One way to use our gifts…

I have spent the past few years adding to my languages. What I mean is that, at current count, I have decent working knowledge of five languages (English, French, Spanish, Latin, and Portuguese). I enjoy languages and I love the challenge that they present, plus all the ways in which they interact. But, as a theologian, apart from doing my own translations of Latin American theologians for my work (which I do), it was hard to find an outlet for my passion for languages.

Until a random email arrived in my inbox from a friend and introduced me to the world of the projects sponsored by EATWOT (the International Association of Third World Theologians), Servicios Koinonia, and the Agenda Latinoamericana. Through them, I have had the chance to use my language skills to make texts available to the English-speaking world. Much of the theology that is coming out of Latin America today is progressive and would be of interest to many of us in the First World. The project, staffed by only volunteer translators, helps to make those items accessible to new audiences.

And so, here is a blurb about our recently completed project, the 2009 Latin American Agenda. If you can translate Spanish or Portuguese to English, let me know in the comments and I’ll put the coordinator in touch with you.

2009 Latin American Agenda
http://latinoamericana.org/English/

Today the emperor has no clothes. With indignation and nostalgia, attached to so many dreams and struggles, and responding to the disfigured dignity of the majority of our human race, we turn again to socialism: a new socialism. Obviously we are not trying to repeat experiments that—too many times—have culminated in deception, violence, dictatorship, poverty, and death. We try to revise, learn from the past, update our strategies, and avoid becoming complacent. In doing so, we seek to live, here and now, locally and globally, the ever new Utopia. We categorically proclaim that Utopia continues on, that it is not a chimera but a challenge. Thus, we ask how we are doing with Utopia.

Preoccupied by the daily construction of politics as the art of the possible, have we lost sight of what seems impossible but yet is truly necessary? Do we have to content ourselves with electing somewhat leftist government and continue, submissive and defeated, under the same right-wing capitalist system? What has happened to the old capitalist-socialist disjunctive? Of course plenty of people say that the times of left and right have now passed…Isn’t Utopia still just as necessary as “our daily bread”?

Utopia continues on, despite its many challenges, scandalously outdated in this hour of pragmatism, of production at all costs, of chastened postmodernity. The Utopia of which we speak we share with the millions who have preceded us—giving even their blood—and with the millions who today live and struggle and march and sing. This Utopia is being constructed: we are the artisans of Utopia. We proclaim it and we make it happen: it is the grace of God and our achievement. With this “utopian agenda” in our hands and in our hearts, we want to “give a reason for our hope.” We announce and we intend to live—with humility and passion—a coherent, creative, and subversively transformative hope.

—Pedro Casaldáliga, Bishop Emeritus of São Félix do Araguaia, Brazil

For nearly 20 years, the Latin American Agenda has been an indispensable tool for activists and scholars inside and outside of the Americas. It is a tool for imagining the “other possible world” and then working towards its construction. It includes commemorations of martyrs, from St. Stephen to Oscar Romero, the Jesuit Martyrs of El Salvador, and Sister Dorothy Stang; ample space to plan busy weeks working for social justice; and short articles on a different human rights theme each year. Tens of thousands of copies are distributed in over 30 countries in six languages—Spanish, Portuguese, Catalan, French, Italian and English—each year.

In English, it is free as a downloadable PDF that can be printed from your home computer or taken to your local copy shop and printed and bound (as long as it is not sold for profit) available at http://latinoamericana.org/English/ . For questions and feedback or to volunteer as a translator for future editions, you can go to http://latinoamericana.org/contacto.php .

Edited by Bishop Emeritus Casaldáliga and theologian José María Vigil, the Latin American Agenda invites leading scholars and activists from many fields to reflect on a different issue each year, challenging all of us to discover how we can all contribute to the creation of a more humanizing world. This year, as the worldwide financial crisis causes us to reevaluate our blind faith in an unregulated free market devoid of oversight, the Agenda asks what other global alternatives exist. In the spirit of the World Social Forums, the contributors focus on the need to create societies that serve their people—societies built on individual, community, and state accountability; societies that demand freedom of speech and religion and the right to be free of gender-based violence and hunger; societies that takes seriously the Universal Declaration of Human Right’s recognition of political, civil, economic, social, and cultural rights. Here are just a few of this year’s contributors:

• Jesuit theologian Jon Sobrino writes of Jesus’ commitment to the creation of a humanizing society at the same time as he denounced the corruption almost intrinsic in state power

• Theologian Leonardo Boff speaks of the need to integrate environmental concern in all our work

• Writer María López Vigil suggests that any effort at societal transformation must confront misogyny

• Nobel Peace Prize Laureate and torture survivor Adolfo Pérez Esquivel describes what he thinks can work, based on his decades of work for human rights

• Economist Paul Singer analyzes the Brazilian government’s projects to help workers create their own sustainable businesses

• Theologian Ivone Gebara sees hope for a humanizing world arising from the neighborhood level

• Professor Joan Surroca proposes the careful easing down of “sustainable degrowth” as a creative way of reducing our dependence on ever-increasing growth

• Pastor Beatriz Casal retells the Book of Ruth, focusing on the sacrifices women like Naomi and Ruth have made throughout time

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