A revival of mass movements for social change is needed so that the voices of ordinary people will be heard in discussions about reform of the global financial system, says a Latin American leader of a landless peasant movement. 

João Pedro Stédile of Brazil’s National Movement of Landless Rural Workers has told a church-sponsored conference in Brazil on reforming the global economy that populist movements are attempting to rearrange the economies of the countries of the world. Their intent, he says, is to push for changes to solve the main problems of the people ― the search for food, land, jobs, housing and education.

Stédile is one of the speakers at the Global Ecumenical Conference on a New International Financial and Economic Architecture initiated by the World Communion of Reformed Churches (WCRC). The conference, organized in partnership with the World Council of Churches and the Council for World Mission, runs here from Sept. 29 to Oct. 5.

Seventy economists, theologians, anti-poverty advocates and social scientists have gathered to do a critical analysis of the impact of the global financial system on populations and the environment and to propose a fresh vision on which to build a new economic and financial “architecture.”

The aim is to create a concept for a system, based on principles of economic, social, climate and ecological justice that serves the true economy, responds to social and ecological concerns, and sets limits to greed, say conference organizers.

“The problem is the lack of a wider mass basis. Social movements are being criminalized everywhere in the world,” Stédile said in an interview. “Our hope is that soon we will witness a revival of the mass movements and that these movements, in turn, will put the real problems of people on the agenda.”

“Rather than limiting ourselves to converging documents and statements, we need to have a stronger impact in the current correlation of forces and that can only happen through popular mobilization,” the anti-poverty advocate adds.

Conference organizers are working to prepare a statement that defines the principles of a new model of economic exchange that shares wealth more equitably and takes account of the need to limit consumption of non-renewable resources. A panel of people with connections to financial and economic institutions will be set up following the conference to promote discussion of the principles in financial decision-making forums.

WCRC represents 80 million Christians in 108 countries. Its member churches ― including the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) ― are active worldwide in initiatives supporting economic, climate and gender justice, mission, and cooperation among Christians of different traditions.