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A meeting of popular movements in Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Bolivia. A meeting of popular movements in Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Bolivia.   (Lidyane Ponciano)

Turkson: Popular Movements called to be protagonists of change

Cardinal Turkson urges fighting the culture of indifference especially in times of the pandemic.

By Vatican Radio staff reporter

Change comes from a life lived in harmony with creation, under the sign of integral ecology, which respects the rights of indigenous peoples while pursuing the common good. This is what Cardinal Peter Turkson, Prefect of the Vatican Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, indicated at the 4th World Meeting of Popular Movements held online Friday afternoon.

This was the first of a 2-part videoconference that exchanged views on the work and struggles of popular movements during the pandemic. The final part of the meeting will take place in September.

Friday’s videoconference brought together popular movements and their delegates from around the world to discuss the impact of Covid-19 on the poorest and most marginalized workers and the dilemmas facing humanity today.  

Among the issues discussed were the three ‘t’s which in Spanish stand for “tierra, trabajo y techo”, or the 3 basic rights of “land, work and roof (house)”, to which Pope Francis has encouraged popular movements to strive. Discussions started with reflecting on the impact of the virus on the most humble and marginalized workers. 

Popular movements represent people such as junk collectors, recyclers, street vendors, fashion designers, artisans, fishermen, farmers, constrution workers, miners, workers of salvaged companies, all types of cooperatives, workers from popular sectors, Christian workers belonging to different sectors and professions, workers from neighborhoods and villages... who practice the culture of encounter and walk together.

Change of heart

The purpose of the meeting was to give "voice and visibility" to the concerns of those who feel marginalized and who should instead see their rights guaranteed, as the Pope has stressed in the three previous World Meeting of Popular Movements in 2014, 2015 and 2016. 

Representatives of popular movements who spoke at the virtual conference were from countries such as the US, Spain, the Philippines, India, Argentina, Brazil and Gambia. Cardinal Turkson urged them and everyone for "a change of heart" and action, which come from having encountered the pain of the fragile and marginalized who suffer injustice.

Cardinal Turkson urged for commitment and urgent action in order "to put the economy at the service of the person" to make it "just”. "The poor," he said, "not only suffer injustice but also struggle against injustice.”  Popular movements not only represent the people who suffer injustice, the cardinal said, they also seek to establish for themselves a just social and economic order. 

Solidarity and peace

Cardinal Turkson pointed out that the challenges cannot be faced alone. Solidarity among the victims of social and economic injustice is the foundation of a popular culture that promotes integration, equality, justice and peace. He noted that popular movements are making history by carrying out a struggle against structural causes of poverty and injustice, with courage, intelligence and tenacity and not with fanaticism and violence, as the Holy Father has indicated.

Countering indifference

Cardinal Turkson said that this struggle against injustice must be carried out with respect for diversity, as suggested by Pope Francis.  Hence, politics needs to be re-vitalized, going "beyond paternalistic forms of assistance and reinvigorating local, national and international structures that allow members of popular movements to become true protagonists of good." Therefore, Popular Movements push for change in order to defend and create decent jobs through inclusion and promoting a community and social economy that protects the life of communities in which solidarity prevails over profit. "We fight against the culture of indifference" and "as we pursue our own dignity, we also protect the dignity of others," cardinal Turkson added.

What are popular movements?

World Meeting of Popular Movements is an initiative of Pope Francis, who wanted to create an “encounter” between Church leadership and grassroots organizations working to address the “economy of exclusion and inequality” by working for structural changes that promote social, economic and racial justice.

Popular movements are grassroots organizations and social movements established around the world by people whose inalienable rights to decent work, decent housing, and fertile land and food are undermined, threatened or denied outright. These movements primarily represent three increasingly excluded social sectors. They are workers who are at risk or lack job security; landless farmers, family farmers, indigenous people and those at risk of being driven off the land by large agribusiness corporations and violence; and the marginalized and forgotten, including persons who are homeless and persons living in communities without adequate infrastructure.

The World Meeting of Popular Movements (WMPM) is designed to bring these communities together with faith leaders from across the world.

10 July 2021, 12:20