Ecumenical Christian Council of Guatemala
The Ecumenical Christian Council of Guatemala is a place for Christian encounter, reflection, and action for those committed to working for peace, reconciliation, and ecumenism in Guatemala. The Ecumenical Council takes on the challenge of maintaining the kairos of the Guatemalan Peace Agreements, maintaining a prophetic voice of denunciation and declaration of facts and situations of injustice, and other realities that hinder the fulfillment of the Realm of God on earth.
The Ecumenical Christian Council is convinced that Christian unity, or ecumenism, is one way to develop a democracy that promotes tolerance, respect, ethnic and religious pluralism, and peaceful living together. The Council seeks to be an ecumenical instrument of reflection, action, and projection where the mainline churches of Guatemala learn to become advocates of their nation’s life through the perspectives of Christian values, the search for the common good, the construction of peace and reconciliation, and promotion of better living conditions for the Guatemalan population in the current context of globalization.
Despite the difficult situation in Guatemala, the Council has been able to help visualize and give testimony of the ecumenical work through the reports it develops. Despite the situation, the Council continues to have the opportunity to be a prophetic and hopeful testimony through the organization of activities such as public prayers, new leadership involvement in predominantly rural areas, and the participation of women and youth. The National Ecumenical Vision (NEV) has been a strategy and instrument of faith for qualitative participation, analysis, and coherent proposals.
During 2012, the National Ecumenical Vision had the opportunity to carry out a number of informational activities, sensitize and organize grassroots communities and their leadership who are part of the Ecumenical Council constituency. This established a network of ecumenical observer constituency, including local and national churches and parishes to function as social watch groups. In so doing, these watch groups can oversee the many promises and commitments offered by the different local and national governmental authorities, including the current administration.
Another learning experience was being able to train pastoral agents both at the technical and socio-religious levels; thereby helping them become better at gathering and processing information and to develop the skill to propose actions that have political impact.
In 2013, the fundamental process for the National Ecumenical Vision (NEV) will involve prioritizing the active role and participation of both local leaders and pastoral agents from the following geographical regions: North Eastern, Southern Coast, Western, and Central Guatemala. Accordingly, full participation, knowledge, and approval will be requested from the regional Ecumenical Councils represented within Guatemala City, Chimaltenango, Quetzaltenango, Suchitepéquez, Jutiapa, Zacapa, General Assembly and Board of Directors. This experience will allow the Council to work on three core areas for the year 2013:
- To strengthen the National Ecumenical Vision
- To maintain and increase public impact through various public acts which include ecumenical and interreligious prayers throughout the country as well as to be an inspirational presence and accompaniment with social sectors, indigenous communities, peasants, women, youth and children in the struggle and defense of their territories.
- To support at least three higher education centers in the areas of theology, social sciences, research, and systematization of ancestral Mayan knowledge.
The Council plans the following activities in these three core areas:
- Accomplish ten ecumenical and interreligious public celebrations in the four regions of the country.
- Support at least 100 pastoral agents in their socio-theological and ancestral knowledge formation in Chimaltenango, Nebaj, and Southern Coast of Guatemala.
Implement NEV in four regions of the country to include 100 religious leaders, 200 women and youth. Additionally, enhance the process of information gathering, systematization and the ability to propose actions of political impact at the local, municipal, regional and national levels.
The Council seeks economic support from local, national and international resources for its work. Listed below are special ways in which your gifts can help the project:
- A gift of $50 would support the Council’s efforts to intervene with gangs for the purpose of redirecting gang members and potential members toward constructive activities.
- A gift of $150.00 could help enable the development of resources to support the Council’s holistic campaign to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS.
- A gift of $500.00 could support the Council’s efforts to cultivate networks in the ecumenical community in Guatemala for the purposes collaborate on common concerns.
During year 2013, the Ecumenical Christian Council of Guatemala continued to give testimony of hope, unity and faith in the context of what they refer to as a weakened country, with widespread conflict in many areas. These conflicts in 2013 centered on disputes over territories, especially in the areas where the majority of the population are indigenous peoples. The Council also witnessed various forms of violence against women, children and youth, including lack of opportunity, human trafficking, and using people for organized crime activities.
The Ecumenical Christian Council of Guatemala is concerned that the Guatemalan people have expressed attitudes of rage and anger over their living conditions. The 2014 elections are expected to take place in this environment of social unrest, especially in areas dominated by mining, hydroelectric construction interests, and single-crop agricultural areas. In these areas the local communities maintain their struggles for defense of their lands, territories and their lives.
The Ecumenical Christian Council proposes to strengthen Ecumenism in 2014 through protection of human rights and life in defense the reconstitution of indigenous peoples through training, organization, and mobilization of the people in the geographical areas of impact. Their main strategies will be:
- Promote Unity: Strengthen and consolidate ecumenical spaces of participation, grounded in the principles of the gospel of Jesus Christ, in search of life in abundance for all people.
- Walking with the Community: The Ecumenical Christian Council accompanies grassroots movements of indigenous organizations, especially women and youth, with study and research in the area of human rights.
- Strengthen Capacities: The Ecumenical Christian Council trains religious leadership from the perspective of a contextual ecumenism, equipping them with theoretical, methodological, and pastoral tools.
