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WCC delegation affirms churches’ commitment to human rights in Argentina

WCC delegation affirms churches’ commitment to human rights in Argentina

WCC general secretary Olav Fykse Tveit with the Nobel Peace Prize laureate Adolfo Pérez Esquivel in Buenos Aires, Argentina. © WCC/ Marcelo Schneider

27 August 2015

World Council of Churches (WCC) support for churches’ struggles during the years of dictatorship in Argentina was praised by Aldo M. Etchegoyen, bishop emeritus of the Evangelical Methodist Church of Argentina, who welcomed the WCC general secretary Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit and the WCC president for Latin America and the Caribbean, Rev. Gloria Ulloa, to Buenos Aires.

“We owe much in Argentina to the action of the World Council of Churches during the dictatorship and the struggle for life during the military rule,” said the bishop at a meeting held on 25 August with participation from Argentinian human rights organizations.

At the meeting, both Ulloa and Tveit spoke of the WCC’s current commitments in defense of life and human rights, affirming that work requires commitment and solidarity not only from member churches of the WCC but also from societies at large.

Looking both backward and forward, Tveit said, “Here, we are being reminded of the cruelty against civilians, but we must also remember and point toward the power of life you are serving.  God gives us new opportunities, and we are now together valuing and reaffirming the gift of the ecumenical movement. We are able to support each other,” he added.

The WCC’s engagement in defense of human rights in Argentina was recalled in the meeting at the historic Temple of the First Methodist Church of Buenos Aires, a place that, among others, served to house the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo in their first meetings in the 1970s when the group struggled against the military dictatorship and sought accountability for the thousands of “disappeared” citizens.

It was also recalled that the WCC with its Argentinian member churches earlier provided support in the care and resettlement of thousands of refugees from Chile in 1973, at the beginning of the dictatorship there. With no local infrastructure for this emergency, the WCC, through internationally influential figures such as Rev. Charles Harper, was able to provide refugees support with shelter and integration.

Bishop Etchegoyen concluded his presentation by saying: “Today we are not in the dark night of dictatorship and its atrocities, but we are still aware of the existence of unmet common needs and rights unreached, named by some as the human rights agenda in the democracies of  the 21st century.”

The panel featured strong testimonies from Bella Friszman, vice president of the Permanent Assembly for Human Rights (APDH); Rev. Rodolfo Reinich, from the Ecumenical Movement for Human Rights (MEDH); Nora Cortinas, vice president of the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo; Dr Gaston Chiller, executive secretary of the Center for Legal and Social Studies; and Gabriela Liguori, general coordinator of the Argentinean Commission for Refugees and Migrants (CAREF).

Nobel Peace Prize laureate Adolfo Pérez Esquivel, founder of Servicio Paz y Justicia (SERPAJ), a human rights NGO in Argentina, was among the speakers in the panel. He stressed the need to work in both local and global networks for justice. “For us it is more and more clear that it is the state that violates human rights in several contexts of the world,” said Pérez Esquivel. “We have to denounce [that] and keep looking and building alternatives. Democracy is built, it is not something we take for granted or a gift,” he added.

The WCC delegation also met with Orthodox Church representatives in Argentina. In their conversation, participants shared insights on being the church for people living with two national identities.

In their meeting, held at the Saint George Cathedral of Orthodox Church of Antioch in Buenos Aires, Tveit and Ulloa related how the WCC is engaged in finding support for refugees and for peaceful resolution of conflicts in Syria, Lebanon, and Israel and Palestine.

The first day of the delegation’s pilgrimage in Argentina ended with a formal visit to the headquarters of the Evangelical Methodist Church of Argentina.

The meetings of the WCC delegation and the member churches in Argentina were held as part of the WCC Pilgrimage of Justice and Peace – a call from the 10th Assembly of the WCC, which took place in the Republic of Korea in 2013.

Human rights defender Charles Harper honoured by Argentinian government (WCC news release of 19 September 2014)

WCC member churches in Latin America

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