World Council of Churches

A worldwide fellowship of churches seeking unity, a common witness and Christian service

AGAPE Consultation: Guatemala womens' statement

07 October 2008

 Guatemala 6-10 October 2008

Womens' statement

Meeting in Guatemala City, women of the faith from different countries in Latin America and the Caribbean, called by the Gospel of justice, examined with concern and pain the life led by women and the links between poverty, wealth and ecology.

The mere mention of the categories of poverty and wealth reminds us how unfair the world is. Latin America and the Caribbean are in a situation of extreme imbalance with inequalities between rich and poor reaching alarming dimensions. This situation is paradoxical in a continent that has the natural biodiversity and cultural wealth to allow all people to live with dignity, in "abundance" and in harmony with creation. The reality we see before us is the result of the exploitation and plunder of our resources, and the unfair distribution of those resources which is related to the voracity of the so-called "developed" countries.

The neoliberal economic model imposed on our peoples by the Empire and its institutions and allies in Latin America and the Caribbean has a greater impact on women, whose poverty is exacerbated by the privatization of health and education services, unequal pay, increased working hours and the increasing price of basic goods, as well as the destruction of their livelihoods. Their invisible and unrecognised domestic work subsidises the global economic model.

In addition, the work-production-domination system results in a form of exploitation, with human beings at the service of production rather than production at the service of human beings. Proclaimed by the Bible as a gift and source of human fulfilment, work has been reduced in terms of its dignity and spiritual content.

We note that women are losing the power to transform and sustain life in harmony with the environment, on the basis of the knowledge and wisdom of their ancestral cultures.

We women affirm that as a result of their forms of production and consumption, the mainly Northern industrialized countries and the institutions that reproduce patriarchal models in our countries owe a social and ecological debt to humanity and the Earth. This debt has accumulated in the course of centuries of looting and depredation that have caused destruction, death and poverty. It has imposed on us a system that puts the market at the centre rather than human beings and nature, and this system is having a devastating and negative impact on us.

Other relevant areas that should be considered if we want to have a comprehensive approach to the relationship between poverty, wealth and ecology are:

Women's participation in decision-making bodies.

The distribution of power among those seeking the transformation of unjust relations.

The migration caused by the increase in unemployment in our countries: from rural to urban areas and from country to country. This also involves trafficking in women and children, sexual exploitation and breaking up families.

The fundamentalist discourse and practice of those who intervene in public affairs to punish, proscribe and prohibit sexual health initiatives, particularly those involving women, as this has a major impact on reproductive health and increases the incidence of HIV/AIDS.

Disabled people, especially women, who have historically been marginalized and excluded. They are the clearest example of the unfair distribution of wealth and its negatives effects.

We start from our faith in God who liberates, and our experiences as active participants in forums that work to change the situation of injustice experienced by women. We commit ourselves to continue this ecumenical process of reflection and to place these issues on the agenda of our churches.

On the basis of this commitment and because, as women of faith, we affirm life in abundance as a gift of God and we recognize ourselves to be disciples of Jesus who gave women back their rights and human dignity; we call on our churches to go forward together with us in prayer and action. In the name of the faith that links us through love and makes us one community living in the world created by God, we challenge the Churches to raise their prophetic voice, denounce injustice and announce the Good News. We urge them:

To denounce the neoliberal economic model of violence and death that dominates the world; and, as a gospel imperative, support the emergence and/or consolidation of new national and regional proposals that promote national sovereignty and protect food sovereignty.

To use Latin American and Caribbean feminist pastoral theology to dismantle all the religious myths that perpetuate and justify the historic inequality between men and women.

To give resolute support to the actions taken by women in the fight for their rights, and vigorously reject everything that generates any kind of violence against women.

To create institutional forums in which women can actively participate in decision-making. Recognize their capacity to contribute to promoting just alternatives. Promote their role as political actors and strengthen them so they can transform their family, church and social environment,

To denounce the local and global ecological impact of transnational companies in the mining, oil and other sectors, which are destroying our livelihoods and making women ever poorer.

To call for the unconditional cancellation of the External Debt, which has been one of the mechanisms used by multilateral institutions (World Bank, IMF) and their allies to loot our countries, provoking the climate crisis and other disasters and also building up a social and ecological debt to our peoples.

To announce and proclaim a gospel of justice and peace for all human beings and Creation.

Let Jesus, who restores the dignity of all creatures who are indebted, impoverished or who have suffered violence, sustain our concern until the day in which we can see "the new skies and the new earth". Let the Holy Spirit, which encourages hope and promotes solidarity, strengthen the certainty of this prophetic vision. Let God, stimulator of all efforts aimed at achieving the integral fullness of Life, help us fight tirelessly for the construction and installation of his Reign.

Guatemala City, 7 October 2008