Last year, I left the frontline of Südwind and concentrated my professional efforts on contemplative work. As a worker of the political section of the church in Austria, I have the luxury to search for dialogue in areas where no immediate results are to be expected. I see it as my duty to invest energy in human holes where hope has gone invisible. For me, it was always clear, that the main focus of my political work had to be church inward. It can not be that an institution which claims to be a beacon of ethic behavior did not ratify the human rights convention yet nor is it siding in unison with the hassled and discriminated against the powerful. Due to bureaucratic experiences within Südwind, the harassment of “climate change – not system change” protesters and the stories of the criminalization of solidarity in Hungary and Italy, I decided to focus more on the welfare of activists engaging. 

What can pastoral caretakers really do for people in action? That question is accompanying me quite some time and the answer changes each day. Sometimes I think activists don´t need spiritual assistance at all. They know what they are doing and they don´t want to be slowed down with a lot of mumble jumble. On the other hand, I already met former activists who sacrificed their family and happiness for so-called golden goals and turned frustrated and cynical afterward. They felt betrayed by the world and were far from generating a positive impact.  

During the six years, I was engaged in Südwind, I had the feeling of being a soldier in a war against organized capitalism. There was no time and no energy to talk about anything else than raising funds, creating media strategies, instrumentalizing politicians and keeping our structures alive. There was constant pressure to keep the power and the positive attitude up, and nobody was really interested in how we felt or where we really wanted to go. In my role as a union delegate of Südwind, I saw it as my duty to safeguard human stories and to fight for a space to breathe. I did not succeed. In order to keep my health and positive mood, I stopped being a paid worker and continued as a volunteer. 

Being paid by the church, I work without too many bureaucratic rules and without the harassment of politicians. Am I allowed, in this privileged position, to be there for activists? I think it depends a lot on my own attitude and clear communication on what activists can expect from me. I could invite them for a coffee from time to time, just as Christian Gsöllradl-Samhaber of Child Planet Austria once did with me. Back then, it was refreshing that he valued me as a person, and not as an always positive warrior trying to change the world. Of course, a lot of them will not have the time to sit down and speak a bit, but it might already help them knowing someone cares. 

What about taking a stand? I think as a church, we are obliged to take a stand! Not to the detriment of the contemplating space we offer, but nevertheless with undeniable attitude assisting those who fight for global justice. The church, a moral institution, cannot hide in theoretical reflections and neutral observations. Atrocities need to be rejected and those who can mend them need to be named.