Gender Equality : Whose Battle ?

The World forum for democracy 2018 will be dedicated to gender equality and women’s rights. We will focus in particular on women’s public, political and economic participation and on combating violence against women in the wake of #MeToo. The Forum will take place in Strasbourg from 19 to 21 November 2018.

 

       The recent vote of the European Parliament against the Hungarian government asks for the application of the article 7 of the treaty of the European Union, which allows the European institutions to subject a member state to sanction if there is an evident violation of one of the basic principles of the Union: democracy. It is well known that such request will not produce effects, since the final decision has to be taken by the European Council, where several governments, such as those of Poland, Austria and Italy, side with Mr. Orban’s government.

       This entire story is the most recent manifestation of the historical crisis that modern representative democracy suffers in Europe and America. Such a crisis concerns the understanding of what democracy is. Modern democratic practices rest upon the basic idea of creating explicit and inviolable limits to every exercise of power and authority, so that even the power of the people does not lack a bound which is fixed in the list of rights and duties of the citizens and of the different communities. On the other hand, the idea of democracy which is proper of several political movements in Europe and of Trump’s administration in the United States is based on the idea that the democratic process consists in the simple popular mandate which enables the winner of a presidential election or a majority in a Parliament to consider themselves as the only legitimate representatives of the “general will” of the nation.

ICMICA-Pax Romana is a movement towards action to transform our living environments. I firmly believe that this transformation depends on our transformation as men, as women, as Christians, in order to become effectively the salt of the earth and the light of the world. Testimonies and exchanges about what we are experiencing and what we see are crucial moments in building this social transformation. I sincerely hope that this session will allow us to throw a seed for the improvement of the living conditions of the populations on our continent.

 The Hungarian Prime Minister, Mr Orban, has a growing reputation for certain choices made by his government, which give rise to very conflicting reactions, in that they include the restriction of freedom of expression, religious freedom, freedom of association, the rights of minorities and the rights of migrants, and a restriction on the independence of the judiciary. The European Parliament, in a recent resolution, expressed its opposition, because if in the body of Europe is developing a spirit that is so seriously damaging to the democratic principles that we have shared and experienced (despite all the shortcomings) in recent decades, the very idea of Europe risks being compromised.  The results of the elections in Sweden, in which xenophobic and sovereign impulses similar to those of other European countries are strongly emerging, have contributed to this conviction.

Asian democracy is invariably uneven, ranging from the regressive democracy of Myanmar, Philippines and Vietnam to the more authoritarian in China, South Korea, and finally the more robust democracy of Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and the Philippines. Democracy is a phase in the political theory of Barbara Geddes who explains how the different kind of totalitarian regimes, from military, single-party, personalist, or amalgams of pure types, morph into different post less-totalitarian and more democratized regimes. In other words, democratization leads to the downfall of dictatorship which is facilitated by poor short-term economic performance. On the other hand, greater economic development leads the citizens to demand for greater democratic governance.

Some people broke my office window in the middle of the night and came in to search for evidences against them, they give me death threat” said a Jesuit priest from Gujarat who is a human rights activist. I was in his office to learn about his works and it was the time of national 2014 elections. During this time, when many citizens were buying the pro-development agenda of a promising political party; there were some who were constantly ensuring the safeguard of democracy. This tug of war among the citizens got the nation a ruling government which is no less than a nightmare.

On February 8th, 2018 the Neue Zürcher Zeitung gave an article dealing critically with the coalition treaty negotiated the day before between CDU/CSU and SPD the title “More state – less freedom”. Neither the coalition treaty not the criticism is of interest here. I would rather like to direct your attention and your interest towards the connection between state and freedom insinuated in that title. If that title is based on a quasi-physical model of communicating tubes, then the inversion “Less state – more freedom” is valid, too, and the comparative formula “The more state – the less freedom” and its inversion are valid as well. That those formulas express the political creed of a lot of contemporaries doesn’t need closer explanation. Hence I want to turn to the question which understanding of freedom on the one hand and state on the other is manifested in those formulas supplementing one another.

The MEIC, Italian member of Icmica Pax Romana, meeting in the monastery of Camaldoli in Tuscany for its annual session, asked itself, by listening and dialogue, how to imagine and implement forms of participation in society and within the Christian community.

Democracy

   

                We look with great concern at this historic moment, which is characterised by a crisis of democratic forms of participation and governance and, more deeply, of the very principles of democracy. The idea prevails that governing means opposing interests, thus exasperating rather than healing the social divisions: between Italians and foreigners, between north and south, between poor and rich, between young and old, between those who have guarantees and those who have not, between national needs and European responsibilities ...

We are aware, as men and women who care about civil and democratic life, that we have responsibilities in not having always grasped the extent of this process of degradation of democracy. As Christians and citizens we therefore consider it urgent:
- to rediscover those values and that civil passion that inspired the moment of the country's democratic construction when it was possible to combine a political vision of the common good with skills;
- to actively participate again in the social and political debate, convinced that, in the confrontation between different instances and in the search for adequate mediation, a cohesive civil community is built which is open to the future;
- to commit ourselves to building itineraries of political culture, relaunching the European project on a popular and institutional level for an inclusive coexistence, based on solidarity, in the context of a social market economy;
- collaborate with other associations and lauch study initiatives to meet the global challenges of our time, such as the divorce between truth and communication and the separation between finance and the real economy, seeking possible solutions and promoting good practices at the local level (as also suggested by Pope Francis in Laudato Si');
- promote the introduction of new forms of participation in the system of representative democracy in order to inform, discuss and deliberate on key issues.

Synodality

Synodality is a constitutive dimension of the Church, a dimension yet to be realized in the ordinary experience of our communities. As Christians we therefore consider it urgent:
- to create networks of relationships, contributing to the development of a model of the Synodal Church that recognizes and values the charisms of each individual;
- to initiate a reflection on the role of the laity in the decision-making processes of the Church, starting from the parish level, valuing the skills of each person in a style of co-responsibility with equal dignity;
- to contribute to fraternal dialogue among the Christian Churches, promoting an exchange of good practices and experimenting with forms of synodality;
- to have formative paths to common synodality for lay people and priests;
- to promote community discernment on ecclesial and civil matters, and to exercise co-responsibility in the decision, execution and verification of the choices made.

Translated from Italian by Philippe Ledouble