Leaders of Latin American and Caribbean churches are preparing to tell the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank what they think of their policies.
The Latin American churches have long tried to mitigate the suffering and pain caused by economic globalisation with pastoral care. Now, they intend to develop a new understanding of the churches' role in relation to economic justice.
To that end, some forty leaders of Latin American and Caribbean churches will be among those attending a continent-wide consultation on "Globalizing the Fullness of Life" taking place from 28 April to 1 May in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
The consultation is being organised by the Faith, Economy and Society programme of the Latin American Council of Churches (CLAI), with the support of the World Council of Churches (WCC) and other ecumenical organisations. It aims to share information and analysis of the socio-economic situation and to explore alternatives to neo-liberal globalisation.
"We don't intend to complain about the inevitability of globalisation or the lack of alternatives," explained Faith, Economy and Society programme coordinator Ángel Luis Rivera. - "And it's not the moment to take refuge in so-called resistance." Rather, it is a question of "doing thorough analysis, asking the right questions and mutually challenging ourselves to take action".
Planned initiatives include doing more determined lobbying and advocacy work with the governments of the countries of the north, particularly of the United States of America and Canada, and with the international financial institutions: the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and the World Trade Organisation.
Representatives of the Latin American churches hope to be able to hold talks with these institutions in the second half of this year - continuing a process that began in April 2002, when church leaders met with representatives from the Inter-American Development Bank.
A focus of discussion at all of these meetings will be a paper "Looking for solutions... moving forward. Protestant churches say 'Enough is enough!'". Drafted by sociologists, economists, theologians and pastors, the document will be presented in Buenos Aires by CLAI general secretary Israel Batista, and submitted to church leaders for discussion.
Together with the World Council of Churches the consultation is also being supported by the World Alliance of Reformed Churches (WARC) and the Conference of European Churches (CEC). They are sending delegates from churches and ecumenical bodies in Europe, Africa, Asia, the Middle East and the Pacific, who will add an international perspective to the proceedings.
The consultation is part of an ecumenical process which began in 2001 with regional consultations in eastern Europe and the Pacific. Similar consultations are planned next year in the United States of America and the Middle East. The results of the process will be collated and summarised in 2005.
A Latin American youth meeting on "Youth and Globalisation", jointly organised by CLAI youth and the WCC youth programme will take place in Buenos Aires just before the consultation, from 24-27 April. Some of the young people will present the conclusions of the youth meeting to the "Globalizing the Fullness of Life" consultation.