels, in relationships of reciprocity. 
On the part of the businesses, beyond their commitment to share profits, there is also the commitment to bring communion into their operative structures. On the part of those helped, there is the commitment to return the gift with other gifts, not directly to the business that helped them, and not even in an equivalent amount, but to little by little help build a network of communion in the whole world, involving new people.

What is new about the experience being lived in Belém is that of creating, through the EoC and social works, a culture of reciprocity which is close to "not doing something for someone, but with someone". A greater understanding and applications of this practice will lead to the communion that is the goal of the EoC: one in which who gives and who receives are equals, all protagonists of a fraternal society. They are equals because everyone gives and everyone receives. Everyone has something to give and to receive. Sometimes, there will be someone who returns the aid directly to the giver. Sometimes, the return will be given to a third person. And what must always be encouraged, not as a requirement but as a response of love, is the commitment to do something concrete, right away, to reciprocate the help received.

N31_Pag._14_Seminario_Belem_4Ângela M. Bezzerra Silva in the 2010 AMU Newsletter, says, "More quality in cooperation", "In fact, that 'something more' that characterizes our actions and projects is reciprocity. This is shown essentially in the fact that those helped discover or rediscover their own dignity and commit themselves to change their lives and their environments, feeling called to give society their best. It is 'something more' that is not limited to the improvement of their economic situation. Fundamentally, it is 'being more'."

This is a road to take in the search to reinvigorate the network already activated, intensifying the fire of love that burns on its own and calls forth an answer and a commitment, generating gratuitousness, another vital element of the Economy of Communion. 
All are protagonists in building a society in which, as Ângela continues, "the structures of sin may be transformed into areas of communion and social inclusion."

1 CRUZ, Iracema Andréa Arantes da.  2009.  In the kingdom of complexity: "The Economy of Communion in the Civil and Religious Environment, according to Niklas Luhmann´s Theory of Social Systems".  (Masters in Religious Sciences. Pontifical University of Sao Paulo).

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