Athena Peralta is dedicated to observing and encouraging people who are defending their livelihood and defending creation across the world. “There is so much injustice in this world that it is really something beautiful to learn about and be able to accompany, even in tiny ways, struggles of communities and churches,” she said.
Whether it is a community straining to exist under the shadow of a large-scale mining corporation, or a village caught in the aftermath of a debt crisis, Peralta believes churches have a responsibility to act for economic and ecological justice.
As the World Council of Churches (WCC) programme executive for the Economy of Life, Peralta said she has already been enjoying getting to know young church leaders who want to change how financial systems run, so that they provide for everyone’s needs.
One such experience was in helping to convene the first-ever Ecumenical School on Governance, Economics and Management (GEM) for an Economy of Life, held in Hong Kong on 22 August - 2 September 2016. “That’s what will keep me going for many days,” she said. She also works with a team of consultants who support the WCC's economic and ecological justice work, including Rev. Henrik Grape from Sweden, Dr Louk Andrianos from Greece and Madagascar, and Pastor Norman Tendis from Austria.
Peralta, who is from the Philippines, previously worked as an economic development specialist on the trade and industry staff of the National Economic and Development Authority, the Philippine government’s economic planning agency.
As she has watched and participated in the ecumenical movement over the years, she said she deeply admires the role the movement played in dismantling apartheid in South Africa. “This will always be an inspiration, something I learned about as a kid and as an early teen, and it stuck with me,” she said. "I hope we can play a similar role in tackling systems of economic apartheid that discriminate against and hurt the poor."
In her role with the WCC, Peralta said she wants to deepen the nexus between building life-affirming economies and caring for creation. “In my engagement for economic and ecological justice, I intend to bring a feminist perspective to the work,” she said. “The latter is important because economic and ecological issues such as debt crises and climate change have a heavier impact on women. At the same time, eco-feminist perspectives offer a more holistic understanding that sees the economy as embedded in social and ecological relations.”