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From San Egidio

Some social and church commentators see the 1960s as an era of dissolution. Claudio Betti, recently in Australia, offers another take on the decade. With other schoolmates, he was influenced by the desire for change expressed in the events of 1968. He and his 14-year-old companions wanted to avoid the slogans of politics and the generalities of church commitments, and to live the Gospel with their feet and hands. They spent their free time in the Roman slums, and prayed in the streets. Their enterprise grew into the San Egidio community, a loose gathering of groups engaged with the poor of their cities. It also mobilises its resources for particular tasks, like brokering peace in Mozambique and addressing the devastation of AIDS in Africa. Claudio has not renounced the 1960s—on arriving in Australia, his first question was: why on earth did all the school students wear uniforms?

Peace piece

Talking of the ’60s, we have recently celebrated the 40th anniversary of the Encyclical, Pacem in Terris, issued by Pope John XXIII. It formed a notable thread in the tradition of reflection on political and social life, and has played its part in shaping the increasingly strong church opposition to war of any kind as an instrument of policy. The title of the Encyclical, Peace on Earth, will remind some of the high hopes of the 1960s that institutions could be shaped to embody the desire for peaceful international relations. It will remind others that this noble hope was utopian, and has been replaced by the contrary view that war is an acceptable instrument when used by the strong to secure peace on their own terms. For Pope John XXIII, of course, the title echoed the angels’ proclamation to the shepherds. It emphasised the recurrent need for conversion by ordinary people and national leaders alike.

Price of freedom

The voices of ordinary people have been mostly absent from the international debate about war. When you do hear them it comes as a shock. Listen to an old woman in North Korea who has to walk up ten flights to her room (the lifts don’t work) and face a subzero winter without heating. You realise that slavery—to poverty and oppression—is still with us.

The Caritas team has focused their Project Compassion appeal for this year on the millions of people around the world who are still slaves to poverty and oppression. They ask us to imagine what it is like to be one of the 250 million youngsters in child labour or part of a family forced into exile or privation. Imagine, and then act. The money raised during Lent will help to free men, women and children around the world so that they will know the peace that is freedom.

Your seat’s too big

As if there weren’t enough to worry about in the world, it seems that the majority of London West End theatres are suffering a backlash from complaining American tourists who arrive, jetlagged and with economy-class syndrome, only to contract a severe case of theatregoer’s bottom from narrow seats that were constructed in the age of few elevators and no KFC. British Labour MP Chris Bryant brought up this urgent matter in Parliament and was supported by Culture Minister Kim Howells. But would the mean old Heritage Commission let them fix it? Lottery funds might, it seems, provide the squillions required. But it remains to be seen whether conservationists, trim and wiry from years of health food and hiking, will chain their ascetic posteriors to the historically significant seats in question, deaf to the pleas of the plump. The debate continues.

Get info

Foxed by the barrage of political information coming from every quarter? Want to know whether the French, the Americans, the Iraqis, the Russians, the Turks or the Australians have right on their side? You might find some answers in the new
Master of International Policy Studies degree at La Trobe University—it even has a unit on the media. For more information see http://www.latrobe.edu.au/socsci/

Got the Blues

On Boxing Day, our correspondent committed a blasphemous act. The sun was shining, the temperature a pleasant 23°C, the breeze light, and the runs, if not exactly flowing, were at least accumulating sensibly and steadily. Nevertheless, at lunchtime, she walked out of the MCG. In the 11 years since she’d last been to a Test match, she’d come to expect more—she’d come to expect Tim Lane.

Now the best general sports caller in living memory has done the unthinkable. Tim Lane has left the ABC, he’s left cricket. And not for money, or greater glory, but for love. An old-fashioned professional, Lane (heretofore) had given all to his calling—affection, nay, passion, absolute fairness and a stern moral compass. Where now his stern moral compass? Love? When did the listening public give Tim Lane permission to be in love? Love, in a time of football?

Still, the whole sorry episode confirms at least one truth in these, our troubled times: you can never trust a Carlton supporter.

 

 

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