Closing ceremony of the World Social Forum

Speeches long and short, songs joyful and moving, crowds local and foreign– a wonderful mix of sights and sounds marked the close of the World Social Forum on Wednesday evening 21 January. Over one hundred thousand people gathered in a huge ground called Azad Maidan (?Freedom Ground?) in central Mumbai to bring the five days of the WSF to an end, carrying banners, dancing and shouting slogans. A human rights activist from Pakistan implored the crowd not to give up on the struggle for justice as she recounted the global and local challenges we all face; a senior Indian statesman recalled the inspiration of Gandhi as a guide; and a woman leader of local people in Ecuador spoke movingly of the hope we all had as the WSF concluded. Many in the crowd had not attended the formal sessions of the WSF but had simply wandered into the arena attracted by the music and dance. These included hundreds of children, mostly very poor, a poignant reminder to us of the urgency of the theme of the WSF, ?Another World Is Possible.? A Brazilian folk singer, justice activist and now Minister of Culture in the new Brazilian government, brought the crowd to its feet, touching all hearts with songs of life?s beauty and tragedy. For me, the closing event was a summary of what had moved me again and again during the days of the WSF. There were intellectual moments of analysing globalisation, enthusiastic moments of calls to resist US imperialism, emotional moments of testimony to the suffering of the world?s majority, hopeful moments of commitment to change, spiritual moments reminding us of the reality of the human family. I can agree with what a young Zambian colleague told me during the course of the evening: ?I will remember this event for the rest of my life!? (Peter Henriot S.J) [HL40128]