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Pioneers of a Utopia

The First EoC Congress in Paraguay. Entrepreneurs in the Centre.

by Silvano Malini

140905-07 Asuncion 03 ridSmiling young people and adults, a relaxed atmosphere, jokes...no suits or ties... I know that the entrepreneurs' meetings tend to be less formal nowadays, but... am I in the wrong place? This cannot be the congress of the Economy of Communion! Well, in fact it is.  Carolina Peralta of the organising committee explains that it is not about listening to scholarly lectures but sharing experiences of company life. It is, in fact, a “meeting of communion in the economy”, as Andrés from Buenos Aires sums it up.

There are 120 entrepreneurs, directors, workers and students present from Paraguay and Argentina who gathered in the Mariapoli Centre called “María, madre dell’umanità” (Mary, Mother of Humanity) in Surubi-i, near Mariano Roque Alonso (Paraguay). It is a noteworthy number considering that in 2011 there were only 4 people practicing the EoC in Paraguay.

140905-07 Asuncion 02 ridYoung Argentinian Carolina Carbonell describes the feelings of many of the participants in a few words: ‘Travelling hundreds of kilometres and spending many hours on the road for some pleasant hours with friends (and they are not old friends but future ones) may seem to be crazy. The answer is that you only do this when you follow a dream, a call, a vocation... This is what prof. Luigino Bruni from the International Commission who joined us via Skype from Rome and the entrepreneur Germán Jorge talked about in their presentations.

Vocation... ‘The EoC Entrepreneur chooses poverty’, says Professor Bruni. Does that mean that there will never be a rich EoC entrepreneur?  Germán Jorge from Paraná (Entre Ríos, Argentina), owner and director of a company that engages in the distribution of construction materials with 60 employees, answers: ‘Poverty is bad for the EoC entrepreneur. Otherwise he or she would not be an EoC entrepreneur. He or she is not immune to it, but embraces it. One way of embracing it is by bringing it inside the company’. Jorge tells us that when he had to change his car his wife asked him to buy a minivan because the needs of the family had increased. However, he said no because he thought it was a luxury. Later he gave in, partly because they really needed it, and partly because ‘not having goods is not the point here, instead, what is important is that you should use them well: you should not depend on them but make them become tools in the service of communion’.

140905-07 Asuncion 05 ridOn the other hand it is good to show that you can be a successful entrepreneur even if you decide to live this way. Argentinian Ramón Cerviño, entrepreneur in the area of health confirms this. Cerviño recalls the words of Maria Voce, president of the Focolare Movement, who saw the difference between these entrepreneurs and the others above all in the choosing of communion as a way of life, by accepting and choosing to be different from others.

There was an enriching exchange of ideas about the “vocation” of the EoC entrepreneur which had a motivating effect on all those present. It convinced them that they should be the catalysers of communion, inside and outside of the company. ‘We should be persons in communion who live for their community’, underlines Germán Jorge in his talk. And he also recalls the metaphor of Argentinian entrepreneur Enrique Shaw, whose beatification is in progress: ‘The sentinel is not up there to enjoy the views of the landscape but to watch over the city.

140905-07 Asuncion 04 ridIn the capitalist economy’, reflects Germán, ‘the company's objective is to generate wealth. In our case, the generation of wealth is a sign saying that things are going well, but it is not the end goal at all. The end goal is communion and the process of communion itself: we generate ourselves as persons while we are doing business. And the company in this sense is not a machine to make money with, but a community of people’.

The moving stories of a hairdresser, a storekeeper and a hawker who, together with their families, created micro-enterprises are inspiring examples of work and tenacity. It is one of the fruits of the “EoC system”: part of the gains of the company is dedicated to the generation of work through the support of micro-entrepreneurs. And they in turn act according to the logic of communion.

140905-07 Asuncion 06 ridIn Paraguay, and in all of South America, communion is culturally inborn. It comes straight from the cultures of the ancestors, like that of the Guaraní. They are the indigenous people who lived (and still live, but they are very few now) in some parts of Paraguay, Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay.  They managed the community resources together. Just as historian Diana Durán made us see, who is the author of a book that will be published soon, the Guaraní chose the most generous person as their leader. It was easy to find him: he would be the one with the worst clothes because he had given away what he had to those in need. The study of Ms Durán entitled ‘Reciprocity and economy in prehistoric times and in colonial history’ shows that the indigenous peoples practiced reciprocal love naturally and that the European culture enriched the culture of the Guaraní with the Christian thought. In a certain way, as the great scholar of the Guaraní Bartomeu Meliá wrote, ‘America was not discovered but covered.

Deeply touched by the affectionate Paraguayan hospitability, the participants left full of enthusiasm and encouraged to follow the dream of a more humane economy that can be the generator of fraternity. As they return to their daily activities, these entrepreneurs are stronger in their conviction. ‘They are average people in the world, but they see everything from God's perspective’, states Mauxi Caballero, a student of Business Administration from Asunción. ‘And so they are the creators of a different world.’, he concludes.

Yes. A more beautiful and prosperous world for all. A place where one would love to live.

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