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“Let no one rob you of your hope.” – Pope Francis.
At the end of 2020, 209 million people were living under the poverty line in Latin America, 22 million more compared to 2019. Poverty and extreme poverty increased especially in rural areas, among children, Indigenous people and people of African descent.
COVID-19 exposed an unjust society marked by corruption at various levels of government. Fundamental rights such as the right to food, health, education and housing, out of reach for some before the pandemic, have become more inaccessible with it. The health system has collapsed in many countries, virtual education is inaccessible to thousands of students, families had to choose between COVID-19 safety or hunger. Access to life-saving vaccines is controlled by corporations.
Our hope is for a fairer and egalitarian post-COVID society based on human dignity and the pursuit of the common good. This is the foundation of our faith: We are all equal under God’s eyes regardless of race, religion, gender or politics. We all deserve to live healthy and peaceful lives with access to education, culture and the arts and meaningful civic engagement. Our cultural identities need to be respected. In order to achieve this, we need to work for social change based on justice, human dignity and respect for human rights.
The Conference of Jesuit Provincials of Latin America and the Caribbean (CPAL) sustains hope, both through prophetic denunciation and by developing creative and innovative alternatives. Its mission is simple and profound at the same time: to proclaim Jesus Christ, to walk with the poor and excluded, to be agents of reconciliation and justice.
CPAL lives up to its mission by being close to those who are impoverished, excluded and victims of violence while recognizing and respecting their values, their culture, their capacities, their organizations, and making their struggles and needs visible. It strives for a concrete and effective commitment to forcibly displaced people, to Indigenous and Afro-American populations, and to the peoples of Pan-Amazonia, Cuba and Haiti. CPAL also fosters scientific research, study and reflection, dialogue and action, through inter-sectoral, inter-provincial and inter-institutional collaboration and participation.
CPAL is involved in two campaigns to address the issue of inequality and social justice: The Universal Right to Quality Education (DUEC) and the Hospitality Campaign.
DUEC is part of the Global Compact on Education called for by Pope Francis and the Jesuit General Congregation 35. It challenges us to work for public policies which guarantee quality education for millions of school-age children who are excluded or receive poor quality education. Universal access to quality education would break the cycle that perpetuates poverty, discrimination and denies opportunities for better quality of life and dignified work.
The Campaign for Hospitality advocates for migrants’ rights and promotes a culture of solidarity and inclusion of migrants and refugees. It does so by strengthening grassroots organizations in Latin America. It promotes integration and coexistence based on our belief that “we are all migrants, we are all part of humanity.”
These and other initiatives are carried out by CPAL through its social, pastoral and educational networks, in synergy with other institutions of civil society and the church. CPAL’s social networks include:
• 41 Social Centres from 18 countries that seek to influence public policies in favour of the most disadvantaged and promote processes of social transformation based on reconciliation and justice.
• The Jesuit Migrants Network, involving more than 60 institutions of the Society of Jesus in 19 countries.
• Latin American Network of Solidarity and Indigenous Ministries, which fosters regional collaborations and synergies based on cultural and spiritual diversity.
• The Radio Network, made up of more than 100 radio stations linked to different initiatives and networks of the Society of Jesus.
• Working groups on gender issues and Afro-centric culture that affirm hope in the region.
In his Lenten message, Pope Francis highlighted hope as “living water” that allows us to continue our journey. The mission of CPAL is a mission of love which affirms hope in the midst of crisis. To live in hope means to know that “God is ‘making all things new.’”