After the remarkable coming together of landless people, indigenous farm workers (representatives of the Guarani tribe), the bishop of the diocese, local parishoners of Ascension, Cascavel, with their totally committed, dynamic rector, Carlos Gabas, on Saturday (all in the previous blog entry), it was time on Sunday to visit a landless community and a group of the Guarani.
The landless people are not like the homeless in San Francisco and across urban America, in that they have shelters — wooden shacks made with cast off planks, with earthen floors. These basic shelters are on land they do not own, or even rent from the great agricultural landowners, so they are not like tenant farmers in this country either.
There is a simple but attractive Anglican chapel in the landless community, built by Ascension led by Fr. Gabas, but it is not the first Anglican chapel on the sight. The previous chapel was bull-dozed down by people working for the landowners. Fr. Gabas and these landless people do not give up, thankfully, and we worshiped in a rebuilt chapel.
The chapel was packed, the lunch following the Eucharist was delicious and plentiful, and it humbled me, once again, to be the recipient of so much hospitality.
After lunch, Bishop Naudal, Michael Tedrick, and the great translator who had helped me through the weekend, Marcel, left for Curitiba. And then, the seeming joke was set up (by God, it seems) — the bishop, the priest, the communist, and the software engineer all got into a car headed to visit an indigenous tribe. But the lives of these 85 Guarani is no joke, neither from the standpoint of their advanced spirituality, nor from the standpoint of people coping with rural poverty of an acute nature I had never before seen.
This group of 85 Guarani lives in a remnant of the once-vast forests. The adults are agricultural workers, like the landless people we visited in the morning. But here, in the forest home of the Guarani there is no electricity, and only minimal water. The challenge, however, is not to mistake physical deprivation as a marker for spiritual, cultural primitivism — the Guarani have maintained their language, their social system, and their religion.
Four shamans are in this small group, and one chief. While I was there they held a ritual service of great power, humor, and numinous presence. I had only mere inklings of its meaning, but I was swept up in the experience, and felt a collective kindness and acceptance from people who could be filled with resentment for anything coming from Western culture.
Again, as with the landless people, the Anglican Church is standing with these Guarani. Bishop Naudal, Fr. Gabas, and the people of Ascension Parish are working with some young university professors to help the Guarani in Cascavel advocate for their rights. They are also seeking to create a coalition between the landless people, the Guarani, and the parish for grassroots change. This was Anglican Christianity at its most inspiring for me.