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We need to build bridges between life and politics

06/02/2016

We see today in Brazil a serious division among people for reasons of political party. There were those who stopped participating in the community celebrations of the Nativity due to divergent politics: some becuse of criticisms of the party in power for having lied in the electoral campaign; others due to the excessive corruption attributed to important groups of the Labor Party, PT. Some are strong defenders of impeaching President Dilma Rousseff. Others do not consider the famous “pedaladas” (pedal pushers) a sufficient reason to remove her from the highest position of the Republic, won by the vote of the majority of the people. Let us agree that the “pedaladas” are sinful, but it is only a venial sin, committed without ill intention. For a venial sin, in good theology, no one is condemned to hell. At worst, they spend some time in God’s purifying clinic, the purgatory. Purgatory is not hell’s lobby, but the lobby of heaven.

Let’s ignore these contradictions. The fact is that without doubt, there exists in society great irritation, racial intolerance, acid discussions and many strong words that children should never hear. Especially the Internet has opened the door through which all kinds of offenses pass. Some people remain anchored in the past and still think about the cold war. To call someone a communist is an insult. They forgot that the Soviet Empire collapsed and the Berlin Wall fell in 1989.

The bridges between social spaces, different, but accepted and respected, have been damaged or destroyed. A healthy society cannot survive while its social network is being tore down. That is where the danger lies in the radicalism of the right (dictatorship such as those of the military) or of the left (as the totalitarian Soviet Socialism).

More than theoretical arguments, I believe that history can provide good lessons and convince us of the truth of things. I will relate a story that I heard long time ago and that has a strong effective conviction. Here it is:

Two brothers lived in good harmony in two farms that were closer to each other. They had good grain production, some head of cattle and well cared for pigs.

One day they had a small argument. The reasons were not that important: a calf from the younger brother had strayed and eaten a good part of the cornfield of the older brother. They discussed it with some irritation. Matters appeared to had rested there.

But it was not so. Suddenly, they did not speak to each other. They avoided seeing each other in the store or on the road. They behaved as if hey did not know each other.

One day a carpenter looking for a job appeared in the farm of the older brother. The farmer looked at him up and down and, with some sadness, he told the carpenter: “See that brook that flows down there? Is the division between my farm and the farm of my brother. With all the wood there is in that wood pile build a very high fence, so that I may not be forced to see my brother or his farm again. That way I will have peace”.

The carpenter accepted the job, took the tools and went to work. Meanwhile, the older brother went to the city to take care of some business.

When he returned to the farm, late that day, he was horrified by what he saw. The carpenter had not built a fence, but a bridge over the brook that united the two farms.

And he saw there walking by the bridge the younger brother who was coming saying: “Brother, after all that had happened between us, it is hard for me to believe that you have made that bridge just to find me. You are right, it is time to end our disagreement. Let’s embrace, brother!

And they embraced each other effusively and reconciled. The brother found his other brother..

Suddenly they saw that the carpenter was leaving. And they called him: “Hey, carpenter! Please do not leave. Stay with us for a few days… You have brought to us so much happiness…”

But the carpenter answered: “I can’t stay; there are other bridges to build throughout the world. There are still too many that need to reconcile with each other”. And the carpenter went away calmly walking until he disappeared in the distant curve of the path.

The world and our country need bridges and people-carpenters who generously would help solve the disagreements and build bridges so that we may rise above the conflicts and differences inherent in the unfinished humanity. We must always learn and relearn to teach each other fraternally, as brother and sisters.

Perhaps this is one of the most urgent ethical and humanitarian imperatives in the present historical moment.
Leonardo Boff is ecotheologian and writer

Free translation from the Spanish by
Servicios Koinonia, http://www.servicioskoinonia.org.
Done at REFUGIO DEL RIO GRANDE, Texas, EE.UU.

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