Mission as Animation
The following interview was conducted on January 10, 1998 , in Nagpur , India . The participants are Most Reverend Leobard D'Souza, Archbishop Emeritus of Nagpur , for eight years Chairman of Caritas India , and Dr. Yvon Ambroise, immediate past director of Caritas India . Archbishop D'Souza has served on several other committees of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of India including education, labour, catechetics, and Christian Life, and has been a Vice President of the Conference. He has been a member of the Office of Human Development of the Federation of Asian Bishops' Conferences. He currently teaches Church History and pastoral theology at St. Charles Seminary, Nagpur , and works in pastoral ministry in a rural village on the outskirts of the city. He is also vitally interested in "every and any kind of education which is other than the 'banking' method".
Father Ambroise has worked in the YCS [Young Christian Students] and YCW [Young Christian Workers] movements in India and internationally. He was assistant director of Caritas India for six years and director for seven. He holds a Ph.D. in religion and culture from the Catholic University of Louvain. He is presently a parish priest in a rural area in the diocese of Pondicherry in which he has established a team ministry and animation process. His parish has ten substations. He also travels to explain and facilitate animation in India and abroad.
In their work together in the YCW, where they met, and subsequently in Caritas, both Archbishop D'Souza and Father Ambroise concluded that the animation of peoples, empowering them to take their futures into their own hands was the component of contemporary mission. They devised theory and methods for that animation and for the training of animators which are described in detail in Social Transformation: How Christ Went About It, by Fr. Ambroise and R.G. Lobo, published by Caritas India (Ashok Place, New Delhi 110 00l) in 1993.
The interviewer is Catherine Berry Stidsen, Ph.D., an educator, currently involved in grass roots community development and public participation projects in Canada and abroad. She has made nine trips to India and has now helped to build and equip a learning centre in the heart of Nagpur , open to members of every caste, creed, and community. It is a school where "anybody can come to learn anything".
Archbishop D'Souza can be reached at St. Charles Seminary, Seminary Hills, Nagpur 440006, M.S., India , Phone/Fax: 91-712-525-090.
Fr. Ambroise can be reached at Our Lady of Angels Church, Karaikal, Pondicherry State , India , 609602 or c/o Archbishop's House, Pondicherry State , India , 605001.
Dr. Stidsen resides at 535 Irish Line, Cayuga , Ontario , Canada , NOA 1EO, Phone/Fax: 905-772-3790, E-mail: email@example.com.
Stidsen: Father Ambroise, much of what we are dealing with increasingly in the West in terms of homeless persons and more and more persons finding themselves on the margins of our social, political, and economic lives, are issues which you have dealt with in India for years. I understand that the animation process which you, Archbishop D'Souza, and your colleagues have evolved is an attempt to deal specifically with these kinds of situations. Would you discuss a bit of the history of that evolution, please?
Ambroise: Looking at poverty in an historical way, I would say that this problem is common to humankind. But at a particular moment, namely the industrial revolution and the post-war development era, poverty began to be seen in a different way in the West, namely that it could be eliminated, and in many ways they did that, eliminate it. But the problem of the capitalistic structure was that it had its own inbuilt contradiction. Automatization, for example, has created a crisis in employment, so poverty has returned to the West. While if you look at the Asian countries, Asia tried to apply the same formula. In India , since independence, Nehru was dreaming that we become like Europe . He took the European model and avidly followed it. Also, for him, Japan was a very important model. He tried to employ much of its economic approaches to India . After trying for three decades it became clear that the western model could not transform the Indian economy.
In the 1970s it became clear to many people in Asia and in India in particular that we could no longer believe in the western model nor could we allow the development of the people to be undertaken only by the government. Slowly, non-governmental organisations began to take over the development of peoples. This was a period of experimentation. It was also a time in India when the Naxalites were at their height. Everybody was fed up with inequality.
D'Souza: Perhaps it would be good if you explained who the Naxalites are because it is a peculiarly Indian problem.
