Secular Franciscan Order

Ordo Franciscanus Sæcularis

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What is the World Social Forum (WSF) 

Created in 2001 at Porto Alegre, the capitol of the Brazilian state of Rio Grande do Sul, the World Social Forum was seen as a democratic space to debate, network and plan actions aimed at making concrete the Forum’s “another world is possible”. It was conceived as an opposition to and challenging the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, in which in their annual meetings the rich nations programmed the neo-liberal top-down development models they proposed to the world. The Social Forum, however, was conceived as a process to promote bottom-up development and seeks to include grass-roots organizations, people’s social movements, NGOs, religious groups and all those interested in addressing the social, economic and political problems afflicting today’s world. The WSF promotes free manifestations of possible alternatives to the WEF model, exchange among citizens, complaints, inspiration, concrete commitments and the development of networking strategies that lead to concrete actions of international solidarity, social and environmental justice, social economy, participative democracy and the recognition of the equal dignity of all.

Working towards its objectives, the WSF does not put participants in positions of advancing or imposing their own visions and models, but rather brings together all those who are committed to seeking possible and shared solutions to a common theme or a common problem.

Franciscan participation at the WSFs

In its initial phase in 2001 members of the Franciscan family were present at the WSF and that presence has continued in successive Forums: Porto Alegre in 2005, Nairobi in 2007 and Tunis in 2015 . The Franciscan Family also participated in the United Nations Climate Summit in Rio de Janeiro (commonly known as Rio + 20) and in the 21st Conference of the Parties in Paris last year, commonly known as COP21

Over the years this participation has evolved thanks to the financial support of the Mission Zentrale der Franciskaner , a German Franciscan entity created to offer financial support to the missions and the social activities of the Franciscan Family.

The original presence was loosely organized and left to personal initiative but, over time it has become gradually structured and organized, involving members of the Franciscan Family in the area where the Forum is held in order to help them become better acquainted and promotes networking to involve Franciscans at the events associated to the Forum in such a way that they can become a reference for concrete interventions on behalf of the weak and marginalized.

During our participation in the Peoples’ Summit held parallel to the organized RIO +20 Summit, an international delegation composed of Franciscans involved in JPIC ( Justice, Peace and the Integrity of Creation) and members of Franciscans International ( FI) decided to take action on three themes from the Franciscan contribution to work for the defence of Mother Earth: Life-style ( formation and spirituality), industrial mining and opposition to the Green Economy which seeks to commodify Creation and the Environment. Since that time, much has been done in these three areas, and especially concerning mining. After their participation in COP 21, last December the Franciscan Family decided to strengthen its commitment, focusing its engagement on extractive industries as a response to the cry of the Earth, and on the economy, as a response to the cry of the Poor – the Green Economy, which has proven to be nothing but a slogan to leave everything unchanged, has died a natural death and has even disappeared from common parlance -- and life-style, as a personal and communal witness.

Montreal 2016

The Franciscan Delegation at Montreal was composed of 14 members (OFM, OFM Conv, OFM Cap, OFS, Gifra , FCJM, FAN and FI) from all parts of the world.

Through FI , it organized some well attended activities and seminars: they treated  the rights of Nature and the Environment; the problem of tackling crimes against the environment and persons perpetrated by mining industries, with particular reference to the cases of Maikana in Canada e Mariana in Brazil; how to address Extreme Poverty as a human rights violation of these persons; and the document promoted by FI at the United Nations proposing the recognition of civil responsibility and penalizing the multinationals for damage caused by their activity beyond the state in which they have their legal seat ( at present, for example, since it is not Brazilian, BHP/VALE, the multinational society that owns the mine that caused the Mariana disaster, cannot be prosecuted by the Brazilian government ) .

There were also other activities on topics such as Migrants, the Encyclical Laudato Si and solidarity, agroecology, and the right to food (sustainability and sovereignty).

All these activities reconfirmed the necessity of working in synergy with other organizations and networking with them, to learn and share but also to offer concrete witness to Franciscan values; besides, as some episodes clearly showed, the world is thirsting for and seeking these values.

During a wrap-up gathering at the Forums conclusion, the delegation agreed on some points to work at to developing in the worldwide Franciscan Family:  

  1. In the near future, following the example of what was done at COP 21, it would be advantageous to have greater visibility, organizing a Franciscan meeting point in which we can present and share materials, documents and initiatives that illustrate our message and our values
  2. Since Laudato Si has become a milestone document, there was a suggestion to organize a seminar based on it to support the commitment to “hear” the cry of the Earth and the Poor and to respond to them concretely
  3. Begin working to raise consciousness in the grass-roots members and involve them in the area of food sovereignty and sustainability, strengthening the existing collaboration at FAO (UN Food and Agricultural Organization) and finding resources to make this collaboration ongoing
  4. Through ad hoc seminars, involve JPIC promoters and activists to help make the above-mentioned three areas of involvement a committed involvement of all Franciscans at all levels.

At the conclusion of this participation all the members of the delegation -- many of whom attended the WSF for the first time -- agreed that it was very important to be present because of the great learning opportunities offered but also because their participation and presence gave them greater awareness of the necessity of responding to these challenges with organized, effective and concrete actions, and that this can happen only when  we unite with other movements and organizations, and not only religious ones, who are working for the same goals. In this way, we Franciscans can learn from the experience of those who have been concretely committed for years or from those who have the necessary scientific expertise, at the same time bearing witness to our values and our spirituality, working side by side with them in a spirit of minority. This is the centre of our ministry and a confirmation of the fact that JPIC, which is said to be deeply rooted in the Franciscan DNA, can become a priority and a model for a new evangelization that allows us to defend the poor and the environment with the commitment of our life.