I would like to share a reflection for this week that is part of Cry Justice! Cry Hope! by Beverly Bell and Joan Chittister, OSB about the Movement of Landless Rural Workers of Brazil (MST).
Ilda Martines de Souza has been part of MST for many years, she believes in their mission to hold large land owners and the Brazilian government to agrarian reform.
MST members create cooperatively run, democratic communities of about 2,000 people that they name land reform settlements. The communities build schools, self govern, farm, create their own media, celebrate their cultural expressions and model new forms of democracy.
They also “take” the land without any formal processes. They do not try to buy land but rather focus on land that is being unused by the government or a land holder and essentially “squat.”
“Without firing a gun, we create a revolution. Without a death toll we made a revolution. Given all the riches of my country why should I see my kids go hungry? No mother should shed tears because her son was murdered trying to steal a piece of bread.” Ilda Martines de Souza
Brazil is second in the world for unbalanced land distribution, it is estimated that 20 percent of the population own up to 97 percent of arable land. MST says the beauty of their land reform project is that it takes the land from one hand and puts it into the hands of thousands. The land becomes, again, a communal good.
In my own neighborhood of Humboldt Park in Chicago, I pass by several empty lots each day on my way to the train. Lots owned by someone, somewhere, that could provide community garden space, affordable housing, etc., but instead sit empty and collect litter. MST suggests that when you liberate land you liberate the people and that builds a future for all.
I invite you to take the time in the next week to look at land in your community; how is it used? Who is included and excluded? What land might you liberate if you could?
Check out the link below to the MST Movement to help you dream some Lenten squatting in your own neighborhood.