During our long bus ride we chat with 27 year old MDF Volunteer Jarja. Jarja volunteers as part of the music group at the cultural centre and with the liturgy group at Villa Prudente favela. He works within a team encouraging people to participate within the music group, whether playing instruments or singing. He takes the attitude that you don’t have to be that good to take part!
I asked Jarja why MDF was important. Jarar said, ‘MDF proposes a change in society. It doesn’t hand out material things, it’s more about helping people to assume and assert their own rights and fight for them. It’s in a political struggle against corruption and the abuses of political.’
‘MDF helps people understand their rights. By taking part in the liturgy, people become inspired and motivated. The words of the hymns show what kind of church we are. This is important and gives us identity. The church is much more an empowering church than a fundamentalist one, we encourage people to act themselves rather than wait for God to do things for them.’
‘We welcome new people to the favela who often feel excluded having travelled from far away places in the country. Being part of the church helps them feel motivated to take part.’
‘People who come to our church realise this is not about hand outs . It’s about building leadership themselves. Our work is to provide a space to make this happen. The church is helping people to build self esteem. We are making a difference.‘
Christian Based Communities
‘I’ve been involved in Christian Based Communities (CEBs) since I studied theology and liberation theology. I found in CEBs liberation theology in practice. This teaches of a God not distant in the sky, but within us and shows solidarity for others, sharing the struggle for life. In CEB’s I found a struggle for justice and a building for a new society.’
The Martyrs Pilgrimage
‘The pilgrimage was made special by the personal testimonies of people! Dom Pedro in spite of his fragility, was encouraging people. The way indigenous people were part of the pilgrimage and the Catholic Church – working with the Church to defend their rights was inspiring. If you look at the people on the bus they are simply dressed, simple in heart, living simply and I love that!’
‘I am hoping for a new time in the church where ostentation and power are no longer important and what is important is the dignity of the person. If you look at Bishop Pedro Casaldáliga, he changed from a very formal priest to a simple living person, standing alongside indigenous people, learning to live with financial difficulties, with a thirst and with heat to live amongst the people.’
Message to CAFOD Volunteers and supporters in England.
‘Thank you for allowing me to change and through that change, allowing me to help other people to transform society in Brazil. Many thanks, good luck, have courage, thank you. The fight continues, there is still a lot to do. You are not alone.’
Fellow MDF worker Andre also chipped in…
‘It is very special when we come together as partners. It’s much more than money. It’s a special coming together that strengthens both sides. Something time doesn’t put out like a flame. Thank you.’
‘Our exchanges are important. I remember meeting Tony and Simon (CAFOD Diocesan Manager for Plymouth) for the first time in Villa Prudente in November 2006. I remember Simon calling Donna Lilley his sister.’
‘The work you do in England and Wales not only creates support but friendship and bridges between people.’