Tuesday, August 27, 2013

"Spiral of Violence" by Archbishop Dom Helder Camara

Spiral of Violence by Dom Helder Camara
This page links to a .pdf file that will allow you to download Dom Hélder Câmara's classic work of liberation theology, Spiral of Violence (1971) The file is 5.5 MB, but your .pdf reader such as Adobe Acrobat should open automatically and allow you to read as it comes in. The file can be saved to your computer once fully downloaded by clicking "file" in the top left and selecting "save as". New - as of March 2008 the full text, but not in its original formatting that comes in the PDF version, has been appended to this page, and will be found below. People who do not have high speed internet access should use this version. And thanks to a stranger, John Doucet of Digby, Nova Scotia, who converted my PDF to this form and sent me the file.

The scanned cover image in the downloadable file with its photo of the late Archbishop Camara comes from Sheed and Ward's original 1971 edition. I delight in the fact that my careworn 2nd hand copy of this has a cup mark on it, which gives the appearance that he is holding the world in his hands, which, I suppose, he is.

The text is scanned from a "clean" 1985 third impression (ISBN 0 7220 7505 3). As far as I can see on the web, this is the most recent UK edition in print and the US edition appears not to have been reprinted since 1971. Archbishop Câmara died in 1999 and his UK publisher has since twice been taken over, with no trace of the work showing in current catalogues. It therefore appears to be some 20 - 30 years out of print, though copies are sometimes available from specialist booksellers and on Amazon, albeit sometimes at a specialist price!

As I explain in a short note in the scanned file, my stimulus for posting this document to the web was the killing of Lebanese children in Qana on 30 July 2006. Having spent a day protesting this war at Scotland's Prestwick airport (where munitions planes were refuelling en route from America), I was unable to sleep all night until I'd placed this text on the web - something I'd meant to do for the past year.

If whoever holds the copyright intends to re-publish or is unhappy with this posting, will they please contact me and I'll take it down. Readers interested in Camara's liberation theology may be interested, too, in another web posting I've made (due to its unavailability otherwise) of Adolfo Pérez Esquivel's images of Stations of the Cross from Latin America, 1492-1992and also in an article I've just completed for Third Way magazine on the theology of spiritual activism, as well as other writings onnonviolence. As of July 2009 I have also added audio recordings of the 1995 Drummond Lectures in Scotland delivered by Fr. Gustavo Gutiérrez - click here. As of May 2010 I have added A Short Course in Liberation Theology, which is a PDF of materials that I use here in Govan, Glasgow, and which others are welcome to share (no acknowledgement necessary).

Lastly, while I have been writing this I have been engaged in an email sharing with a senior officer of the British army on state of the world issues. This reminds me of the importance of affirming that there are conscientious people on all sides of the debate about peace and violence, and that none of us have got adequate answers. What excites me so much about Archbishop Camara's tract is that he manages to shed so much light in so few words.


BBC Radio Scotland - Thought for the Day
Alastair McIntosh, 1 August 2006 – Spiral of Violence

My youth was during the Vietnam era, and I have to confess that as a hawkish young man I found war rather exciting. I remember going to Aberdeen University and seeing a poster that said, “War is not good for children and other living things,” and it irritated me for its naivety.

But there were rather a lot of posters like this, and, worked on by my valiant if few-and-far-between girlfriends, I gradually started to think in new ways that chipped away at the armour round my heart.

One of the most influential poster voices was a Brazilian archbishop called Helder Camara. He’d come out with things like - why is it that “When I give food to the poor they call me a saint. [But] when I ask why the poor have no food they call me a communist”?

I wonder how many of today’s politicians realise that when talking about the “spiral of violence” in the Middle East, they’re drawing on Camara, who published a little book by that name in 1971?

He observed that violence builds up at three levels in a society. Primary violence is the everyday effect of structurally ingrained social injustice. This generates secondary violence - the revolt of the oppressed. And that in turn provokes tertiary violence - repression by the powerful to secure their privileged position. And so the spiral of violence tightens.

After years of being out of print, Archbishop Camara’s little book is now going on the web. It culminates with an “appeal to youth”, saying that wars happen because of the egotism of adults, and he urges the youth to, “provoke discussions [and] force people to think and take up a position: let it be uncomfortable, like truth, demanding, like justice.”

Whether Lebanese or Israeli, war is not good for children and other living things, and the children are always innocent. Camara’s last word is for them: “With you I must remain young in my soul,” he said, “and keep the hope and love I need to help all humanity.”

Text Version (for facsimile PDF version click link above)

Spiral of Violence

by Helder Camara

To the memory of Gandhi and Martin Luther King

Dom Helder Camara. Archbishop of Olinda and Recife in the underdeveloped North - East of Brazil, has caught the imagination of the world by his description of the situation of the underdeveloped countries. In Brazil he is denounced as a communist for asserting the official teaching of the church and lives in constant danger of assassination.

In 1970 organisations in many countries nominated him for the Nobel Peace Prize.

Spiral of Violence is Dom Helder's symbol for the central problem of today's world : the violence of poverty which keeps over two - thirds of the world's people in a sub - human condition, the violence of revolt when peaceful demands have no effect and the violence of repression with which the powerful try to crush the demands of the poor.

The only escape from this spiral is to bring about justice, and this book is Dom Helder's appeal to all men of good will to exercise 'liberating moral pressure' to redress the balance between the developed and underdeveloped countries and between the privileged and underprivileged in the rich countries.

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