Argentina: The Radio of the Poor

Director of Communications Center on Following Christ's Example

Rome, (Zenit.org) | 4365 hits

Argentina still suffers social repercussions left by the military dictatorship. Over the past 10 years she has suffered economic crises that left more than 50% of the population under the poverty line and one fifth of it unemployed. The Church faces social, moral and political challenges. As a result, initiatives have arisen in the media to take Christ and his message to the people. 

Johannes Habsburg of the weekly program "Where God Weeps," in cooperation with Aid to the Church in Need, interviewed the director of the Lujan Communications Center, Father Carlos Moia.

Q: When was the Lujan Communications Center established and what is its objective?

Father Moia: In the 80s, a group of priests and laymen worked for a review of the Saint Cajetan shrine. From that experience of communication, we thought we had to get closer to our people in their homes through the radio. I took on the direction of the review from '77 to '84. They were very difficult times. Our motto was: "To Say Without Saying," because there was really no freedom of the press, the Church was conditioned with false accusations. To speak of the Gospel, of justice, of the poor was not well seen by the authorities. They were not easy times for the proclamation of the Gospel, because there was talk in the name of the Gospel, yet very grave injustices were being committed, such as the taking of others' lives and …

Q: When you say that they spoke in the name of the Gospel, do you mean the government?

Father Moia: Indeed. The military sectors presented themselves as heralds of the West's Gospel, and this wasn't the case. They emptied the Gospel of what was essential, which is life, and converted it into death. This brought serious consequences for the country and the Church. There were Christians, as the episcopate said, who were not up to the measure of the circumstances and who betrayed the Gospel's values. This has had repercussions in pastoral ministries up to now, because credibility was lost. We must also acknowledge that there were very strong testimonies of life, of people who gave their life for Jesus Christ in those years of military dictatorship. Not only a bishop, priest or women religious who were killed, but also catechists. The number of catechists who disappeared at that time is very great; they are the silent martyrs of the People of God. And a priest said: "A Church that cannot recognize her martyrs, is a poor Church." In many cases the Church does not take up her heroic past of martyrdom of the 70s, because of ideological ties, positions and divisions. But this must not leave us in the past. We must look to the future to make the Gospel more credible and to assume our history. One must always be a prophet, not be afraid, and not believe that the lesser evil is the solution. The Gospel doesn't have lesser evils, but the option of life for the people; that is Jesus' message.

Q: It was from this experience of sorrow and suffering that the Lujan communications project was born. Why radio? What is the specific aim of your ministry on the radio?

Father Moia: Clearly the aim is the proclamation of the Gospel, explicitly or implicitly, a total evangelization, not the Gospel of the sacristy, but of the transformation of the world. A full, integral evangelization where Jesus' proclamation is found and also man's promotion, in keeping with the values of the Gospel. In many sectors of Latin America the tendency is that the Church must dedicate herself purely to the spiritual without the Gospel having repercussions in today's society. In accordance with the teaching of the Church, we have a broad vision. The Gospel must transform society so that every man can live with the dignity of a child of God.

Q: You are focused on the small stations in the countryside, not in cities. Why?

Father Moia: We follow Jesus' way. He went person by person in the countryside of Palestine; he didn't go to Jerusalem to proclaim the Gospel. Eventually that Gospel transformed the world. The option for the poor that the Latin American bishops ask of us, from Medellin to Aparecida, is not a pastoral strategy, but a profound root that stems from the Gospel. We have wanted to be faithful to that request of the Church, and we chose the communication option for the poor and from the poor. Bishop Angeleli always said to us: "Have one ear on the Gospel and the other on the people." That has been the motto of the Communications Center of Our Lady of Lujan.

Q: You don't have radio stations, but you produce the contents. Do you have an idea, approximately, of how many people you are reaching?

Father Moia: We have 1,500 small broadcasting stations in the whole country, which receive through the post a CD with some 150 monthly micros. Some 1,100 users can also download the content on the Internet. Broadband is not yet a reality in Argentina, that is why we must make the effort to send the CDs to the homes of radio operators, because they don't have access to the Internet. We reach close to 25% of the national population. We have SMS by cell phones, where we receive a great quantity of messages encouraging us in the work we do; also so that we will take part in prayer chains. People ask us to pray for their intentions, and, at our headquarters, we place them at the feet of the Virgin of Lujan so that, united with our Mother, we can be the ear of the people that need God.

