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Being a Christian in a ‘Glo-cal’ world

We must seek ways to communicate, participate, and act in order to bring about positive changes in today's increasingly ‘glocal’ world.

FEATURES AUTOR 57/Samuel_Escobar 10 DE NOVIEMBRE DE 2022 12:25 h
Photo: [link]Markus Spiske[/link], Unsplash CC0.

I have just received an article from Honduras, one of the Latin American countries where its author, my son, economist Alejandro Escobar, works as part of his duties at the Inter-American Development Bank.

During his seven years of volunteer service in Bolivia in the 1990s, Alejandro worked with small farmers through the Mennonite Central Committee and the Mennonite Economic Development Association, specialising in helping farmers export their products and financing their activities through micro credit programmes.

What he learned there led him to study agricultural economics at Penn State University in the United States in 1992.

Later, in 2004, he won a position at the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) in Washington, where he currently holds the position of lead investment specialist for Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) for the entire Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) region.

His work takes him to different countries where the IDB sees the possibility of financing projects. A few weeks ago he was in Santa Cruz, Bolivia.

This is his aticle.

Being a Christian in a ‘Glo-Cal’ world

There is no doubt that we live in times of major changes in economy, society, technology and climate. All these areas affect our daily lives.

As never before we live in a world where the media instantly informs us not only of important events around the globe, but also of the constant advancement of the economy, and scientific discoveries.

The arrival on Mars with sophisticated equipment and robots may not get much attention in our day-to-day lives, but it is a remarkable advance for humans on their way to becoming an interplanetary species. A concept that the businessman Elon Musk has made us see and think about in a very sudden way.

We would never have thought, either, that a first-generation migrant to the United States could set up an electric car factory in less than 10 years and create one of the most valuable companies in the world in the process, now worth almost as much as the Gross Domestic Product of Spain.

I do not have a global view of economic, social and political events like some economist colleagues in banks with a global presence, but I have had the luck to work for the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) for almost 18 years, and from my position I have been able to see some trends in the Latin American and Caribbean region, and God has given me the chance to constantly reflect on where we are, how we are progressing and what lies ahead.


Latin America and the Caribbean

Where does Latin America and the Caribbean fit into those very fast global changes, and how have economic progress, technological change, and climate change affected those regions?

In general, the answer to those questions holds pessimistic notes, but there are also reasons for a positive attitude. On the pessimistic side, we have seen an increase in inequality between the richest and the poorest in the region.

It has increased in the region to the point that by 2020, the Gini index of inequality is 46.2, i.e. 10 points higher than in the OECD countries. It is important to note, however, that the poorest have increased their incomes.

That is, there are many rich people but the poor have also seen their incomes increase, perhaps not at the same rate. In the case of Latin America, the political environment in the region left much to be desired.

There is widespread annoyance among the young population especially at how political scientists and people in the executive, legislative and judicial powers are getting rich through corruption, with scandals in Peru, Colombia, Argentina, Nicaragua, Brazil, Mexico and the Caribbean. No one is spared.

This causes a lack of confidence among the younger generation that the institutions of their countries are really worth anything.


Climate change

Regarding climate change, the region continues to be a leader in supplying food to the rest of the world.

For Latin America and the Caribbean, agriculture and the use of natural resources for food are extremely important because they create jobs and contribute to the economy.

However, this growth and supply also has impacts on the climate and the environment. Large livestock extensions, deforestation, overfishing, are issues that we see in the news every day.

Their quantification is not only carried out in scientific laboratories, but also in the boardrooms of large multinational companies that produce and trade food.

Companies such as Nestlé, Coca-Cola, Danone, Mondelez and others are very concerned about climate change and its effect on future food production.

People are already talking about synthetic coffee and cocoa, without any use of agricultural production, due to the fear that in a couple of decades, there will no longer be any land suitable for these crops.

More and more chemically produced foods are being used, as shown by the vegetable and chemical meat industry, led by the American company "beyondmeat".

As we reflect on these trends, as Christians we cannot help but ask ourselves the question: What role do I, my family and my community play in these abrupt, unexpected, inexplicable and seemingly accelerating processes of change?

Should I go on with my life just ignoring what is going on around me in order to focus on my professional and personal success without being burdened by anything else?

I propose three areas of action for us to take up and act upon as responsible Christians.


