Academic journal article The Ecumenical Review

Ecumenical Education and Formation: A Latin American Perspective

Academic journal article The Ecumenical Review

Ecumenical Education and Formation: A Latin American Perspective

Article excerpt

Our context in Latin America

We are living in dark times, overshadowed by fundamentalism of one kind or another--cultural, religious, ideological and so on--that threatens to stifle and isolate us. We live in unjust societies. In Latin America the gap between rich and poor is the highest in the world, and the knowledge gap is four times higher than the wealth-poverty gap. The societies we live in are violent and exclusive.

What is more, the new century we have just embarked upon has started under the banner of the "pursuit and eradication of terrorism", undertaken by the world's one superpower, with terrorism apparently being more or less equated with "different". The methods used in this campaign are perverse, morally and ethically unacceptable, based as they are on an authoritarian and imperialistic ideology that is prepared to countenance genocide. The notion of preventive wars serves to justify not only the military, but also the political and economic imposition of that power in any country or region, as we have recently seen in both Afghanistan and Iraq, which just happen to have massive reserves of gas, oil and other sought-after natural resources.

Latin America still has huge reserves of pure air, mountains and natural forests producing large amounts of timber and natural medicines; vast water-bearing valleys providing enviable reserves of clean water; and, deep in the soil of our mountains, quantities of precious metals. The empire of the moment could at any time be carried away by its boundless greed and, sooner rather than later, it will also invade our region, like a monster seeking to assuage its insatiable desire for natural resources that do not belong to it, for they are the heritage of our region of Latin America and the Caribbean.

Not just the Samaritan's role

It is not enough for the churches and ecumenical organizations to do as the Samaritan did, shedding tears and binding up wounds--essential though that obviously is. (1) If they are content simply to provide that service, they will be welcomed with open arms by those who profit from this system. The churches and the ecumenical movement have to be spaces of resistance and not just agents of appeasement. It is time to resist in hope, to work for life; above all, more life for the men and women who are most excluded from society

To echo the words of Martin Luther King; (2)

   Today, in the long night of the world and in the hope of the good
   news ... I affirm an audacious faith in the future of mankind.

   I refuse to believe that present circumstances make man incapable
   of making a better world ... I refuse to accept the idea that man
   is mere flotsam and jetsam in the river of life, unable to
   influence the unfolding events which surround him.

   I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to
   the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright day-break
   of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality.

   I refuse to accept the cynical notion that nation after nation must
   spiral down a militaristic stairway into the hell of thermonuclear
   destruction.

   I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the
   final word in reality. That is why right temporarily defeated is
   stronger than evil triumphant ...

   I believe that even amid today's mortar bursts and whining bullets,
   there is still hope for a brighter tomorrow.

   I have the audacity to believe that peoples everywhere can have
   three meals a day for their bodies, education and culture for their
   minds and dignity, equality and freedom for their spirits.

   I still believe that one day mankind will bow down before the altars
   of God and be crowned triumphant over war and bloodshed, and
   non-violent, redemptive good will be proclaimed the rule of the
   land. "And the lion and the lamb shall lie down together and every
   man shall sit under his own vine and fig tree and none shall be
   afraid. … 
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