A NEWS RELEASE
From ELCIC Mission
Winnipeg, December 21, 2001 (ELCIC) -- The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada has received word from its missionaries serving in Argentina, Greg and Marla Kiel and their family, about the current crisis in that country.
MESSAGE FROM THE KIELS
To All who are Wondering: Argentina is in a state of crisis. In Buenos Aires, Cordoba, La Plata and many other cities there has been rioting and looting and violence and death. The crisis is upon us because of the financial difficulties in the country and the lack of confidence in the government. Thousands are gathering together because they are tired of the government having everything while the people are not able to support themselves. Yesterday, grocery stores were looted and a young man was shot in the head by the store owner as he tried to enter the store. There have been more than 22 deaths in the country.
The president has resigned as well as the minister of economy. There will be new elections in 90 days to select the new leader. It is a daunting task to say the least. The state of the country is very poor and it has a national debt of $132 billion US. Every time the country makes an interest payment there are less dollars on the street. The government limited cash withdrawals to $250.00 per week.
At first sight, this might not seem too bad for the poor because they don't even make that much money a month but for store owners and those who have to pay wages it is a crisis. They have devised an intermediary type of money which is not much different than Monopoly money. You can only use up to 20% of this new money for paying bills but public employees are paid 50% of their wage in Monopoly money. So they are actually receiving less in wages because they can not spend the entire amount of Patacones or Lecops (Monopoly money).
Needless to say there is a huge task of the new leaders to devise a new economic plan. From what we see, the country will never be able to pay it's external debt and even the International Monetary Fund has refused to give more money at this time. If only year 2000 had really been a Jubilee ...
In Esquel the situation has not turned violent. There are strikes but everyone seems appeased by the fact the president has resigned. I do not predict any personal threat to us in Esquel. Everyone seems to have a little more hope than they had before which was very little or none. The people are very depressed and not looking forward to Christmas because they can't afford anything extra at this point. The churches in Argentina have called the people not to give up, that there are possibilities and new ways to do things. Sounds very much like the message of Christmas. Do not fear, for unto you has been born this day a saviour, the Christ. May God in Christ lead this country into new ways, into paths of truth, justice and peace.
May all of us discover the true meaning of Christmas.
Blessings and Merry Christmas to all.
Greg, Marla, Sarah, Adam & Leah Kiel”
Bryan Tastad is chairperson of the Saskatchewan Synod’s Companion Synod Program and a former Volunteer in Mission who served in Argentina and has maintained contact with people there. He reports that the United Evangelical Lutheran Church of Argentina (IELU) has joined with a number of other churches and organizations in calling on the political and economic authorities in Argentina and other places in the world to pay attention to the suffering of the people, not just the noise of the financial markets. They say it is more important to honor the life of the people than to honor the nation's external debt, interest payments on which exceed $1,300,000,000 each month. In a nation where 14,000,000 people live in poverty, this is a situation that cannot be sustained, and is, in fact, criminal. The churches resist the idea that there is only one answer to the current crisis. They believe there are other alternatives that can be explored.
In a message to IELU churches, President Angel Furlan called on the congregations to keep the churches open and pray fervently for the people, maintain faith in God, participate actively in the social dialogue, do what they can to help in the current emergency, be messengers of hope, denounce acts that violate human dignity, share with the church head office any news from local communities that is important.
President Furlan also asked pastors to postpone any plans for Christmas holidays so that they can be available to the people.
Finally, he called on congregations to maintain faith in the hope and the love of God and to allow the light of Christ to illuminate the current reality of the people and the church, and to maintain solidarity with both those who are hungry for bread and those who are hungry for justice and peace. The Saskatchewan Synod of the ELCIC is a Companion Synod to IELU.
The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada is Canada’s largest Lutheran denomination with 191,000 baptized members in 631 congregations. It is a member of the Lutheran World Federation, the Canadian Council of Churches, and the World Council of Churches.