A series of workshops challenging victims of injustice in Ecuador to consider Jesus’ political platform has reached more than 1,400 across the country in the past year.
Injustice in Ecuador, especially for Indigenous people, has ignited protests, national uprisings and strikes, which are increasing in frequency, over the past four decades. United Nations experts have found persistent gaps in the enforcement of Indigenous rights, especially regarding mineral extraction and development.
Indigenous communities are typically located in rural areas with higher percentages of people living in poverty. Poverty contributes to the lack of access to basic services, including health care. This socioeconomic chasm contributes to unrest.
At the request of Eustaquio Tuala, president of the Council of Indigenous Evangelical Nations and Organizations of Ecuador (FEINE), Mennonite Mission Network held a workshop for 22 FEINE leaders Dec. 8-10 in Quito. The workshop was led by MMN workers Peter Wigginton and Mauricio Chenlo, along with Julián Guamán, general secretary of Iglesia Cristiana Menonita de Ecuador. Fifty church leaders attended the workshop, which focused on faith and politics, as well as methods of nonviolent direct action and reconciliation.
Enthusiasm for that workshop led to a plan between MMN and FEINE to further develop the workshops by producing written materials and providing training for Indigenous facilitators.
Chenlo, Guamán and Wigginton led a series of eight workshops in May and June in seven Ecuadorian provinces, with a total of 1,400 people in attendance. The workshops challenged the attendees to consider what Jesus’ response to injustice would be. Key passages included Isaiah 53 and the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:1-12).
“Through these workshops, we have been blessed to meet and fellowship with local leaders and members of many Indigenous provincial federations,” Wigginton said.
The timing is significant because Ecuadorian politics are in tumult. Politicians have attempted to impeach President Guillermo Lasso on corruption charges. He dissolved the National Assembly in May, and elections were scheduled for Aug. 20. A state of emergency was declared after anti-corruption candidate Fernando Villavicencio was assassinated Aug. 9.
After attending the workshops on faith and politics, many church leaders shared interest in a consistent program for leadership development that reflects the witness of Jesus as a servant leader. In response, Chenlo, Guamán and Wigginton are continuing to work with FEINE leaders to develop the workshop program further.
“We are working together to conduct a survey with church leaders to learn more about what key functions pastors are expected to perform within the bivocational paradigm common in Ecuador,” Chenlo said. “In addition, we are writing a second booklet that includes the history of church planters and how to plant peace churches.”
A third booklet will offer peacebuilding methods.