For nearly four decades, injustice in Ecuador, especially for Indigenous peoples, has led to protests, national uprisings and strikes. Yet racism and marginalization of Indigenous groups increased. The pandemic further crippled economies in the region and led to an immigration crisis.
The crisis grew worse as economic and political woes in nearby Venezuela caused more people to seek better opportunities in Ecuador.
As a result, Ecuadorian Mennonite leaders and an Indigenous Christian organization expressed the need to 1) develop effective mediation and conflict transformation processes, 2) offer sustainable and durable solutions to conflicts and 3) train and support regional leaders in methods of nonviolent direct action.
Two Mennonite Mission Network staff, Peter Wigginton and Mauricio Chenlo, led workshops in Quito, Ecuador, Dec. 8-10 at the request of FEINE, the Council of Indigenous Evangelical Nations and Organizations in Ecuador, an MMN partner.
Wigginton is co-coordinator of MMN’s Ecuador Partnership. Chenlo is a church-planting training and resource specialist who has maintained relationships with Indigenous church leaders since he worked in Ecuador in the 1990s.
FEINE invited leaders from 22 provincial chapters to attend the workshops, which focused on faith and politics, as well as mediation and reconciliation.
The workshops were the first in a series that will investigate how MMN can continue to support FEINE in areas of faith-based politics and reconciliation, peace work and nonviolent action.
The workshops included a study of the Beatitudes in Matthew 5, with a focus on the “Political Platform of Jesus,” led by Chenlo. Many pastors in Ecuador have become political leaders and are in government roles.
“The pastors want to learn more about the Anabaptist ‘third way,’ in which we stress the witness of Jesus through servant leadership and nonviolent action,” Chenlo said.
Chenlo sees an opportunity for MMN “to walk with those who want to go deeper on this path and use their power to serve the poor and marginalized.”
Wigginton said FEINE asked MMN to give the workshop in two additional provinces and open it to other Indigenous organizations.
The reconciliation and justice effort been developed by the three Ecuadorian Mennonite conferences, with support from MMN and the Schowalter Foundation.
Mennonites have accompanied the Indigenous peoples of Ecuador since 1990, primarily in theological training.
Political developments include an agreement by President Guillermo Lasso to a 90-day dialogue between government ministers and Indigenous groups, including FEINE. This ended more than two weeks of Indigenous protests against Lasso’s economic and environmental agenda. In November, advances were made in labor rights, price-control policies, education and fuel subsidies. Agreements on several of the Indigenous groups’ demands are pending.