The Second OFM International Congress for JPIC Ends

Jim McIntosh OFM Features

UBERLANDIA, Brazil – The second OFM International Congress for JPIC ended recently as the participants approved the draft final report of the Congress. Yesterday, the General Minister, Jose Rodriguez Carballo, OFM, addressed the participants.

The highlight of the Congress for many participants occurred last weekend, as they spent Saturday and Sunday in an encampment of people trying to obtain land. The Congress participants were divided into nine groups of about 10 people each. Each group went to a different encampment. There, they met the families with whom they would spend the night. They heard stories of the people’s struggle to obtain land to farm, had dinner with the people, and then retired to different homes to spend the night.

The next day, they journeyed to a former landowner’s home, where they celebrated a joyful Eucharist with the people, followed by a barbeque and (as seems almost obligatory with Brazilians) much music and dancing.

In Brazil’s constitution, the participants were told, the federal government can claim unproductive land and redistribute it to people who want to work it. The landless people – former farm workers, unemployed people from the city, and so forth – identify unproductive land and then lay claim to it in the courts. Naturally, some landowners resist, and that can lead to conflict between the people and local authorities. In the case of the people with whom the participants met, the occupation of the land was with the owner’s consent.

The people still have a long uphill struggle, as they learn to work together, form cooperatives and start working and living together. Many participants of the Congress came away from the experience with a stronger commitment to work to embrace the excluded of today.