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LWF Consultation Focuses on Violence and Migration in Central America and the Caribbean Participants Recommend "Advocacy by and for the People"
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti/GENEVA, 18 July 2007 (LWI) - Economic violence is the most imminent form of violence in Nicaragua, Bishop Victoria Cortez Rodriguez of the Nicaraguan Lutheran Church of Faith and Hope told participants in a recent meeting of the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) Department World Service (DWS) in the Haitian capital, Port-au-Prince.
Contributing to a discussion at the DWS Central America and Caribbean regional consultation on "Violence and Migration and Their Impact on Citizenship and Democracy," Cortez stressed "Nicaragua experiences the violence of hunger and poverty."
According to United Nations' data, Nicaragua with some 5.6 million people is the second poorest country in Latin America after Haiti, with over 40 percent of the people living in the rural areas. Sixty percent of the rural population survives on little more than one US dollar per day.
Against this background, "The church has an obligation to help people living in poverty," emphasized Cortez, LWF vice president for the Latin America and Caribbean region.
Reporting on the situation in El Salvador, which is part of the Central American program, DWS regional facilitator, Ms Celia Medrano said, "People and not the state are the subject of security. This security is linked to human development and human rights." Twelve years of armed conflict in El Salvador have resulted in 75,000 deaths, 8,000 disappeared people, and 40,000 disabled persons, she noted. In addition, between 1.17 million and 1.65 million of Salvadorans, (25 to 30 percent of the total population) were forced to abandon their homes.
In his presentation on organized crime in Colombia, Mr Jorge Rojas Rodriguez, director of the human rights' organization, Consultancy for Human Rights and Displacement in Colombia (ConsultorÃa para los Derechos Humanos y el Desplazamiento - CODHES) pointed out that the agendas of governments and social movements were often very different. "While [free] trade and the fight against terrorism are [high] on the government's list, civil society emphasizes the fight against poverty, peace and human rights, which again are far down on the governments' agenda," he noted.
Rojas pointed out that drug trafficking and illegal trade in other substances used in the production of drugs posed a special problem, as did, the trafficking of arms and human beings. He named investigation, information, dialogue, advocacy and integration as strategies that can be used to fight violence and crime.
In Haiti, violence is mostly urban-based. "We went from small delinquencies to big-scale violence, with kidnappings, rape, and gangs," MichÃle Oriol, a professor at the University of Haiti said in her presentation. "Violence has grown with the rural exodus, the closure of borders and the misery, but urban violence is closely connected to a social and political form of leadership that is based on social antagonisms: black-mulatto, rich-poor, and privileged-excluded," she told the DWS consultation participants.
"The Lutheran church in her identity has an answer to the cry of the people and that is the theology of the cross because the cross is the expression of divine love that identifies itself with pain as well as hope," said Rev. Balduino Ernesto Gomez from the Salvadoran Lutheran Synod in San Salvador, El Salvador.
After sharing their experiences in plenary sessions and working groups, participants stressed the need to use "advocacy by and for the people" to respond to issues on violence and migration at the local, national, regional and international level, where the LWF has access. They also recommended the documenting of the impact of LWF's work on violence and migration. Addressing the LWF m ember churches and related agencies, they advised that churchfor their advocacy work at national and international level.
Mr Rudelmar Bueno de Faria, LWF/DWS program coordinator at the Geneva headquarters expressed satisfaction with the outcome of the conference. "The aim was to share experiences and to exchange information. Our cooperation has been strengthened," he noted.
For Mr Bernard Gianoli, LWF/DWS Haiti program coordinator, the consultation "has shown us here in Haiti that LWF/DWS and our partners are committed and support our work. That gives us a lot of motivation."
LWF/DWS has field programs in 36 countries in Africa, Asia, Latin and Central America and Europe. Its regional consultations, held every two years, gather representatives of programs in a respective region and the related partners, with a focus on commonly shared themes. (737 words)
(Written for LWI by Mexico-based German journalist, Julia Heyde, who participated in the LWF/DWS regional consultation.)
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(The LWF is a global communion of Christian churches in the Lutheran tradition. Founded in 1947 in Lund, Sweden, the LWF currently has 140 member churches in 78 countries all over the world, with a total membership of nearly 66.7 million. The LWF acts on behalf of its member churches in areas of common interest such as ecumenical and interfaith relations, theology, humanitarian assistance, human rights, communication, and the various aspects of mission and development work. Its secretariat is located in Geneva, Switzerland.)
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