Presentations

"TO SHARE BREAD AND FREEDOM" by Adolfo Pérez Esquivel

Third Forum of the Global Network of Religions for Children
LEARNING TO SHARE
Values, Action, Hope
Hiroshima, May 24-26, 2008

"TO SHARE BREAD AND FREEDOM"
by
Adolfo Pérez Esquivel
Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, and President, Servicio Paz y Justicia


Peoples in their historical journey and in the everyday construction of life live the hope of building a better world. It is the search for "Earth without evil," the land of freedom about which the holy books speak to us.

Humanity throughout time has sought such a world, and in the twentieth century we had the hope of putting an end to the "cold war." We thought that the rich countries would cooperate with the poor and needy countries. But frustrations emerged with the growth of poverty and dependence, and the destruction of the environment. We are faced with a world that could solve the problems of hunger and poverty, and one that has demonstrated that powerful governments lack the political will to do so. They decided to invest their resources in generating wars and the arms race in many parts of the world, with high and low intensity conflicts.

Despite this panorama there are social forces emerging born of the cultural, social, spiritual, political and economic resistance of peoples that are building spaces, seeking to share bread and freedom as a power integrating values and shared memory in their identity. They understand the need for the redistribution of resources and meeting basic needs, and the right of every human being to dignity. They are bringing together efforts, ideas, and alternative proposals in achieving the right to self determination.

Within this journey is the challenge of developing the culture of solidarity which can allow for the construction of new paradigms of life, the participation of social sectors with their great richness and cultural diversity, and the strengthening of social and spiritual values that constitute identity and give meaning to life.

It is a matter of sharing the bread that nourishes the body with those who are without it.

Humanity lives today with many questions, but each of them has a face, the faces of men and women, children and elderly people, and youth. They are concrete beings who question and interrogate us, who claim their right to a place in life.

The report of the UN agency FAO points out that every day more than 35,000 children in this world die of hunger. Walls of intolerance are raised again. I see in many countries, as I do in Latin America, boys and girls who live in the streets without a home, without the tender care of a family, without love and protection in their lives. Hope itself has been stolen from these children. We share with them and work with them to recover the meaning of life, and the social space to which they have a right as citizens. The Aldeas Jóvenes para la Paz centers are one clear witness to the fact that it is possible to change the situation.

We live in a world that could solve the hunger that affects millions of persons.

We must preserve and respect the Mother Earth who feeds us. Today we must put our will and our effort into the defense of the environment, of water and natural resources, as in protecting woodlands and maritime and terrestrial fauna. We must overcome the indiscriminate use of fertilizers and pesticides, the contamination of the environment and the destruction of biodiversity that is wounding the life of peoples and of all humanity.

The work of God that was given to humanity is in grave danger. We must strive to achieve equilibrium within each of us, in our families, the community, with Mother Earth, the Cosmos and God.

When that harmony is broken, violence is unleashed against life and against God.

We find ourselves in Hiroshima, a city that I have visited several times. Each time that I return it is like re-living the encounter with the people who were victims of the atomic bomb dropped on this city and on Nagasaki. The conscience of the Japanese people and that of all humanity calls to us to struggle to build peace and unity between peoples. We do so out of the power of the spirit, of conscience and values, of the memory that persists in the mind and the heart of each and every one of us.

We know and we trust by the Grace of God that all is not lost. There are many signs of Hope and we must share that Hope, the power to generate spiritual life and the power of human dignity, transcendence, solidarity and awareness that calls on each woman and man to face the challenges of changing our societies in the face of an unjust system. For this we need a capacity for social, spiritual and political resistance. We need to return to the wellsprings and nourish ourselves with spiritual Bread that gives life and strength to our existence, that allows us to understand the deep meaning of religions, and the values of the spirit in their ecumenical dimension.

Paulo Freire used to say, "The opposite of love is not, as we often think, hatred, but rather the fear of loving; and the fear of loving is the fear of being free." If we are incapable of breaking the chains of slavery because of fear, we will continue being slaves. Mother Teresa of Calcutta used to say that she had knowledge about one thing: "Putting Love into Action;" that is the great revolution of the Spirit and of Peace.

It is essential to "make words walk," and to make thoughts walk. There is no word without thought, and no thought without word. This is to free ourselves as men and women.

It is necessary that from childhood we begin to make words walk, in the family, in social relationships, in school. Many children suffer from domestic and social violence, marginalization and poverty. That is why we need the word that finds meaning in dialogue to achieve the respect that we owe each other, especially boys and girls in this world.

Spirituality leads us to communion with God and to the understanding that we find in every religious belief. Spirituality invites us to share Bread and Freedom, in other words the life of the great human family, as brothers and sisters; allows us to unite with one another in prayer, meditation, and dialogue in diversity and unity in order to understand the profound meaning of life.

There are people who have journeyed through life with their hands empty. Death lies in their forgetting themselves and the peoples. They have left no sign along the path. They have sown only amnesia where the seed did not flourish.

Children, based on their own understanding, together with their families and communities, need to be strengthened and grow like seeds of life and to be fruits of light and hope.

Humanity today needs to return to its wellsprings and to do so we need to create interior silence, to listen to the silence of God that speaks to each one of us. We live in chaos and violence that shakes the life of peoples; but these are also times of Hope, of finding in spirituality the meaning that animates our lives.

Cultural resistance leads us to fortify our "own thoughts," our values and identity, tenderness for life and the power of Loving. To understand that every person is born equal in dignity and with the same rights, that all peoples have the right to self- determination, and that the paths of Peace are the challenge to build a world for everyone.

The encounter between cultures and spirituality are signs of hope, roads that converge toward the same point in the unity and diversity between persons and peoples, and in the spiritual rediscovery of the great human family.

Receive a fraternal greeting of Peace and Wellbeing.