Encounter With Lula In Prison: Spirituality And Politics – Leonardo Boff

As of May 7th, former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva had spent 30 days in prison. For the first time, he was allowed to receive visits from his friends. I had the honor of being the first to visit him, due to our friendship of more than 30 years, and that we share the same Causa: Liberating the impoverished, and reinforcing life’s spiritual dimension. I fulfilled the evangelical precept: “I was in jail and you visited me”.

I found him as we knew him before he was imprisoned: the same face, hair, beard… only somewhat more slender. Those who hoped to see him angry or depressed must be disappointed. He is filled with energy and hope. His cell is large, very clean, with built-in-cupboards, and a bathroom and shower in an enclosed space. The first impression is good, even though he lives in isolation because, other than his lawyers and children, he can only talk with the guard, who is of Ukrainian origin, gentle and attentive, who has become his admirer. He brings Lula his food tray, more warm or cool, and coffee whenever he requests it. Lula does not accept the food his children bring him, because he wants to eat as the other prisoners do, without any privileges. He has his time to take in the sun. But lately, when he does that, drones appear overhead. As a precaution Lula leaves, because the purpose of those drones is unknown: to take photos of him, or perhaps something more sinister..

Among our discussions of politics, the most important was our conversation on spirituality… Lula is a religious man, but of the popular religiosity, for which God is existential evidence. I found him reading one of my books, The Lord is my Shepherd, (from editorial Voces) a commentary on the famous Psalm 23, the most read of the Psalms, which is also read by other religions. He felt fortified and confirmed, because the Bible is generally critical of pastor/politicians, and praises those who care for the poor, the orphans and the widows. Lula feels that he belongs in that line, with his social policies that benefited so many millions. He does not accept criticism as being a “populist.” Lula says: “I belong to the people, I come from the people and direct my policies, as much as I can, towards the people”.

At the head of his bed there is a crucifix. He uses the time of solitary confinement to reflect, meditate, to review so many things in his life, and to deepen the fundamental convictions that give meaning to his political actions, all that his mother, Lindu (whom he considers his protector and inspiring angel), often repeated to him: always be honest, and struggle and struggle more. Lula sees in that the meaning of his personal and political life: a struggle that everyone may have a dignified life, and not just a few at the expense of the others. “The greatness of a politician is measured by the greatness of his Causa”, he emphatically told me. And the Causa must be to make a life for everyone, starting with those who have the least. For that reason, Lula does not accept definitive defeat. Nor does he want to fall on his face. He does not want to fail, but to remain always faithful to his basic purpose, and to make of politics a great tool for organizing a life of justice and peace for all, especially for those who live in the hell of hunger and misery.

This dream has an undeniable ethical and spiritual greatness. It is in the light of these convictions that Lula maintains his tranquility, because he says and reiterates that he lives for that interior truth, one that possesses its own strength, that one day will become evident. “I only hoped”, he commented, “for it to happen after my death, but it is already happening, even now, while I am alive”. He becomes profoundly indignant at the lies spread about him, based on which they have mounted the triplex procedure. He wonders: “How can these persons consciously lie and sleep in peace?” He challenges Judge Sergio Moro: “show me a single shred of evidence that I own the triplex of Guaruja; If you show me one, I will renounce my candidacy to the Presidency”.

He asked me to pass a message on to the press and the people in the encampment: “I am a candidate. I want to carry on with rescuing the poor, and to create social policies in their favor, State policies, and that the costs –that are investments– are in the budgets of the Union. I will radicalize these policies for the poor, with the poor, and to dignify our country”.

Meditation has made him understand that prison has a meaning that transcends him, me, and the political disputes. It must be the same price that Gandhi and Mandela paid, with prison and persecution, to reach what they accomplished. “This I believe, and hope”, he told me, “that this is what I am going through now”.

I who came to encourage him, left encouraged. I hope that others are also encouraged. and shout “Free Lula!”, against a Justice that does not manifest justice.

Leonardo Boff
05-11-2018

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