Report of the Latin American and Caribbean Region
The Latin American and Caribbean Group was composed of 43 participants from 17 countries in the region representing the following religions: Christian (Catholic, Protestant, Evangelical), Baha’i and Jewish. Before presenting our report as a region, the group decided, through consensus, to express our solidarity with the people of Iraq through the following letter addressed to Iraqi children.
Letter to the Iraqi boys and girls and their families:
We, the undersigned, participants of the Latin-American and Caribbean region at the Second Forum of the Global Network of Religions for Children, gathered in Geneva, the 19th of May of 2004, wish to communicate to you our profound sorrow for the deaths, tortures, and the suffering caused by the government of the United States and its allies as a result of invading your country.
It is difficult for us to design objectives and action steps for peace without first expressing ourselves about a situation that is violating your human dignity.
We affirm that the indiscriminate violation of the rights of a whole nation is a shame for the whole of humanity.
We affirm that those who have been the instruments of this military action cannot represent any religious truth. Their deep motivations are contrary to peace, respect and the protection of life.
We hope that sorrow and hopelessness don’t lead you to believe that violence is the way.
You are not alone.
After their joint deliberations, the participants from Latin-America and the Caribbean in this Second Forum, divided themselves into four groups, in accordance to the four sub-regions: the Caribbean, Meso (or Central) America, the Andean region and South Cone. The group planned objectives and future action steps for these four sub-regions as follows:
Main Theme: Education for Peace
General Objectives: Provide a space in the communities where children can develop and share ethical practices for a new culture of peace.
1. Organize national groups of adults, children and organizations interested in a work proposal of child to child for peace.
2. Use available materials for holding community camps so as to involve in the process other children.
3. Train the facilitators of the community camps
4. Hold a sub-regional consultation in order to involve more countries in the process and establish long-term goals.
The Andean Region:
Main Theme: Ethical Education and educating community
General Objectives: To work on the formation of educators with the objective of promoting an integral and ethical education.
1. Work for quality education
2. Formulate a plan of action at the sub-regional level
3. Give priority to areas of displacement and migration
4. Analyze the effects of migration on education
5. Create a data base in the Andean sub-region
Main Theme: from the perspective of faith, to build up fullness of life in favor of children and adolescents
General Objective: To articulate and strength inter-religious actions in order to contribute to the integral development of children and adolescents.
1. Promote the education and integral formation of children and adolescents whose rights have been rendered vulnerable.
1.1 Participate in the design and follow up of the National Plans of Action
1.2 To give relevance, strengthen and articulate socio-educational actions in the sub-region
2. To offer training in dialogue, action and participation to overcome violence.
2.1 Provide training courses on a formal and informal level so as to incorporate
these practices in the work of education
2.2 Sharing materials and educational resources on inter-religious dialogue and practices.
2.3 Meetings, seminaries and workshops to strengthen dialogue and participation.
3. To promote the active participation (protagonist) of children and adolescents.
3.1 To strengthen the existing movements for children and adolescents, to create them in countries where they do not exist, and articulate the experiences at the sub-regional level.
4. To manifest ourselves publicly, in favor of the full exercise of the rights of children and adolescents
4.1 In each activity developed in the above-mentioned points, there will be broad publicity on three levels: media, public opinion and governmental organizations.
Main Theme: To prevent and to overcome youth urban violence
General Objective: To maintain a permanent inter-religious dialogue on violence towards and among children, adolescents and young people in Meso America, to generate communal responses within a global ethic.
1. To hold two meetings, to analyze the problem of urban violence in both Honduras and Meso America.
2. To formulate concrete strategies from the churches and religious groups
3. To formulate a joint plan of action to respond to the violence in urban, rural and frontier areas towards and among children, adolescents and youth, promoting a culture of peace as a specific action of the GNRC
(These three specific objectives were achieved in April of 2004.)
4. Promote joint and concrete actions in favor of and to improve the quality of life of children, adolescents and young people
5. To generate and strengthen places where children, adolescents and young people can design appropriate strategies to respond to violence as main actors and promoters of a culture of peace.
At the time of drafting this report, the Latin American and Caribbean group suffered the impact of the news that at least 102 young people died because of a fire in the penal center of San Pedro Sula, Honduras, which housed 2,200 people, more than double its capacity. A few survivors confirmed that the security staff of the prison did not allow the young people to leave their cells in order to save their lives, even though they were engulfed in flames. Information about the tragedy indicates that most of the dead had not been convicted of any crimes. The victims were arrested as a result of the new anti-gangs law established by President Ricardo Maduro.
This sad and violent event is directly related to the objective of the GNRC project in Meso America, which attempts to prevent and revert juvenile urban violence that expresses itself through the proliferation of gangs (called “maras”) in this sub-region. The Latin American and Caribbean group earnestly asks the solidarity and support of this Second Forum of the GNRC by signing the communiqué drafted by colleagues of our Region.
At this time we ask for a moment of silence in memory of these young people.