World Council of Churches

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

AGAPE Consultation: Guatemala youth statement

07 October 2008

 Guatemala 6-10 October 2008

Youth statement


An AGAPE Consultation on The Links between Poverty, Wealth and Ecology: Ecumenical Perspectives in Latin America and the Caribbean took place on 6-10 October 2008, at the La Salle University Residence Centre in Guatemala City. The meeting was convened by the World Council of Churches, the Latin America Council of Churches and the Christian Ecumenical Council of Guatemala. The consultation began with a pre-meeting in which the Youth, Women and Gender Justice, and Indigenous Peoples pastoral services shared experiences about the situation we are living through in our countries, with regard to Poverty, Wealth and Ecology.

There are 100 million young people between the ages of 15 and 24 in Latin America. Ten million of these young people are unemployed, 22 million neither study nor work and more than 30 million work in the informal economy in precarious conditions. It is in this context that the CLAI youth pastoral service organized a pre-meeting between youth from Brazil, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua and Uruguay. Representatives from the Pacific region and Africa also attended.

During the meeting, we participated in presentations and exhibitions. We shared negative and positive aspects of our situation. We saw how the neoliberal and capitalist model of economic globalization adopted by some of our governments has caused the same problems for us, including the following.

Negative Aspects:

  • Unemployment/under-employment/informal employment;
  • No access to education or health;
  • Loss of values;
  • Promotion of anti-values, such as individualism;
  • Addictions;
  • The lack of laws and the non-implementation of laws that exist;
  • External interference and intervention in our countries in the field of economic policy;
  • Migration;
  • Consumerism;
  • Corruption;
  • Loss of  identity (spiritual and cultural);
  • Inequality;
  • Greed;
  • Irresponsible management of natural resources;
  • Slave labour and sexual exploitation;
  • Privatization of natural resources and basic services;
  • Pollution;
  • Loss of our natural resources and treasures because of their legal and illegal appropriation by foreign nationals;
  • Lack of land reform;
  • Lack of awareness about ecology;
  • Increase in the cost of public transport.

Among the few positive aspects are:

  • In some countries, a start has been made in implementing social policies and programmes for the dispossessed, marginalized and excluded (Zero Hunger, Zero Interest, Production Bonus, Equity Plan, night shelters, school lunches, a roof for my country, literacy for youth and adults) and also on the environment (reforestation, organic vegetable gardens).
  • Some churches are committed to projects for life that promote justice and human dignity, the fundamental basis of which is the Bible.
  • We also reflected on what the Bible says about the issues and, knowing the situation in Latin America as we do, we felt our hopes rise when we read Luke 4:18-19, in which Jesus speaks of his commitment to the weakest and poorest: "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favour." 

Considering all this from the viewpoint of youth, we declare our commitment to overcome:

  • Anthropocentrism, insensitivity and consumerism (our inability to recognize ourselves as whole human beings, as part of the earth, with duties and rights regarding ecology and living things in general, and our inability to shake off the personal instincts that stem from egoism).
  • The injustices in the world are caused by the egoism of human beings, which is why we youth are called on to announce the good news and denounce the injustices and models of life that cause indignity and the death of plants, nature, animals and human beings.

Our faith should be active and not passive and we therefore propose:

  • To work for spiritual healing and reconciliation with ourselves (encourage self-esteem).
  • To promote a consensus on new values that allow us to develop a new civilizing and communitarian model of thinking for young people.
  • To value what we have: language, culture, music, our identity as youth.
  • To strengthen Christian values and biblical support to promote dignified life with peace and justice.
  • To move from an attitude of protest to one of proposals and action.
  • To move from the virtual world to a virtuous world.
  • To raise the awareness of youth and churches in order to promote responsible and healthy attitudes.
  • To train youth to promote solidarity and provide advice and support.
  • To awaken the desire to make a voluntary commitment and to put our calling into practice.
  • Create alliances with organizations who also want to promote cooperation and dialogue with a view to increasing our impact in society.
  • Share resources.

In conclusion, we remember the Sacred Scriptures, which say:

  • "Listen, my beloved brothers and sisters. Has not God has chosen the poor in the world to be rich in faith and to be heirs of the kingdom that he has promised to those who love him?" James 2:5
  • You will do well to obey the most important of God's commandments. It says "Remember that each one of you must love your neighbour as yourself (the earth is also our neighbour)." James 2:8

The Earth convulses yet society does not change.

Dear bishops, ministers and religious leaders, we want to be part of this change and become new people, create history and build a new humanity.