A Christian approach
By Julia Duarte
In third world countries like Ecuador, one feels the anguish and frustration, not only among the poor, but also among the middle and professional classes. They feel powerless to respond to the prolonged economic crisis in which they find themselves and which on a daily basis becomes more and more beyond their control.
As pastoral agents, we work with groups in reflection, with teachers, and with people in various sectors of society. Through this work, we witness the increasing level of tension within families unable to manage frustrations in this time of crisis; a crisis that has become permanent and ongoing. We hear people saying, “I want to get out of Ecuador. Anywhere would be better than here.” “I cannot bear to see my children without the basic needs for decent living. Here there is no future for them.”
Very few parents will say, “We have to face the reality of our economic situation and work together to find a solution.” Or, “We must lower our economic expectations, try to live more simply and remain united with our families.” Many are leaving their families to seek better paying jobs overseas.
We hear very few parents say, “Today more than ever we have to maintain our Christian values and resist this influence of economic globalization that tries to deprive us and our children of our values.”
The economic system that exists today, has succeeded in convincing people that money is the fundamental centre of our existence; that the more we have, the more we are worth, the more we are respected and the better life we will have.
We, the pastoral agents of the Diocese of Riobamba have an arduous task, first to struggle against the influences that drag us down; and second, to recognize and help others to recognize that our entire value system has been turned upside down. The only way we can survive this economic crisis in which we find ourselves, is to work together as one. Only Christian values will enable us to live in a society where love and solidarity form the basis of our existence.
The poorest of the poor, among whom are the Indigenous peoples, clearly see the solution—the road that has to be followed. They are the ones who call us to live in unity. They see that money is a necessity, without which we cannot live. However, they speak to us of three fundamental rules of their ancestors: do not steal, do not tell lies, do not be lazy. These are the three pillars of the culture they defend, which in reality, are not far from the Christian principles for which we are advocating.
Unemployment and poorly paid work has resulted in more than 500,000 Ecuadorians leaving the country since 1998 largely to Spain, Italy and the United States. Estimates are that a good part of the middle class now live outside the country, with 46.5% of Ecuador’s children having family members living abroad. Half of these youth must leave school to work and help sustain their families. In Riobamba, where Scarboro missionaries work, over 3,000 people migrated last year. Among professionals, the first choice is to leave rather than stay to play a part in the country’s recovery, to reconstruct the economy or to keep the family united.