Between the Acts
To the President of the European Parliament
WORKSHOPS - COMMISSIONSWillibald Jacob, Magdeburg, Ostdeutschland
We met in five commissions: Food (land), Shelter (environment), Work (unemployment), Move and Stay (migration) and Story (cu.ltural identity). The many small groups talked about what it means when today at so many places, basic human needs have not been met for so long. I was in a group of eleven people: immigrants from India, unemployed women from Britain, a disabled man from Denmark, a catholic priest from Austria, a Hungarian technician looking for work and myself from East Germany.
The catholic priest in our group put what we all felt into words: "Our problems come from the economic system. It has to be abolished. We need a new kind of socialism". I could hardly believe my ears. This was the most significant and memorable incident for the few of us from Eastern Europe, where the market economy is regarded as the answer to all our problems. In Western Europe and particularly in the countries of the South, however, this very same system is seen to be the downfall of people, communities and countries.
I am a Filipino migrant woman. We form part of the approximately 16 million non-EC migrants, immigrants and refugees in Europe. We are forced to leave our countries and our homes because we want to save our children and secure their future. We have brought with us our skills and copabilities. But these are not put to use. Many of us work as domestic helpers, cleaners, dishwashers and other low paid jobs. Many of us live in substandard houses. And our children do not get the proper education they need. Many of us are women who experience sexual harrasment and gender discrimination in our work places.
When Jesus was born, his family could not find shelter. That was 2000 years ago and we still have not done our homework. In our commission we have been gathering stories from Naples, from Brussels, from Paris, from Manchester. Everywhere in Europe homelessness is on the increase and the quality of housing for the poor is decreasing. Many live in ghettoes, which the autorities then neglect, because there are no votes there. Miserable housing leads to an atmosphere of violence and fear and then to racism.