by Jenn Lindsay
from State of Formation
I am on the planning committee of the International Political Camp at Agape Centro Ecumenico in the Italian Alps. Because I am always at a loss to describe exactly what Agape is to the uninitiated—and there is no way to truly grasp this ecumenical collective until one has visited—I will reference Agape’s description of itself from their website:
Agape international ecumenical centre is a place of encounter where one lives an intense experience of community in beautiful natural surroundings. Agape was and is an important point of reference in Italian Protestantism, for 50 years a place of education and development, theological exploration, political engagement, of acceptance and validation of differences. Every year many people, diverse in their religion, culture, ages, political thinking, come to Agape for one week to discuss and to be challenged, to get to know themselves and each other and to exchange experiences around a particular theme.
Agape describes itself as an “Ecumenical centre”, where ecumenism is understood in broad terms. An encounter among believers of different faiths and denominational backgrounds certainly, but also secular in character so that those who are not believers can also feel at home. In an open dialogue among atheists, agnostics and believers, each participant comes to lose his or her presumptions in claiming to know and possess the truth.
This year the theme of the International Political Camp was Violence, and camp attendees had a chance to consider many different specific scenarios of violence, resistance efforts and regenerative communities in order to grasp the deep interconnections of every level of violence—from globalization, to ethnic marginalization to domestic brutality.
In the middle of the week we planned a role-play game in which the camp was to enact a global summit considering a potable water shortage. The game presented a scenario wherein the world is running out of fresh water, so the United Countries of the Almost Arid Planet were to gather for an extraordinary General Assembly to address the situation. In attendance were corporate interests, highly paid water experts, emerging world superpowers, impoverished counties, civil society organizations, and radical grassroots activists.
In their presentation, the rhetorical tactic of the corporate giants and the reigning world superpowers was clear: to exploit the fear of scarcity that compels individuals and societies on the deepest level. Lack of food, lack of money, lack of love, lack of hope: what is more terrifying and galvanizing than lack?