Performance Innovation: The pastoral work of the Council participates in specific geographical areas and increases its impact by involving regional religious leadership and churches to accompany and participate in the mobilization activities.
Also during 2013 several successes were witnessed by the Council including ecumenical and interfaith declarations involving Catholic Archbishops, the Apostolic Nuncio, Catholic and Anglican Bishops, Catholic and Anglican priests, 22 Protestant Pastors and many parishioners for the Feast of Pentecost and for Justice and Peace. Moreover, Ecumenical Prayer for Unity gatherings were held, one of which in memory of the legacy of Monsignor Juan Gerardi who was murdered in 1998. Other events were held throughout the year in solidarity with the victims of military violence in the following regions: Guatemala City, Quetzaltenango , Suchitepequez , Escuintla, Chimaltenango.
The Ecumenical Council remains a benchmark of hope and unity for sectors of the government, social organizations, and the international community.
Training, organization, and coordination of a Youth Ministry was conducted for young men and women in 2013 with 41 graduates. These training opportunities were five months each in areas of water and forest conservation, and how to start small businesses to recycle materials. Training materials were developed for each graduate and the sessions were conducted by experts on each topic. Three workshops were held on citizen participation as well as forums and debates on the rights of children and youth of all faiths. The training received has enabled the youth to start small businesses in their faith communities, and implement activities on the care of nature, water, forests, and rivers. Youth have learned their rights and responsibilities as citizens and are participating in their faith communities, sharing their knowledge and
As part of the Global Network of Religions for Children, the Ecumenical Council participated in the organization of a forum on the rights of children and youth, in which children discussed the problems they face in their homes, schools, churches and communities.
The Council also moderated public forums and introduced major media research findings on violence against indigenous women by the National ACT Alliance, with the participation of 30 women as a source of information that supported field research. Participation in the World Council of Churches, and as part of the Pastoral Women and Gender Justice in the Latin American Council of Churches was carried with indigenous women from different churches and different regions of the country. Training for women occurred on the management and skills in food marketing, which supported microcredit efforts of women to provide income for their families.
Update May 2015
During current times of change, violence, and opposition, the Ecumenical Christian Council of Guatemala continues to promote community-based projects. It also facilitates ecumenical worship and reflection opportunities in service to the community. Through ecumenical public prayers, lectures, theological courses, national youth meetings, workshops, ministries of women for gender justice, and migrant programs, the Ecumenical Christian Council of Guatemala continues to give a prophetic voice and nurture a broad participation of men and women in society in all regions of Guatemala.
The year 2014 proved to be one of the most violent in Guatemala. The wave of violence lived out in 2014 started in 2013, when opposition to the guilty verdict given to former Guatemala dictator Efran Rios Montt brought together sectors of the government, business (especially related to agriculture and extractive industries), groups of former soldiers that had committed serious violations of human rights and extreme right-wing groups. This alliance has encouraged various situations of impunity and a growing criminalization and limitations of freedom of expression. This has increased the situation of risk for various groups and people who defend human rights to become the objects of spurious charges. Such criminalization is a mechanism that both decreases possibilities for the defense of human rights in general, and also deprives individuals of liberty for crimes they never committed.
Ecumenical Pastorate of a Culture of Peace
In 2014 the Ecumenical Christian Council of Guatemala facilitated pastoral visits and ecumenical prayers to the communities of San Juan Sacatepquez, La Puya and Chuarrancho.
- Participated in the U.N. evaluations of the Millennium Development Goals to created processes against violence, especially against women.
- Led two delegations of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) to several communities throughout the country.
Youth and Children
- The National Youth Meeting “Indispensable Aspects of Tax Policy for Youth Citizen Participation” was held with a participation of 45 young people from many states and churches.
- The Ecumenical Council organized a Day of Prayer and Action for Children, held workshops on ethics in education that was aimed at educators of different faiths in order to and use the manual “Learning to Live Together“.
Women and Gender Justice
- Conducted a workshop addressing violence against women at Bethania House in Guatemala City, where 11 churches and faith-based organizations where present.
- Supported the organization of Kaqchikel women around the recovery of ancestral cultural values with the “Textile Art” project
- Developed the relationship with the U.N. Population Fund to support activities of the Ministry of Women and Justice.
Stewardship of Creation
- Attended the National Forum of the ACT Alliance where the Ecumenical Council prepared and presented their research regarding “Churches and Faith Communities against Violence against Indigenous and Mestizo Women in Guatemala”
- Attended the national committee of the Latin American Council of Churches (CLAI), coordinated workshops on Sexual and Reproductive Health and prepared a forum regarding “Church, Family, Sexuality and Reproductive Rights”
Throughout the year, there have been a number of Ecumenical Celebrations. Some special days include:
- Ecumenical Prayer for Christian Unity
- Ecumenical Prayer for the Day of Pentecost
- 16th Anniversary of the martyrdom of Monsignor Juan Gerardi, done as an interfaith opportunity with the Catholic church
The Ecumenical Christian Council of Guatemala and its partners remain committed to promote the common good, Christian values and the defense of life. They do this by reflection and action that involves both church leaders and church members — at different levels, in different regional areas, and all with the common denominator of shared faith, life, reflection, and action.
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