Executive for Latin America and the Caribbean
The 2003-year has been a transitional year in the Latin America & the Caribbean office due to the fact that the former Area Executive was appointed as the President of DOM. The Associate for Program, Rev. Ruth Chavez-Wallace that served as interim Area Executive and the Administrative Assistant, Mrs. Julie Flores-Ferrer, worked very hard during the transitional period. Both of them showed a dedication to the ministry of the LA/C office that was very important for the particular moment. The welcome and support of the Area Office staff, and the Global Ministries colleagues have been outstanding. Also I am grateful for the support and guidance I have received from the previous Area Executive and now President, David A. Vargas.
Who Do You Say That Jesus is in Latin America and the Caribbean?
To know who is Jesus in Latin America & the Caribbean, we should use the two eyes of the theology, as the liberation theologians expressed. One eye is viewing the situation around us, and the other that is discerning what the Verb, the Word, Jesus is asking us to do today.
The history of our continent is a history of oppression, marginalized people, slavery, and exploitation. Eduardo Galeano refers to this situation of suffering as "the open vain of Americas", because the people are suffering. For Latin America and the Caribbean, Jesus is a healer, a liberator and a Savior.
To answer the question "Who do you say that Jesus is in Latin America and the Caribbean?" we should refer to the Global Mission Statement that says: "We commit ourselves to a shared life in Christ and to an ecumenical global sharing of resources and prophetic vision of a just and peaceful world order, joining with God's concern for the poor and oppressed. This commitment will be reflected in common decision-making for mission programs which visibly witness to the oneness of mission in and through the Church of Jesus Christ." We should reaffirm this statement today more than ever in the LAC region, and in the world.
Jesus in Latin America & the Caribbean is inviting us, through our partner's churches and ecumenical organizations, to:
I. Reaffirm our commitment for mutual accompaniment in mission with the Churches and Ecumenical partners in the region. Our partners had set very clearly their voices. Those voices call us today to:
A. Respect for the religious background, and the promotion of interchurch and interfaith dialogue. As the Liberation Theology affirms, the Holy Spirit is the first missionary. The churches always arrived late, because God was there already. To give you an example, in Guatemala there is a dialogue between Christians and Mayan. The Maya religion was there before the arrival of the Europeans five hundred years ago.
B. Recognition of the perverse binomial of power/decision, North/South-East/West, dominant culture and dominated culture, white/colored, male/female, rich/poor, official church/indigenous church, colonialism and neocolonialism. There is a legendary Chinese proverb: "If you give a fish, next day the person will be hungry and will ask again. Do not give a fish. Instead, teach that person how to fish." Even that proverb has a sense of paternalism. People know how to fish. The problem is that many times we do not allow them to have access to the waters where the fishes are. Instead of teaching, let's walk together to the waters, learning one from another.
II. The presence of Jesus is real in the following issues:
A.. Gender issues – particularly the struggle of women.
B. Native American and native Caribbean people as their struggle to keep their identity and their ways of life.
C. Afro-American and Afro-Caribbean as they keep their struggle against the legacy of slavery and racism. The most evident example of this struggle is the one from the Haitian people that are suffering another coup d'etat, that happen two months ago.
D. The actions against the negative impact of the neo-liberal economical system. To address this evil, the Latin American Council of Churches (CLAI) and the Caribbean Conference of Churches (CCC) have programs and projects to minimize the threat to the people.
E. The efforts to affirm the human rights in the region. The implication of anti terrorist laws (as the USA Patriotic Act) in human rights violations in the region. There is a direct relation between these actions and the national security doctrine of the eighties in the region.
F. Interchurch and interfaith dialogue. We should increase our support to the interfaith dialogue between Native-American, African-Caribbean religions and others that are present in LAC region.
G. The indigenous churches and Pentecostal churches.
H. Uprooted people in the region.
I. HIV/AIDS in the region.
III. Other ways of affirming Jesus in LA/C are:
A. Support the capacity building of our partners.
B. Support our own capacity building (as Global Ministries) for an effective critical and prophetic presence in the region.
C. Support the institutional self-reliance efforts of the partners, due to the economical constraint of the churches in USA, and also to support their aspiration of integrity, in term of their mission statement and their capacity of achieve their purpose without the pressure of wrongly ideological oriented support.
D. Reaffirm the dual direction of the missionary effort finding new ways of accepting, in a humble way, the ethical and spiritual ways gifts from our partners in mission.
E. To provide pastoral care and support to missionaries in the region.
F. To reverse the decrease of missionary presence in a region that has been and it is still in need of critical missionary presence. Due to some factors, the presence of missionaries in the region is decreasing. There are petitions from our partners to provide a critical missionary presence. Some of those petitions already came from partners from the following countries: Mexico, Paraguay, Argentina, Colombia, Haiti (healthcare), Venezuela and the Caribbean Conference of Churches (CCC).
IV. To affirm Jesus in LA/C region we must affirm Jesus here in USA & Canada in the following:
A. Increasing the participation of the whole church in the whole mission.
B. Promoting the increase the amount of minorities (African-American, Hispanic, Asian) serving as missionaries in the region.
C. Intentionally seeking ways for a better integration of the UCC/Disciples common missionary goal.