Be well informed

The first has to do with the responsibility to be well informed and to make an effort to search with a certain level of depth the reasons for the events around me that affect my life.

There is no doubt that our daily actions are closely related to what we consume in digital media in particular.

We react to an offer that pops up on Facebook, to advertisements for household goods or holiday trips, or to a coupon that arrives in my email account to buy a hamburger with a discount.

We plan our weekend or our commute to the office based on the weather information that arrives on my mobile phone.

However, just as we absorb information, we also have to understand what is causing the severe rains that flood parts of my country, or what is causing the increasingly frequent fires that burn thousands of hectares of forest.

Those things are no longer distant facts that we see on the news, but direct consequences of our actions or inactions.

How does the food system work in my city? Where does the food I eat every day come from? How much packaging do we need to use every day to consume something that minutes later we are going to throw away?

Do we have open conversations or are there spaces (virtual or real) where we can engage in dialogue about our eating patterns and responsible consumption?


Take action

My second proposal is to take action and be civically active in community causes. In our current environmental reality, this is no longer an option, but a need.

Climate change is not a "hoax" as many try to call it, it is a reality. The effects of climate change are not just what we see in the news around the world about droughts, floods, suffocating temperatures, and water shortages in entire cities.

Climate change seems to accelerate because of our daily actions, our endless consumerism, and our lack of urban and regional planning. We should ask ourselves, for example, if we are aware of what percentage of my local city council's budget goes to counteract those issues.

Perhaps we can organise spaces for debate or consultation in our community to ensure that these issues are addressed and bring about change in our neighbourhoods and city.


The role of the church

Thirdly, we must understand the role that our church, our Christian community, plays in dealing with those global challenges.

More than ever the global is the local, as sociologist Roland Robertson pointed out in 1980 when he first used the term GLO-CAL, referring to global trends, which increasingly resemble and are in tune with trends in my local community and neighbourhood.

If my church is not actively involved in such issues, even in a very localised way, then it is not professing faith in Christ who exhorts us to be salt and light in this world.

We must ask ourselves, is there a ministry in my church for the care and management of the environment, for the care of the elderly, for the problem of affordable housing? And how do we support young people and missionaries working in distant places?

If we do not have active programmes that address or engage with such challenges, and we focus only on spiritual needs and improving our personal lives, then we should ask ourselves whether we as a church are really playing a transformative role in our community, in this world.


Making an impact

It is not necessary to have a high degree and education to get involved and take action, nor to be affiliated with a global NGO, although in many cases that is a good thing.

We can look for an organisation with which we can act collaboratively and effectively, and look for other people who share our values and are willing to contribute financially to achieve their altruistic goals.

It is interesting to reflect on this kind of commitment, not only from the ethical vision provided by our faith, but also from other current perspectives.

We could take the view proposed by the young British philosopher William MacCaskey, of "effective altruism", of concrete actions, carried out by those professionals and people who have benefited from the effects of globalisation.

What MacCaskey proposes is not necessarily something new, but it challenges us to think and make economic cost/benefit calculations in our altruistic actions, not only for the environment but also for other challenges such as poverty, responsible consumption and corruption.

Without going to the extreme of measuring whether 1 cent of our investment, either of time or money, results in 1 cent of benefit (social or environmental), I do believe that our faith compels us to think more deeply about how to approach our reality responsibly.

It is up to us to think about how we should use the means and technology at our disposal to make an ever more powerful impact.


Paul's epistles

I believe that Paul's epistles found in the New Testament are the best example of how the Church should take this stance.

Paul was an upper-class "professional" bureaucrat, and when he became a follower of Christ, he saw the opportunity to use letters and long-distance communication to convey many teachings to his own contemporaries and to future generations.

What he conveyed was not limited to the realm of faith per se, but also to pragmatic aspects of Church organisation, the rules of its institutional management as an organised group, taxes and financial matters, and even labour issues and organisational hierarchy.

This does not in any way discredit the content of his letters, which sought to delve deeper into the understanding of the faith.

Today, Paul's epistles exhort us to seek practical solutions, which can be communicated, even at a distance, for the common good.

I believe that although we live in a very dynamic social and economic environment, where there is a prevailing eagerness to move forward and to excel in order "not to be left behind", we must seek ways to communicate, participate, and act in order to bring about positive changes in today's increasingly "glocal" world.

It is our responsibility.




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