Latin American churches challenge economic systems

April 29, 2003

Latin American governments should refuse to pay their foreign debt and creditors should cancel it, according to a document debated by church representatives meeting in Buenos Aires. The document also calls for 'economic disobedience' and the reform of international financial institutions.

Entitled 'Looking for solutions ... moving forward. Protestant churches say 'Enough is enough!'' the document was submitted for debate on April 28 at a consultation called 'Globalizing the Fullness of Life.' The document, drafted by sociologists, economists, theologians and pastors, is intended as an 'invitation to realism' and a 'call to move beyond powerless fatalism.'

It calls on creditor nations and institutions to take a decision-- the cancellation of foreign debt--that 'cannot be postponed if they do not wish to be dragged down into chaos.' It also calls on governments across Latin America to 'together have the courage and the political will to refuse to pay this foreign debt,' described as 'immoral and unpayable.'

Latin American governments are also called to 'economic disobedience' concerning the 'dictates of international financial institutions. There is salvation outside the system,' the document declares. 'If it were not for the debt and the International Monetary Fund, Latin America and the Third World could have accumulated sufficient capital to ensure growth at the level demanded by the needs of their peoples,' states the document.

Organized by the Latin American Council of Churches (CLAI) and co-sponsored by the World Council of Churches (WCC) and other ecumenical organizations, the Buenos Aires consultation drew more than 100 representatives, mostly from Latin America and the Caribbean, but also from Europe, North America, Asia, Africa and the Pacific.

After offering a critical analysis of the dominant ideology, the document makes a series of concrete proposals on international governance and local and national initiatives. Topping the list is a proposal to reform international financial institutions like the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and the World Trade Organization to provide a link between economics and ethical and social aspects, including 'respect and promotion of human rights.'

Besides measures on foreign debt and disobedience of international financial institutions, the document proposes 'models of national governance' based on ideas about a new economic and social pact, and a new concept of the state. In a theological chapter, it explores Biblical perspectives on God's Grace which nourish the hope that a 'different world is possible.'

After being redrafted, the document will be used for CLAI's lobbying and advocacy work with the US and Canadian governments and with international financial institutions.

The consultation is being cosponsored by the WCC, the World Alliance of Reformed Churches (WARC)and the Conference of European Churches (CEC).

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