ANTIGUA, Guatemala

“Long years of civil war and import of weapons since the 1980s have created a difficult situation in Latin America, where it is challenging to prevent proliferation of arms,” stated Prof. Benjamin Maerchana at a World Council of Churches (WCC) consultation in Antigua, Guatemala.  

Maerchana, who is a member of the faculty at the Martin Luther King University in Nicaragua, said that about 4.5 million small weapons were in the possession of the civil population in the region in 2007 and are still in circulation.

The consultation he was addressing was focused on developing an ecumenical response on peace and human security in Latin America.

The event brought together more than 30 participants from around 20 countries from Nov. 30-Dec. 2. 

The consultation was organized by the WCC’s Commission of the Churches on International Affairs (CCIA) in cooperation with the Latin American Council of Churches and the Ecumenical Christian Council of Guatemala.

Maerchana said that the “challenge to stop the arms proliferation as well as combating drug trafficking in Latin America is essential for reducing the level of violence and setting conditions for human security, peace and development.”

Conference participants also noted that several Latin American countries have made progress in economic growth and social development, yet a sense of insecurity and vulnerability prevails among the people.

Rita Claverie de Sciolli, vice minister for foreign affairs of the Republic of Nicaragua, said that an “increasingly polarized social order dehumanizes people in many parts of Latin America, therefore the role of churches in protecting the dignity and security of the people has become valuable.”

“The role of churches in a country like Mexico, where hundreds of thousands of people from Central American countries are stranded as migrants, the shelter and care provided by the churches are valuable,” she added.

“Criminalization in exploitation of natural resources, especially the land of indigenous peoples, is a common trend in many Latin American countries,” said Maria do Carmo Moreira Lima, president of a national indigenous women’s association in Peru and former member of the country’s parliament.

“Mobility of indigenous people and their peaceful lives are threatened by transnational companies, who collaborate with corrupt politicians and rulers in several countries in Latin America,” she added.

“Human security concerns are critical in the Latin American region today. Initiatives to incorporate a human security orientation in regional and local development policies and planning are still very few,” said Prof. James Esponda from the Roman Catholic Church in Chile.

“A human security orientation demands that the needs of the vulnerable be addressed and integrated into development strategies,” he added.

In a thematic presentation on “peace and human security in an emerging geo-political context,” CCIA Director Mathews George Chunakara stated that “placing people rather than states at the focal point of security considerations is the need of the day.”

He said that “human security can be protected only in a society where security of the individuals and societies are valued.”