On February 16, CCT traveled across the country to Modesto, California to attend the U.S. Regional World Meeting of Popular Movements. The event encouraged participants to discuss each other’s organizing efforts and views on social justice. At the event’s conclusion, participants drafted a document which will be presented to Catholic Bishops informing them on the ways in which the Catholic Church can participate in social justice movements of today.
An initiative of Pope Francis, The World meeting of Popular Movements is an encounter between the leaders of the Catholic Church and the leaders of grassroots community groups. Between February 16-19, 2017 community groups as well as Catholic Bishops from across the country gathered in Modesto, California for the U.S. Regional Meeting of Popular Movements. There, community organizers of all faiths, beliefs and backgrounds discussed the issues facing marginalized communities in the United States today. Centro Comunitario de Trabajadores is proud to have been a part of this fruitful gathering.
Throughout the meeting, presenters offered their insight into the structural dimensions of how people are excluded from full participation in the economic, social and political life of the United States. Additionally, participants discussed the ways in which various forms of injustice such as racism, xenophobia and criminalization of poverty impact families and communities, and how grassroots leaders can work to transform systems and create an “economy of inclusion.”
The meeting opened with a letter written by Pope Francis to participants. In reference to the struggles that popular movements address, the pope stated that “none of these ills began yesterday. For some time, the crisis of the prevailing paradigm has confronted us. I am speaking of a system that causes enormous suffering to the human family, simultaneously assaulting people’s dignity and our Common Home in order to sustain the invisible tyranny of money that only guarantees the privileges of a few.” In his letter, Pope Francis also made reference to his encyclical Evangelii Gaudium inviting participants to consider the way that systems of exclusion impact the many causes which grassroots organizing works to address.
Aside from leaders of the Catholic Church, the meeting included presenters from regional and national organizations such as the Council on American-Islamic Relations, Black Lives Matter movement leaders and “Water Protectors” of Standing Rock, among many others.
One of CCT’s main take-aways came from Dr. John A. Powell of the Haas Institute for a Fair & Inclusive Society. Dr. Powell offered the idea that our current economic system divides the world into private and public sectors, where the marginalized are kept from both the rights of the public sector and the benefits of the private sector. We see this everyday at CCT in the way that undocumented immigrants and low-wage workers are stripped of many rights and benefits of the private sector such as property and political representation, while these rights and benefits are taken and enjoyed by the corporations that benefit from immigrant labor and low-wage workers. For more information on Dr. Powell’s interpretation on public and private spaces click here.
As we transition back to business as usual, we look forward to unpacking the contents of this national gathering of community organizers with the New Bedford community. We are thankful to the Massachusetts Communities Action Network and to the Catholic Campaign for Human Development, for organizing our delegation which included five other community groups based in the state of Massachusetts.