Ambroise: The Naxalites are the Marxists who very much wanted to eliminate poverty in India . But they wanted to do that fast. Traditional Marxists feel that the course of events of the failure of the industrialisation process will require the proletariat to take up the cause of the poor and eventually this will result in a revolution of the sort that happened in Russia . But the Naxalites said that the course of industrialisation in the West would not be repeated in India because it is a rural country and Mao's example also showed them that the Russian model could not be followed in a predominantly rural country.
So the Naxalities started with the peasants. They determined to work with that group on which Mao had so much depended. Naxal Bari was a village in West Bengal and the leader there was Charum Mazumdar. He urged the villagers to behead their landlords and put their heads on poles in the village because they would not give them proper wages. They did this and then took off and hid and the government could not find them. This approach began to mushroom into a huge movement called the Naxalites. Mazumdar had for his motto that a member of the movement who was not willing to stain himself with the blood of the enemy was not worthy to be called a Naxalite. But interestingly it was city dwellers, industrial workers, who really took up this movement. Calcutta was filled with Naxalites. They said that they could not live with the corruption of the society.
Other non-governmental organisations were also working to eliminate poverty but without this kind of violence. At the beginning all these organisations thought that money was the key factor. Money was their focus. They felt money was needed to help people. But eventually they shifted their focus from money to people. They began to be concerned about the development of people They began to ask themselves where the money was going to come from. They were operating from the Marxian principle that when the economic infrastructure is developed, the superstructure will change. But when are you going to change the economic base? So many working with people said we must work to change the people, their value system, their way of thinking, and thus their future.
Stidsen: Is there any one NGO [non-governmental organisation] that stands out in either of your minds as leading the way in this shift?
Ambroise: Unfortunately, there is no documentation in all of this. It is all oral tradition. We all lived it. I was one of those doing so.
D'Souza: There is some evidence of this in the youth movements of India in which we were both involved. We began to take seriously the YCS [Young Catholic Students] and the YCW [Young Catholic Workers]. Many of the YCS members eventually went into the AICUA [All India Catholic University Association]. With the experience of the methodology of Cardinal Cardijn, at the heart of the YCS and YCW movements, which was to "observe, judge, act", the university students took this approach to a more intellectual plane. They realized the value of their training and of this approach and the university students determined to take this method to the rural areas of India . They volunteered to go and to live among rural peoples and to train them in the use of this method. Several of these groups who went to rural areas subsequently became NGOs. There was not a registration process at that moment to set themselves up formally as NGOs but they were working on their own with the people especially in the area of Orissa. Many of the AICUA students did this, boys and girls worked together at it, some even married each other.
A further development came when these young intellectuals began to do wider reading. At this time we got much inspiration from Latin America , especially from Paolo Friere. His Pedagogy of the Oppressed was being used in universities, and through these a-ecclesial bodies, because they were not ecclesial, and through the influence of their chaplains, especially Father Ceyrac and others, they got a special intellectual formation and content. From my point of view, this was the first stirrings of animation, that is of grass root movements aimed at developing people. The pedagogy was developed much later on. I think Yvon is in a better position to discuss this because at the grass roots level we had two contradictory trends, one is building up people and the other is agitation, because the problems on the spot were so great that many said that the only solution was the Naxalite way, the way of agitation and violence. The other way was the deeper understanding of inviting people into a growth process which involved the facilitation of people to take their destiny and their future into their own hands. I think Yvon might want to comment on this since he was deeply involved in it while I was then working in the Christian Life Movement.
Stidsen: Before we do that could I just ask if what you are saying is that the church was very much involved in this evolving animation of peoples?
Ambroise: Church in the larger sense, yes. Many of these persons had Christian origins but some would not like to be thought of as Christians and some of what they did was not approved by the institutional church, but yes, very Christian inspired.
I was thinking as Leo was talking of when I was chaplain of the YCS in the 1970s and I was so anxious to get a copy of the Pedagogy of the Oppressed. Everyone was talking about it and I could not get a copy of it. I was ready to pay any price for it. Finally we got one copy of the book and we took it and mimeographed it. Can you imagine how much interest there was in it? Then books like Cultural Action to Freedom, we could not get. We would hear of them but we had so little access to foreign books. We yearned for materials from Saul Alinsky, Ivan Illich, those who were at the higher intellectual levels.
