A Solidary Global Agenda
Article published in the GOOD WILL Sustainable Development magazine forwarded to the United Nations in July 2016.
Education, Sustainability, and Planetary Citizenship as levers for sustainable social development
My greetings to the Heads of State, delegations, and all those participating in the High-Level Segment of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) of the United Nations (UN) in 2016, which will address the important topic “Implementing the post-2015 development agenda: moving from commitments to results.” Based on this pragmatic focus, our contribution to the debate is precisely about the indispensable role of Education in conquering the bold goals aimed at the development and well-being of people. As I have reiterated for decades, there is no progress without Education and Instruction.
Considering the outcome of the 66th United Nations Department of Public Information/ Non-Governmental Organization (DPI/NGO) Conference held from May 30 to June 1, 2016, in Gyeongju, Republic of Korea, under the theme “Education for Global Citizenship: Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals Together,” I refer back to a few impromptu remarks I made about the principles of the Pedagogy of Affection and the Ecumenical Citizen Pedagogy. Both comprise the educational method we successfully use in the Legion of Good Will’s (LGW) teaching network in Brazil and abroad and in the social and educational programs we undertake. By way of this teaching proposal, which is combined with offering excellent services, we provide concrete benefits for millions of people and families living in a socially vulnerable situation who are assisted by the Organization. The LGW has acquired vast experience in the social and educational field over the course of the 66 years it has been fighting “for a better world and a happier Humanity,” as its founder, journalist, radio broadcaster, and poet Alziro Zarur (1914-1979), used to proclaim.
Education with Ecumenical Spirituality
In Manifest of Good Will (1991) I wrote that intuitively and with wisdom the people themselves, followed by eminent thinkers, among whom the Greek philosopher Theocritus (320-250 B.C.), state:
“While there’s life there’s hope.”
The most correct path still lies in the area of Education with Ecumenical Spirituality, a step ahead in the Third Millennium. However, the insensitivity of many was the motivation for this expressive challenge by the notable Martin Luther King Jr. (1929-1968):
“One of the great tragedies of man’s long trek along the highway of history has been the limiting of neighborly concern to tribe, race, class, or nation.”
For this reason, world efforts have to be destined for the rescue of the large underprivileged portion of the planet, thus placing the values of society in their due order and directing the march of economic development in favor of humans, inasmuch as it is the living beings that generate progress, despite technology. If not, governments may deviate from their purpose of governing for their people. Gandhi (1869-1948) concluded that
“A civilization is to be judged by its treatment of minorities.”
And there, in the indifference of many towards the rest, resides its weakness, if they do nothing to change the direction of the facts, for which it is equally necessary that they stop blaming God and His precepts for their mistakes. Therefore, this warning in the ancient aphorism of the Latin writer Publilius Syrus (85-43 B.C.):
“He is foolish to blame the sea who is shipwrecked twice.”
Sustainability based on Ecumenical Fraternity and Re-education
Regarding the management of the natural resources at our disposal, the whole world is talking about sustainability. This condition, however, is based on what? It is generally based on economic thinking that survives through greed and liquidates human beings not just by dint of unemployment and hunger—in various regions of the planet—, but also by lack of instruction. The latter often denies young people and even adults better perspectives. Nevertheless, all around us there are determined people who are making an effort to correct this situation, which hinders the sustainable growth of countless countries. It is not enough just to instruct and educate. Nations need to be re-educated and ecumenically spiritualized to ensure they look beyond the intellect.
Brazilian teacher, journalist, poet, and philanthropist Anália Franco (1853-1919), who founded seventy schools, homes for orphan children, and an important institution for helping women, argued in her heroic life for the pressing need to take advantage of education as a sustainable tool for the progress and empowerment of people:
“True charity is not protecting the unprotected, but promoting in them the capacity to free themselves.”
I repeat that this freedom will not come only by fostering technical studies, because this is not sufficiently capable of eradicating acts of barbarity, which continue to increase in a frightening manner in the world. That is why it is essential to enlighten hearts, by passing on to them the meaning of Fraternity, Charity, Generosity, Honesty, Love, Justice, Truth, and so on and so forth. Zarur used to warn that it was not enough
“to prepare people to be good doctors, good lawyers, and good engineers; you need to prepare doctors, lawyers, engineers to be good people. . . .”
As a result, we notice that in several places where the economy has become stronger, after a certain time and because of the lack of more investment in spiritual and ethical principles, the violence, which had reduced, flares up again, so many times coming from the indifference to those who have less than they do within their borders or beyond them. Many international conflicts result from this. Why? Because people are not only lacking in education, but in much more: in Re-education, which is adding the universal wisdom of the Soul to the formal content.
In an interview I gave on October 10, 1981, to the late Italian journalist living in Brazil, Paulo Rappoccio Parisi (1921-2016), I talked about the basic need to combine intellectual reasoning with the wisdom that originates in the heart. Yes, because there is also the intelligence of feelings*1, emotions, and, above all, the spiritual intelligence.
