In Costa Rica, Mission 21 supports the theological projects of two different partner organisations. The project region is San José, Costa Rica's capital city. Both of Mission 21's projects in Costa Rica have a pan-continental focus and they reach target groups throughout Latin America. The emphasis here is on the power of religion and the church to bring about social change.
Continent of inequality
Positive changes have taken place in many Latin American countries over recent years. Poverty has been substantially reduced within the last decade. Also, increasing numbers of people are attending educational institutions. Nevertheless, the continent is facing major challenges and, for example, is confronted with the clearance of rain forests and a relatively high maternal mortality rate.
Social inequality is still a defining characteristic of all the Latin American countries: ten of the fifteen countries in the world with the greatest social disparities are located in Latin America and the Caribbean. This is manifested in unequal access to land, healthcare, high-quality education and pension benefits. Those most severely impacted are women, children, older people and those with disabilities as well as indigenous and Afro-American demographic groups.
Theological education for more justice
Mission 21's two theological partner organisations in Costa Rica are addressing these challenges. They emphasize the social relevance of theology and, through their projects and by offering educational services, they play their part in achieving fairer conditions in Latin American societies. By critically confronting theological questions and faith-related issues, they empower and motivate people from all over Latin America to shoulder responsibilities in the church and in society. Scholarship programs also make it possible for individuals from poor backgrounds to embark on studies. This guarantees equality of opportunities.
Religion in Latin America
Latin America is still strongly influenced by the Catholic church. This is because Catholicism was the state religion for centuries, as it still is in several countries. At the same time, charismatic Pentecostal churches have been experiencing strong growth for decades. They often have fundamentalist tendencies, in contrast to the approaches based on liberation theology which began to take shape in the Catholic church during the 1970s. These approaches have a high degree of social relevance because they take the side of the poor. Certain specific demands have been added since then, including calls for the rights of women and indigenous people. Liberation theology never was a mass movement, but it has played an important role for social change in Latin America.
Religion and development
It can be seen that there is a traditional link between religion and development in Latin America. Mission 21 has always regarded support for theological training as a significant part of its work. Promotion of ecumenical and liberation theology is particularly important in view of fundamentalist tendencies in churches and theological training institutions in Latin America. This is because it enables us to contribute to the fight against fanaticism and radicalisation, and to endeavour to achieve fairer conditions in Latin American societies. Promotion of life-enhancing and liberating religion, theology and spirituality is a heartfelt concern of Mission 21 and our partner organisations in Costa Rica.
Professional support from Mission 21
Mission 21 guarantees professional support for its partner organisations in Costa Rica. Employees on the ground also support the educational institutes with intercontinental networking, thereby improving the impact of their joint work. If specific expertise is required, advisers are recruited to assist with preliminary investigations and evaluations.