Not only this but every linguistic group began to provide materials from Paolo Friere in their own language. The Tamils produced a full package on how to teach literacy using the method of Paolo Friere. There was one in Telegu, Hindi, Malayali. So everyone wanted to show that they could adapt Friere to their situation and his approach was to go to the people, change their consciousness level, value system, and when you do that you change people.
It is here where action was coming. Paolo Friere did not have a theory of macro change only of micro change. So it was here that they relied on Marx. Friere was a good theoretician on the micro level but the people who wanted to effect change were also interested in the macro level. And there was no one who had a theory but Marx so they moved in the direction of agitation, confrontation, violence. They came to the conclusion in many countries that to effect change they would have to be willing to sacrifice their lives. Was this Christian? Was it Marxian? It's hard to say.
In the late 70s came an incredible spurt of action groups, so much so that in the early 80s we had the peak period of social activism. In 1984 the decline began. The activists had been working with the Marxian model and were expecting change and five, eight years later, nothing had happened. All these youngsters who had started out so hopefully by 1984 were experiencing a dull phase. Also, it was time for many of them to get married. The young men were being told it was time for them to settle. The wife came along and the social activism had to be toned down. So from 1984 on came a time of social maturation. The activity slowed down and Indira Gandhi was dealing very strongly with these kinds of things. Many of the social activists were labelled Naxalites and imprisoned. Many of the activists decided they would not dash their heads against a stone. So the mid to late 80s became a period of solid reflection in which new methodologies were being distiled from the previous experiences. In the 1970s I was with the YCS and YCW and by the early 80s I had completed my own intellectual formation so I began looking, too, at what theory could be drawn from the ashes of the previous activities. There was something beautiful inside of all this but it had to be developed theoretically.
In 1983 I came over to Caritas. We began working on the theory. As I said the 80s was a maturation period and in the late 80s we said, why don't we put down in black and white what our experiences are. And that is how the book came to be. It is a book of the first order of its sort in India .
D'Souza: It started really in Caritas when we realized that many of these YCS people, YCW people, AICUA people, ex-priests, ex-nuns were getting in work at the grass roots level and applying their own methodology to their work. One day in our thinking Yvon said, "Why don't we dialogue with these people many of whom are now a-ecclesial, not within the present church structure but who are doing wonderful work?" We also came to this from another point of view, namely that of funding. We were funding by and large only church bodies but many of these NGOs were also applying for funding to run their organisations; they were registered charitable bodies. Some of them we were in touch with but some we were not. So we said, why not get into dialogue with them. We will continue to fund Catholic projects and diocesan projects but we will also keep these others in mind. This was put before the Standing Committee of the Catholic Bishops and there was a major discussion. The we decided to call in the theologians. I remember Fr. Felix Wilfred coming to New Delhi along with some other theologians and getting into dialogue with the bishops. And we were able to say without suppressing in any way the needs of the dioceses, we should go ahead and react with them.
It was at that moment that we said in addition to any funding we needed to enter into dialogue with these groups and so we called together every year a group of social activists. We met in various places in the country, Hyderabad , Nagpur , Pondicherry , Ballia, and so forth. We spent five days together with them. There were never more than fifteen persons, usually only ten, and that made possible intense discussion all of which was recorded so that we could keep the data and go over them.
For me, from my point of view as bishop, I will tell you how I felt. I was one of them, one of the participants, and they did not spare me! "Bishop, what are you doing about the poor and poverty in your diocese? Are you using this animation method that we are talking about?" So we had examples of experiences of people who were in the field, how they were reacting, how they were building up the people. And we did not spare them! We questioned them. "Are you building up the people or are you building up yourself? Are you building up your organisation or are you building up people as a human community? What are the methodologies you are using?" We were asking direct questions pertaining to the life of the people.