Q: There is talk in Argentina of proselytism from non-Catholic groups, which at times is aggressive and openly anti-Catholic. How does the Church address this situation and what role can the radio have to counteract this attack on the Church?

Father Moia: There is only one way when it comes to religious groups in Argentina. I think it's important to use this language: "new religious groups," because if one calls them a sect, many people who are in these new groups and who have been in parish communities, feel wounded and that breaks the possibility of dialogue. Many leave because of the Church's lack of pastoral care in poor neighborhoods. It's a challenge: how does the Church in Latin America give an answer to the world of the poor? Because those who most access the new religious groups are the poor.

Q: So the radio can create that sense of community, of family, which at times isn't perceived in the parishes because of the lack of priests?

Father Moia: It can help, but it doesn't create it because I don't believe in an electronic Church. The Church has instances in her history in which the priest is necessary, but not indispensable. After the Jesuits left, Catholic communities in China survived for centuries with the animation of lay leaders, who continued and transmitted the sacrament of baptism, catechesis, faith. Although they were lacking something essential, which was the Eucharist, they didn't lose the faith. In Latin America we must respond to the challenge of not tying the Church to the presence of priests. Yes, they are necessary, they are important, they celebrate the Eucharist, which is essential, yet the laity must also take up their position of leadership for the People of God. The Church has a vocation she can't give up: to proclaim the Gospel and to baptize in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. This is not tied to the presbyterial order, but is a vocation that is given by the universal baptism of the faithful, as the Second Vatican Council aptly stated.

Q: In Numbers 402 and 65 the Aparecida document states the following: Globalization brings new poor faces to emerge in our peoples. With special attention and in continuity with the previous general conferences, we fix our gaze on the faces of the new excluded ones: migrants, victims of violence, HIV patients and those with endemic diseases, etc. This is strong and hard language. How does the Church cope with this overwhelming reality?

Father Moia: Yes, I think that in that list, we fit all the numbers. They are the wounds of Christ present in our people. The Church isn't a great social worker, but she must have a heart that is sensitive to these realities and give answers. One notices here the vitality of the Church. Perhaps it's not noticed in the structures, but it must be perceived in an open and sensitive heart. There are positive experiences, as in the Humahuaca gorge, where there are social plans to integrate the Aborigines; or the work of the cooperatives; the experience in the Emergency Villas in the fight against drugs, supporting young people so that they can come out of that tragedy that generates many consequences. I think the members of the Church must have a mother's heart, to embrace the needy who are in that situation. In this way a small step will be taken, which won't be the total solution, but which will light a light so that others can discover the way.

Q: One of the types of exploitation that you have criticized is open air mining. In what does this abuse consist?

Father Moia: The hills are blown up and this brings great environmental contamination, especially of the water of the rivers of the area due to the use of different elements, such as cyanide, to separate the gold. There is the case of Catamarca where rock material with water is conducted through 500 kilometers of tubes. They have left the peoples of that area without rivers, in addition to contaminating the water with cyanide. There are many interests behind this.

Q: What repercussion does this have for the people who live in that area?

Father Moia: Famine, impoverishment, everything becomes much more difficult. Because they used to irrigate their fields with those rivers. That has been lost … despite the fact that there are great media campaigns showing smiling businessmen and miners. Through the Social Pastoral Commission of Patagonia, the Church has expressed her concern and alarm over the silence in face of this open air mining exploitation. One of the grave problems of Argentina is the criminalization of the poor. The great injustice today is that according to the condition in which one is born, such are the possibilities one has in life. The good news the Church must proclaim is that every man is a brother, it doesn't depend on where he was born. If one lives in the northern cordon of Buenos Aires, it's very difficult to understand the reality of one who lives outside that cordon: he dresses differently, doesn't have brand name sneakers, and isn't white. It's easier to buy weapons for the police than to give tools to one's brother so that he can come out of his marginal situation. Let us ask the Lord of history to help us see that every man is a brother, that he is a child of God, and that together we can be a community that gives hope of a new world, that gives hope of the Kingdom of God.

[Translation by ZENIT]

* ** 

The interview was conducted by Johannes Habsburg for the weekly radio and television program "Where God Weeps," produced in cooperation with Aid to the Church in Need. For additional information: www.acn-intl.org