Voices of Central America

The second day of the conference (15 Feb) began with worship and bible study. It's not often you have opportunity to discuss Luke 4.16 - end with a Dalit from India, a Kenyan , two Australians and a New Zealander, all from different churches and theological traditions. The real insights for me were achieved when we stopped talking about whether Jesus was refering to spiritual or material poverty (some disagreemnet in the group!) and got down to specifics. From each of our contexts, we named one marginalised or impoverished group these included people with mental health issues, so called 'illegal' immigrants, business people who lacked spiritual and moral values. We each then offered a suggestion of what action the church could take to support and transform these situations and gathered up our thinking into a simple prayer -

God transform your world, beginning with us
Give us strength and courage to agitate for changes
that proclaim your kingdom.

Later that morning, I attended a workshop on reconstruction in Central America. The leaders of the workshop didn't make it, so instead a number of people from Central American countries talked about the situation in their country and the role of the church, as well as offer signs of hope for reconstrcution. Many stories came from the civil conflicts and violence that plagued Central America for many decades. One young man from El Salvador spoke of walking as a child down streets littered with rubbish and bodies of the dead. Talking of the current situation, a young woman from the Atlantic Coast region in Nicaragua broke down in tears describing the three fold experience of discrimination she faces as a woman, a youth and a person of African descent. People from across the region spoke out against violence in countries where $30 buys a hitman, US influence which continues to harm the poor most recently through the Central American Free Trade Agreement, problems faced by migratants and returning migrants and much more. They called on the churches to continue to encourage co-operation between groups and countries. To work for the rights of all in concrete ways - with women's groups challenging domestic violence, against impunity, re-educating children into a culture of peace, and in all this to construct hope.

My day also included time at the Theological Cafe meeting with women theologians from around the world and discussing spaces for women and gender studies in theological colleges. Each day brings many new encounters and on this day, many of these conversations were with women from Latin American involved in theological studies, people I hope to continue to talk with over the next three years.

I hope that the pictures are appearing ok here - if not, just visit the WCC Assembly website. I won't be able to post my own pictures until I'm back in Buenos Aires.