And as we were doing this we were asking them if their approach is Marxist, where is their commitment to the people's greater good? Their transcendent good? "Do you see a spirituality at work?" And they were saying, "No, we don't want one. The church has let us down." Then we began to try to see what are the taproots of spirituality, the taproots of spirituality so badly needed by these people who were burnt out, who worked at the grass roots level, being all the time at the frontier, on the firing line, with nobody to back them, with no help from the church supporting them, because the institutional church was not supporting them, no one was supporting them. And that was when we came to the taproots that you cannot have justice without faith. We know that projects cannot succeed without a faith element. So we concluded that we must use the methodology which Jesus used and that is how the book came about.
Stidsen: And of course, what Jesus wanted was the integral human development of every person so to do what he did, to think as he thought, to teach by example would not exclude members of any caste, creed, or community.
Ambroise: I am thinking now of what I would call key moments of the movement of the Spirit in all of this. The first key moment was that Caritas started discussing about animation and right in the heart of Caritas came the problem, how can we exclude lay groups, groups disenchanted with the institutional church, even Hindu groups from what we are funding if they are involved in authentic animation. The miracle for me was that the Standing Committee of the CBCI gave one full day to this discussion. Can you imagine that they don't even give that amount of time for something like catechetics? [Laughing] They gave one full day to the discussion. We had theologians, sociologists, all kinds of people addressing this issue, and the bishops sat and listened and at the end of it they took the decision that Caritas should go ahead and support the disenchanted groups and even the non-Christian groups that are working for peoples' animation. To me that was the working of the Spirit.
The second moment for me was when Leobard became the Chairman. He was operating along the line that we had to search together with all kinds of persons to effect this animation. When he determined to create these groups that would meet to search for the truth of how to do this, that was the second movement of the Spirit.
The third is that when this group gathered of persons who were disenchanted with the church, who felt abandoned by it, and realized that the archbishop who is the Chairman of Caritas is with them, and that the director of Caritas is with them, they began to look at themselves. They began to think constructively rather than to continue to be destructive. Many of them discovered their own hollowness within themselves and saw that it came from a lack of spirituality. The began to formulate a spirituality And we eventually incorporated that spirituality into our book.
Stidsen: Briefly, what were the criteria for the a-ecclesial persons you called together for these meetings?
D'Souza: We had a variety of persons, clerics, lay people, originally in Hyderabad even non-Christians but we changed that because we saw that we needed to have a common ground. We concluded that the gospel was our common ground. We looked for people who were isolated, heavily and genuinely active in the field, and committed, people who needed companionship, sympathy, empathy for the work they were doing, and therefore coming from Caritas on the official level, with the bishop being with them, we wanted to show them that we were one with them.
Ambroise: We wanted people badly misunderstood in their milieu but highly appreciated by us. We were also hoping for a growth process, for people who didn't want to stay where they were but to move on.
Stidsen: So you now have this group of persons with whom you are consulting, and the bishops decide that Caritas can fund these operations and non-Christian operations -- which certainly strikes me as miraculous --
Ambroise: [Interrupting] The funding was not for any kinds of organisations but for grass roots people.
Stidsen: Did you move then to establishing some criteria for funding the groups?
D'Souza: No, it was not the funding so much. Funding continued all the time because that was part of our life and we made very clear distinctions. But it was on the occasion of the silver jubilee of Caritas India that we wanted a policy statement. The silver jubilee celebration was the watershed. We used the occasion to call bishops and all persons concerned to deal with the direct question of what they wanted Caritas to be for the next decade. Through an inter-active process which included the Caritas staff which played a vital role in the discussions, we came to the very concrete decision that the thrust of Caritas for the next decade has to be animation. When we used the word animation we had to spell it out. This is where our involvement with the people came in in a strong way. We already had a process at work. It wasn't as if we had found the contents of animation but we had found a process to uncover this. We had to spell it out for ourselves, for the people in the groups with which we were working, and for the bishops. In this we were helped by accepting to do as part of our process of reaching out to the people a dynamics course. So Yvon got together a team of people, one for the north and one for the south. Our first target group was the directors of diocesan social service societies so that they would understand what we were about. They were in every diocese, had the support of their bishop, and were responsible for the social work of the diocese.
