Bishop Nelly Ritchie of the Evangelical Methodist Church of Argentina, who spoke about her country's crisis during a February 5, 2002 briefing at the United Methodist Board of General Global Ministries.
Image by: GBGM Mission News
Looting by desperate citizens after the bank failures in Argentina was not nearly as
serious as the "systemic pillaging" of that Latin American country by foreign interests.
That's the opinion of Bishop Nelly Ritchie of the Evangelical Methodist Church of
Argentina, who spoke about her country's crisis during a Feb. 5 briefing with staff of the
United Methodist Board of Global Ministries.
Argentina's fertile lands and abundant natural resources have made it a "juicy market"
for foreign capitalists who have no regard for the people there, Ritchie explained through
The economic slide began last summer, according to Umberto Shikiya, an economist
and project coordinator for the Methodist church there. By the end of November, the
withdrawal of $30 million to $35 million from Argentina by foreign investors, coupled with
the government's insistence on paying the interest on its foreign debt, had led to the
peso collapse and destabilization of the banking system, he said.
Since then, the country's financial system has remained unstable, with the discredited
political parties facing chaos. "We're going to be in the Guinness Book of World
Records," the bishop quipped. "We had five presidents in about 48 hours."
But the decades-long decline into impoverishment and the current problems of
unemployment and fiscal failure are no joking matter to Ritchie, who considers the
foreign debt shouldered by all Latin American countries to be "not only unpayable, but
illegal and immoral."
A recent survey of church members found that one-third was unemployed, even higher
than the national average. Ritchie noted that those attracted to the church in recent
years more often have represented the poor rather than its traditional middle-class base.
In addition to its membership, she said, "more people are coming to the church asking
for help. People need to eat. They need to work."
One positive aspect of the current fiscal crisis, she added, is that it has motivated a
formerly complacent middle class into action, joining groups such as the unemployed
and retired who already had been trying to get their voices heard. "All the town squares
have become spaces of liberation," she said, explaining that people are trying to
determine their destiny on a local level.
A former schoolteacher, Ritchie was elected as the first female bishop of the Evangelical
Methodist Church of Argentina in 2001. Active in ecumenical work, she served as a vice
moderator for the World Council of Churches' Central Committee from 1991 to 1998.
The Evangelical Methodist Church of Argentina became autonomous from the U.S.-based church in 1969 but still retains a relationship.
Feb 06, 2002