Aldo Etchegoyen, bishop emeritus of the Evangelical Methodist Church of Argentina (IEMA), died on 1 November in Buenos Aires, Argentina, leaving a legacy of strong commitment to human rights and the ecumenical movement. He was 86.
Etchegoyen was a member of the Central Committee of the World Council of Churches between 1998 and 2006.
Nobel Peace Prize laureate Adolfo Perez Esquivel expressed sorrow for the passing of his close friend, saying, "Aldo was a tireless advocate of human rights and a defender of life, even in the most difficult and delicate moments of this continent,” he said.
Etchegoyen graduated in theology from the Evangelical Theological Faculty of Buenos Aires in 1959, was ordained in 1960 and served as a pastor in several congregations after that. He also did post-graduate studies at the Ecumenical Institute of Bossey, Switzerland, between 1969 and 1970.
Rev. Gloria Ulloa, the WCC’s president for Latin America and the Caribbean, recalled the evangelical aspect of Etchegoyen’s work on human rights. “I met Aldo in the early 80s,” she said, “through the networks of the Latin American Council of Churches. His words always offered important guidance about how the work and our engagement should continue.”
“He was always committed to peace, to overcoming all forms of violence, just as our Lord Jesus Christ has asked of his followers,” she said.
“Aldo,” as friends called him, was very active in the search for unity in his own confessional family. He was the chairperson of the Council of Evangelical Methodist Churches of Latin America and Caribbean (CIEMAL) from 1983 to 1989; chairperson of the Council of Methodist Bishops of Latin America (1990-1997) and general secretary of CIEMAL between 2001 and 2008.
In an official note, Bishop Frank de Nully Brown, head of the IEMA, declared: "With pain and sorrow, but also with gratitude for his life, we say goodbye to our brother Aldo. We give infinite thanks to our Lord for our brother’s warm pastoral care and his prophetic voice throughout Argentina and Latin American societies. He was the voice of the voiceless and advocated tirelessly for human rights.”
Etchegoyen was one of the founding members of the Permanent Assembly for Human Rights of Argentina (APDH) and was appointed in 2000 by the Chamber of Deputies of the Province of Buenos Aires as a member of the Provincial Commission for Memory. He received the Human Rights Award of Argentina in 1997 and the Love Life Award from the United Nations Association of Argentina in 2001.
He has written numerous articles on theological issues, human rights, interfaith and ecumenical relations in national and international publications, besides presenting papers at various conferences to which he was invited.
The Human Rights Secretariat of Argentina called Ethegoyen a "historic fighter for human rights in our country" in a statement in which the secretariat expressed "deep regret" over his death. The public statement issued by the Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo remembered him as a "brother in arms" and "a man committed to his times.”
In August, Etchegoyen organized and moderated a meeting in Buenos Aires between a WCC delegation and several Argentinian human rights organizations as a part of the WCC general secretary and regional president’s pilgrimage through Latin America.
More recently, Etchegoyen participated in a support group for indigenous peoples who have erected a tent on Avenida de Mayo in downtown Buenos Aires, as they await a response from the government about their land claims.