We wanted to wean these directors away from only giving handouts, only from income generating work, only from projects, to building up people through the facilitation process which we wanted them to come to know which we called animation. So this was a key part of our thrust. At the same time we built up regional fora where we could get a wider group of people together. We asked them to reflect on the trends that were occurring in the region. And these trends usually were determined by the states in the country, especially in the south of India . So for example, we asked persons at these regional meetings to discuss what the Kerala government was doing, what was the government in Tamil Nadu doing, in Karnataka, in Andra Pradesh, in Orissa, in the tribal belt. We brought the animation process to these regional fora.
By this time we had the handbook for animation ready, Social Transformation, written by Yvon and Rudy. Incidentally, it was written in all sorts of places and under all sorts of circumstances in the midst of these meetings and explanations of the process. They would go off and isolate themselves and record the experiences and insights. It was a work in progress for several years but was finally completed just when we completed the regional fora.
Stidsen: So the animation process revolves around using the book?
Ambroise: The book is a product of the methods used, more a recording of the process. It was intended to provide a ready reference. Our hope was to continually improve it and that would appear as a revised edition. Unfortunately it has just been reprinted without such a revision. I would have revised a few chapters and I would have added one, specifically "Vested Interested Groups". In light of my present experience in the field I would want people to reflect on how these groups want to maintain the status quo and why and what to do about that situation, and how to do it non-violently.
Stidsen: As you will remember, I asked the both of you for this interview because having read the book I feel that there are international applications of it. I know that you go to France regularly, Yvon, and have done animation work there. I am wondering if some group were to invite you to Toronto , for instance, what might the animation process do there?
Ambroise: As you know, I studied in Europe . I was there from 1976-1982. I travelled widely while I was there. In all that time I did not see one beggar.
D'Souza: You were there at the height of the social welfare state in 1976. Then came the trouble in France in 1978, the students' movement, which demonstrated in France that the social welfare system was not working as they wished.
Ambroise: Yes, and now when I return to France I see people living on the streets, people who have been thrown out of their homes, I see beggars almost everywhere, even people dying on the streets. Some people in France are taking this very seriously and want to do something about it. Sécours Catholique [Caritas France ] is among them. For years they have been giving to others, to countries like India . That was when only 1% of their own people were in need. Now they are seeing that they must do something at home. The estimate in France is that 20% of their population is now in serious need. What do they do for these people financially? Again, previously when they helped that previous 1%, these people began to live better afterwards. But today they are discovering that because of drugs, for example, the monies they give out in France are being more misused than used. So they are getting discouraged. They know the handouts aren't working but they must do something. They developed partnerships with us in India .
They have come to visit India and we have taken them around to see our work in animation. They have concluded that we have developed something unique, that we are concerned for peoples' bodies, minds, and spirits. They have no specialists in Europe who are doing what we are doing. So they invited me to come since I am fluent in French having studied in that language. What they used to do before that was bring teams from France to India , especially the French-speaking part of India , Pondicherry , for fifteen days of training here in the animation process. But when I finished my term as director of Caritas India , they asked me to come there. I spent three months in 1995-96 working with teams in France . Word of those programs got to people working for Caritas in Lebanon and I was then invited to go there as well. The people in Lebanon are learning to become animators.
You ask about if I were to come to Toronto -- I would say there what I have said in France and Lebanon . You must cook first and then make the recipe. You can't have the recipe and then start cooking. I give people the principles, not practises. Once they get the principles of animation and begin living them out, then policies evolve which are relevant for the individual country.
D'Souza: Yvon, could you please tell Catherine, just in a nutshell, what is the animation process, what are the steps, and your whole idea of what is poverty, the dynamics of poverty, and how we are working with the dynamics of poor people.
