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Despite daily crucifixion, the poor see Easter dawning

A Bilingual Edition
By the Religious Working Group on the World Bank and IMF, with the Ecumenical Program on Central America and the Caribbean, and Witness for Peace
112 pages, $6.50


Popular devotion in Latin America has traditionally focused so exclusively on the suffering and death of Jesus as to obscure the good news of the Resurrection. The emphasis was understandable in light of the centuries of oppression of the indigenous peoples under their European conquerors.

After Vatican II things began to change. The church’s withdrawal from support of unjust structures and a preferential option for the poor took shape in liberation theology and dynamic Christian base communities.

“The church then,” to quote a reflection by Bishop Samuel Ruiz García of San Cristóbal de las Casas, Mexico, included in The Economic Way of the Cross, “became a voice for the poor, a voice which rises up from those underneath, from the situation of those whose voices have been silenced and denied, to demand that justice be done.”

An inspired people took an old Christian devotion, the Way of the Cross, and added a 15th station -- the Resurrection of Jesus -- to the traditional 14 commemorating his passion and death.

This inspiring book now takes the process a meaningful step forward. In place of the Roman soldiers who scourged and mocked Jesus, it calls us to reflect on the structures that today oppress and dehumanize Jesus in the person of the poor. Most of these structures are based in Washington: the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the Inter-American Development Bank, the World Trade Organization, the transnational corporations.

Supporting them are our national institutions. The Pentagon swallows $400 billion a year, 10 times what we budget for health. It is not satisfied. It clamors for more for Star Wars. Congress obliges, dismantling the safety net for people living in poverty. Big business agrees.

This century’s wars, Walter Wink reflects, cost 109 million lives. Business practices sacrifice that number every eight years. “The most immense carnage ever perpetrated in human history is going on right now -- a gigantic holocaust in which Mammon is killing far more people than Mars. ... For the Domination System, 34,000 children’s deaths per day are an acceptable cost of doing business.”

The poor are ground into the earth. But they don’t give up. They glimpse the distant dawn of Easter morning.

Dorothee Soelle, a leader of the German peace movement, throws in her lot with those who glimpse the dawn. She writes: “The beast with seven heads: More energy, more progress, more overkill, more profit, a larger world market, more torture, a higher standard of living. I am afraid of this beast with seven heads. Because I am afraid, I have begun to rebel. I am trying to organize resistance. ... Don’t cooperate with death. Choose life!”

Choose life is the final message of the Way of the Cross. Confront the disempowering myth that the economic system and the resulting social problems are somehow “natural,” inevitable and unchangeable. We are challenged every day. Each purchase we make or abstain from making is a vote in the marketplace. Corporations may control production, but each of us controls consumption.

This book is a masterpiece. In addition to the superb content, calling to reflection and action, it is an elegant product with excellent and meaningful photographs, at a very modest price. It is available from the Maryknoll Justice and Peace Office, P.O. Box 29132, Washington DC 20017. Postage and handling costs are $3.50. Discounts of 40 percent are available for purchase of 10 or more. The E-mail is mknolldc@igc.org.

Gary MacEoin’s E-Mail is gmaceoin@co mpuserve.com

National Catholic Reporter, April 23, 1999