Ecumenical organizations are engaged in a series of meetings with Latin American governments focused on a document proposing an alternate vision for the global financial system. Audiences with senior officials in Argentina, Bolivia and Peru have already been held.
The document known as the São Paulo Statement: International Financial Transformation for the Economy of Life was prepared during a consultation convened by the World Communion of Reformed Churches (WCRC) in partnership with the World Council of Churches (WCC) and the Council for World Mission (CWM).
The Sept. 29-Oct. 5, 2012 consultation in Guarulhos, Brazil ― entitled the Global Ecumenical Conference on a New Economic and Financial Architecture ― was organized within the framework of WCRC’s Justice Program directed by Dora Arce-Valentín.
The Argentinean chancellery was the first to receive the document at a meeting prior to Christmas with an ecumenical delegation of representatives from the WCC, the Latin American Council of Churches (CLAI), the Alliance of Presbyterian and Reformed Churches in Latin America (AIPRAL), the World Association for Christian Communication and the Latin American and Caribbean Agency of Communication.
The delegation was received by Juan Landaburu, the ambassador serving as secretary for religious affairs in Argentina’s Ministry of External Relations, and Andrea De Vita, director of the National Record of Religious Organizations. When handing the statement to Landaburu, Darío Barolin, AIPRAL’s executive secretary, stressed the strategic importance of the conference.
“Written by theologians and economists, the statement mentions overconsumption and greed as key factors to consider in search for a fairer distribution of global resources,” said Barolin who was a member of the document drafting team. He pointed to the need for governments to make decisions for a “global financial system that would serve life.”
Despite being a wealthy country at one time, Argentina has faced recurring economic crises in recent years, persistent fiscal and current account deficits, high inflation, mounting external debt and capital flight. The major downturn in Argentina’s economy was from 1999 to 2000 and is still causing uncertainty among its citizens.
“Learning more about your advocacy and development work comforts us,” said Landaburu, who expressed his commitment to share the document with other government sectors.
On Jan. 9 in the Bolivian capital, La Paz, the statement was presented to the Minister of the Presidency, Juan Ramon Quintana, by an ecumenical delegation was led by Walter Altmann, a Brazilian pastor and moderator of WCC’s Central Committee.
Speaking to the delegates, Quintana stressed the importance of working in partnership with different global actors.
“Churches can be very effective in sharing and promoting gifts that encourage the good living of all people. We work to defend and promote peoples’ dignity, which is also one of your mandates,” Quintana said.
Bolivia is a key participant in debates on development initiated by the United Nations. Under the leadership of it first Indigenous president, Evo Morales, the country is working on plans for a process of fair distribution of natural resources.
The ecumenical delegation also met with Ambassador Fernando Huanacuni, Bolivia’s vice-minister for interreligious affairs at the Ministry of External Affairs.
In expressing his appreciation for the statement, Huanacuni said, “This document can be an important piece in the upcoming dialogue among different segments of our society.”
The statement was presented to the Peruvian government on Jan. 8 in the country’s capital, Lima. Alberto Cruzalegui, advisor to the Executive Director of the Peruvian Agency for International Cooperation, and Ana Maria Alvarado, advisor on Relations with Civil Society Organizations ― both members of the Peruvian Ministry of Foreign Affairs ― received a copy of the statement from an ecumenical delegation.
Humberto Martin Shikiya, executive director of the Regional Ecumenical Advisory and Service Center (CREAS in Spanish), who was present for the meetings with all three governments says the São Paulo statement has strategic importance to discussions underway in the region.
“The biggest challenge right now in Latin America is to find a way to engage in these processes that can cause structural changes in our societies. The São Paulo Statement brings a clear proposal that includes social justice and dignity to the poorest and most vulnerable ones,” says Shikiya.
“The ecumenical movement needs to deepen its ties both with civil society and governments. Those are our strategic partners to make a difference,” Shikiya concludes.