Ambroise: Yes, you see the whole shift was from giving money, from handouts, which was the principal item. As long as you have money you give it. The shift is from money to people. Secondly, the idea of poverty itself underwent a change in our thinking. The concept behind handouts is that the world is made up of rich and poor; God made it this way. The rich should help the poor to live better. You cannot eliminate poverty but you can relieve the misery and suffering of the poor. Therefore, the rich are the custodians of the poor.
But when the industrial revolution happened and poverty was almost eliminated that had to be looked at again. The new theory was that poverty was the result of the under-development of natural and human potentials. So the idea was to develop natural potential by technology and human potential by skill formation, education, health systems. So mainly the second attempt was increasing the purchasing power of the people but as I mentioned in the Asian context this could not work. So the third theory that emerged is that poverty is a man-made phenomenon brought about by unjust systems, not by a lack of natural and human potential. Therefore, unless you touch these structures, you cannot eliminate poverty. What a human being has made only a human being can unmake. Therefore, you have to prepare people to unmake these structures. So the key concept of this third phase of understanding is to deal with de-humanisation. The poor are subjected to a great deal of violence. And this violence is of three kinds: physical, symbolical, and psychological. When a person is subjected to these kinds of violence, and when unjust structures promote this kind of violence, the persons give up hope of living a decent human life.
D'Souza: One of our main sources of violence in India comes from the caste system.
Ambroise: The caste system, and our male dominated culture as well -- so the question that came to us was if people are to be liberated from all of this where do we start. That's where Paolo Friere and others came in. So if de-humanisation is the problem, then we must work toward humanisation of the individual. We must go to the person in poverty and treat them with dignity and respect.
D'Souza: This is where conversion comes in. The poor person sees the acceptance of this lot of his as a religious duty. In both Hinduism and Christianity resignation of the poor to their lot is preached, it is God-given, etc. We work toward a conversion of the person to the acceptance of his human dignity, because it is God-given. We are created in the image and likeness of God and from here we must take our faith formation.
Ambroise: And, of course, in Hinduism, there is another cruel belief that the present state is the result of one's past life so there should be no escape from it but acceptance of it and working within it.
Stidsen: And to do anything else threatens the condition of one's next life.
Ambroise: Yes. So this was where we decided that we must work with people; it must be a people to people approach. When I first come to you, work with you, make personal sacrifices for you, at the beginning you may suspect me, wonder what I want. But when I persevere in my respect, then the poor person may come to see me as the exception to others who want to manipulate. And more than that may come to say that if this person respects me so much, maybe I am someone who can be respected. Then with time will come the conviction that not only could I be respected but I should be respected.
D'Souza: The methodology and entry into any village in India -- I say village because the slums are another peculiar challenge -- involves entering into as Gandhiji said, the "womb of India ". We chose to enter the villages via the programmes of functional literacy which the government wanted. Through these literacy programmes we developed methods in which we could help them to understand their situations.
We eventually developed textbooks which taught literacy and numeracy but based on their own experiences of life. So, for example, we would have them calculate how many hours of work they had put in for the landlord who was also their money lender and how many years they have paid over and above the interest and principle they owed the money lender. They came to see how they were bonded to this money lender for years more than they should have been. So they learned about their humanity in this humanizing process which was part of our literacy and numeracy work.
Stidsen: That's brilliant!
Ambroise: We could even use the alphabet in this work. So with the Hindi letter that begins water, we would ask, do we have water in our village, and if we do what kind of water is it? Is it clean?
D'Souza: In Hindi it is very easy. The word is pane. So you do the "puh" sound, connect it with water, and then ask, whose well do you go to? Whose well are you not allowed to go to? Why is that? Should that be the case? Now this required people on the spot, going to the villages, with life-oriented literacy programmes. It required people dedicated to working at the grass roots level. And this became part of my dream in which I wanted to establish village communities, sisters and priests who would go to the villages in the Archdiocese of Nagpur, committed to working with the people there in the process of conscientization. But always with our consecrated people, they want to run before they have learned to walk. They are always thinking of the macro level before they have built up the micro level. I feel in Nagpur we never really got that micro level work done.
