- - Thursday, October 6, 2016

Between 2010 and 2012, the Latin World Evangelical Alliance, or Confraternidad Evangelica Latina (ConEL), conducted a survey of 7,169 leaders of the evangelical church in seven countries of the Latin world.

We asked, “What is the greatest social challenge in the community where you live?” The top three responses were: Families in crisis, addictions and poverty.

Yes, poverty is still a great issue in communities throughout the Latin world. It is our view that the seeds of faith planted in the early 20th century established a worldview and lifestyle of progress in the culture. Now, in a continent with fragile democracies and high levels of corruption, we must be intentional in targeting and establishing a sustainable, market-based, integrity-driven harvest of poverty alleviation and economic progress.

• Faith

At the start of the 20th century, Latin America was 1 percent Protestant or evangelical, but at the end of the 20th century, 12 percent to 14 percent of the continent was evangelical.

This includes countries and sectors where evangelical Christianity has reached levels of 40 percent to 55 percent of the population. This makes Latin America, along with Africa, home to the fastest-growing churches in the world during the last century.

These statistics point to the contribution by Latin evangelicals to the greatest change in the culture since our colonization in the 1600s. Individuals began to value the dignity of work and of the worker. Churches, at first resistant to community involvement, eventually became agents of change in their communities, adopting a social agenda to our eternal worldview. These represent the seeds of change in our culture.

• Economic Freedom

According to the United Nations, since the year 2000, cooperation between government, business and civil society (including churches) has resulted in the greatest progress in the eradication of poverty.

Extreme poverty (meaning an income equivalent to less than $1.25 a day) stood at 13 percent of the population in 1990, but was reduced to less than 1.25 percent by 2015. Chronic poverty among 1.9 billion people in 1990 was reduced by almost half — 836 million people by 2015.

This is an incredible accomplishment given our history:

Colonized not to establish freedom, but subservience to the colonizers.

Military governments, whose primary focus was security, often at the cost of economic and social justice.

Conservative governments, which often focused on progress for a ruling class, but not the nation and its citizens at large.

Populist governments, which targeted economic justice, often at the cost of freedom, while establishing economic models that limited innovation and created dependency.

The result: bankruptcies in national economies.

Yes, over 70 million people joined the middle class since the year 2000, yet 120 million people — that is one in every five Latin Americans — still live in poverty.

There is progress, but corruption and greed continue to steal the dream of economic justice. According to a U.N. leader, “Latin America remains the most unequal region in the world” — and the most violent. Regarding poverty alleviation, it is not time to stop, it is time to accelerate.

• Create and innovate with ConEL

While the seeds of change have been planted, it is time to unleash the power of the 500,000 potential community-based social transformation centers, known as local evangelical churches in the Latin world. This is why ConEL is actively promoting models of transformation with a DNA of integrity and sustainability, for targeted local and digital communities.

Consider the following:

Next generations: We are sowing in the next generation by reaching every Latin child who will become an adolescent between 2015-2030, or some 232 million children, according to U.N. statistics. Sustainable worldview and integrity starts with the children.

The Cloud: The PreBanco App is currently being developed with a ConEL partner. It fights the culture of debt by promoting a culture of stewardship of every dollar or peso. It will permit people to easily sort their incomes into spending (70 percent), investing (20 percent) and giving (10 percent) through options in the app.

Governance: Our partners in the government sphere have established a school of governance to teach worldview and public policy of sustainability and integrity.

Sustainable social change: Our Colombian ConEL partners have established communities of sustainability and integrity in a culture of poverty and violence. There are currently 75 “Sowing Peace” microbusinesses in largely rural areas that are flourishing with investments of $500 to $2,500 each. Peacemaking and a sustainable economy are brothers.

Friends, we are grateful for seeds of change in the Latin world. We need to move to a harvest of economic sustainability and integrity. Our next dream? A city of transformation. Join us!

Ricardo Luna is global vice president of ConEL (Confraternidad Evangelica Latina), the Latin World Evangelical Alliance.

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