Effective preparation and Planetary Citizenship
Since I have already mentioned here the urgent need to train the hearts and minds*2 of new generations in order to deal with a reality that is full of challenges, I thought it would be appropriate to bring you this highlight from my work É Urgente Reeducar! [It is Urgent to Re-educate!] (Elevação Publishing House, 2010):
The Spirit has a predominant place in our everyday actions. However, in the preparation of youths and adults for their subsistence in this material world of technologies never seen before—and, paradoxically, in these days, so unstable for those who work hard for their own future—, we must take into the highest account that students must be qualified with efficiency for the strict demands of the current competitive job market. Moreover: prepare them in a manner that they do not follow a path in which professions for which they qualified themselves for no longer exist at the moment they get their diploma. Therefore, it is essential that they receive an effective education in order to be bold and enterprising, so that they can overcome the supervenient facts that, at any moment, challenge society and frighten crowds.
For argumentative purposes, bold plans will be of no avail if there is no one who has been properly prepared to develop them.
For this reason, it is urgent to teach everyone the meaning of the Citizenship of the Spirit, without which living in society will be deficient. This can only be corrected by promoting a higher consciousness, by educating people completely, based on the principles of Love, Cooperation, Understanding, Truth, and Justice.
With regard to the role of political and social players and those who believe in the noble ideals inherent in democracy, French political thinker and historian Alexis de Tocqueville (1805-1859) in his work Democracy in America wrote the following consideration:
“It is necessary that all who feel an interest in the future destinies of democratic society should unite, and that all should make joint and continual efforts to diffuse the love of the infinite, a sense of greatness, and a love of pleasures not of earth.”
The LGW’s pioneering defense of Planetary Citizenship aims to develop the full potential of human beings in all their dimensions, in other words, their spiritual, biological, psychological, and social dimension. Therefore, joining political citizenship with the Citizenship of the Spirit is ensuring the rise of Global, Planetary Citizenship, the foundation of which is Generosity and Solidarity, having spiritual values as support.
New Global Solidary Times
At this time, which is long awaited by so many valuable missionaries and activists, Humanity will understand that it will not be enough just to enlighten the mind if the heart is forgotten and that it is complete madness to wish for the progress of societies if the principles of trust and respect are a rara avis in interpersonal relationships. We also need to involve the hearts with Universal Goodness.
“For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?” (The Gospel of Christ according to Mark 8:36)
This is a fundamental and wise reflection from the Rabbi of Galilee, provided we do not crave to go down the wrong path, which will inevitably result in us moving backwards, because yet again we will have despised the knowledge of the Spirit, which is not yoked to religion or lack of religion, of whoever it might be. That is why the motto of the LGW proclaimed for so long is to promote Social and Sustainable Development, Education, Culture, Art, and Sports with Ecumenical Spirituality, so there may be Socioenvironmental Awareness, Food, Security, Health, and Work for everyone, in the awakening of the Planetary Citizen.
Here I stress the expression Ecumenical Spirituality, inasmuch as it is the cradle of the most generous values that are born of the Soul, the dwelling of the emotions and of the reasoning enlightened by intuition, the atmosphere that embraces everything that transcends the ordinary field of matter and comes from the elevated human sensitivity, such as Truth, Justice, Mercy, Ethics, Honesty, Generosity, and Fraternal Love.
May the highest aspirations that we carry within our enlightened being expand the horizons of our thinking and, with a spirit of initiative and creativity, manage to face up to the serious global challenges of our time and be translated into effective results that benefit the entire Humanity, which, united, insists on surviving the most tempestuous situations.
*1 Intelligence of feelings — In a report dated March 6, 1997, Léo Gerchmann, a journalist from Folha de S.Paulo, after visiting the Alziro Zarur Social Service Center, also known as the Temple of Children and of Nature, in the city of Glorinha, Rio Grande do Sul State, declared: “Before ‘emotional intelligence’ became a global trend in teaching, the LGW already included this parameter in the education of its students. Emotional intelligence is the potential people have for dealing with their emotions, which is different from IQ (intelligence quotient). ‘Our motto is to educate with culture and spirituality, the intelligence of the brain and of the heart,’ defined the administrator of the Home, Humberto Cassuriaga. In classrooms where school reinforcement lessons are given, the children receive extra help according to their difficulties.”
*2 Mind and Heart — In referring to these terms, the author has explained the use he made of them on other occasions: “Talking about the mind and heart comes from the need to provide evidence of a symbolism that is essential to the clarity of that which I present to you, in such a way that two of the most important conditions of the Soul are clearly expressed: thinking and feeling, or, in a more perfect moral order, feeling and thinking. I could say that as the mind is the main contact point of the Spirit with the body, the center of thinking and feeling (loving) are found in it.”