Ambroise: This is our way of helping people as Friere says, "to name the world". When you see a tiger, you name him a tiger. When you see a doll, you call it a doll. But when you see an exploiter and call him a benefactor, you are not naming the world. So a money lender who is taking 120% interest from you is an exploiter, not a benefactor. What we want to do is help people to grow in their consciousness and end a false consciousness. We want people to face reality. We don't want them calling a tiger a doll! One needs to be frightened of a tiger but not of a doll. The reality means that when one identifies an exploiter, there is some reason to be afraid. But here is when the unique ethos of India makes a contribution, that of non-violence. And here is where we can link the Christian ethos and the Indian ethos, in the area of non-violence.
If you need to escape from victimisation should you go and kill the money lender or should you start a savings programme. Non-violence would say start the savings programme, build it up, and then you don't need to go to the money lender. And when you do that you put him out of business. What we have learned is that when you humanise the exploited, you humanise the exploiter. So long as the exploited do not name it as such, continue to accept it, and even see it as a blessing, and continue to see the exploiter as a benefactor, the exploiter will continue to do what he does.
So long for example as a woman who is beaten by her husband continues to accept that, nothing will change. The moment she says, "Why are you beating me? I didn't get married to be beaten. I don't want to be beaten any more. If you treat me as a respectable woman I will stay with you, otherwise I will not." The moment she says this and he realizes what he is doing, at that moment he becomes more human. So, too, with the exploiter of any sort.
So, for example, when persons involved in bonded labour realize what has happened to them, when the whole village becomes aware of what bonded labour means, and the whole village goes to the money lender who is often the landlord and says they are not going to work any more, the whole situation changes.
D'Souza: This is the process at work at its best. If the villagers are going to function non-violently then they quickly learn that they must also function as a community, as a group. Then they can voice their feelings, their concerns, their needs to a society which is not taking any of those things into account. They can do this to anyone who is victimising them. And here, the power of women in our villages is paramount. They have broken the backs -- figuratively -- of many who been exploiting villagers in particular. This has been proved in all our women's groups, where they have been flourishing in Tamil Nadu, in particular, with great success.
Ambroise: In short, in terms of the animation process, we can speak of a before and after. Before, because of the violence, the victim has adapted his life and has become silent. Afterwards, because of the process of humanisation, he speaks out, he speaks out because he now thinks differently, he feels differently because of the awareness that has come to him. He felt he was nobody. Now he feels he is somebody. He can do something. There is a change in his self-image, in his sense of self-worth. Also, earlier he felt he was alone. Now he is part of a group and with the group he feels he can do a lot. His self-confidence is also increased when he realizes that it is his labour which is enriching everyone's life. He also begins to understand that if his labour can enrich everyone else's life it can enrich his own. So he becomes resource-full. He moves from existence at a survival level to questioning how he can build up his tomorrow. In fact, the creativity he has put into surviving, can now be focused on creating his future.
Stidsen: We have a lot of talk in North America about enhancing self-esteem and creativity but I think your programmes require more than words as do many of ours. You require hard work in confronting unacceptable behaviours in one's own self and in others.
Ambroise: Yes, the real pedagogue in all of this is action. We can talk and talk and talk but if there is no action nothing will come about. It is by action that one feels they can take charge, can effect change.
D'Souza: Action also means moving out of isolation. It means knowing that there are people who are with me. It means collective action on behalf of the cause. It means moving from isolation to community, and using the gifts of all members of the community to get done what needs to be done. Then we have truly empowered people.
Stidsen: This discussion reminds me of what my late husband used to say, namely, that we need a new definition of wealth, that wealth is the power of control that each of us has to create our own future.
Ambroise: He was right about that.
D'Souza: And when we put that power together, and at each other's disposal, we have true community.
Stidsen: Thank you, Archbishop D'Souza and Father Ambroise, for your insights on animation and empowerment of peoples in India and internationally. I find myself hoping that the book about these experiences in India becomes as much of a handbook for social activists my side as it has for people with whom you are working.