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50 years of Marist presence in Bolivia

19/09/2006: Bolivia

We are Marist educators, brothers and laypeople, from the Province of Santa María de los Andes, coming from Roboré, San José de Chiquitos, Santa Cruz, Comarapa and Cochabamba. A representation of brothers from Peru and Chile also joined us.

We have worked in Bolivia for a long time, offering to the children and young people a liberating project of evangelisation through formal, alternative technical and permanent education, as well as other social services such as: health, cafeteria, boarding schools, and projects of community development. At present, more than 700 educators look after 9,000 students in ten schools. These young people come especially from working-class and marginalised milieux in our country and belong to several religious confessions.

From the 8th to the 10th September, we gathered at Santa Cruz de la Sierra to celebrate the fifty years of Marist presence in Bolivia and to restate our commitment for continuing to love and serve the children and young people through our Marist educational project.

We note with concern that our country is experiencing a difficult period, characterised by a strong polarisation and a lack of frank and constructive dialogue to help find a consensus which would lead to a peaceful solution to the impasse. As well, the educational policy of the government expressed in a project of law approved at Sucre concerns us, for it limits the liberty of teaching, promotes a state-controlled and lay education that does not recognise the services rendered by the Church in education and the right of the Church to instruct. It restrains also the right of the parents to choose the education that they want for their children. But, at the same time, we appreciate the proposal of the current government to include sectors which were traditionally marginalised in the process of economic, political and social development of the country and to find better living conditions and a better access to education for the children.

The meeting brought together 350 participants who were witnesses to this educational experience of evangelisation, rich and creative, that the Marists have developed everywhere in the country.

We also went to the sources of our history and of our spirituality to deepen our educational project, born from Marcellin Champagnat, in order to adopt it and translate it today according to the concrete reality of our people. For that, we want to continue to promote a pedagogy based on love, which favours those who are weak and respects diversity, which integrates faith, culture and life, which promotes the search for the meaning of life among the children in a transcendent, Christian and solid perspective, committed to the transformation of our country, which allows teachers to improve themselves constantly through professional and Christian training in order to form “good Christians and worthy citizens”, which recognises the parents as the first educators of their children and which, as a consequence, encourages them to assume their responsibility according to a Marist vision.

We ask the State to respect the freedom of teaching in the country and to encourage also the initiatives that favour a quality education for the good of the population.
We ask the Church to always maintain the pathways of dialogue open and to continue to defend valiantly the right to education through Christian values.
We ask the Marist Institute to continue to share with joy and hope the charism given to Marcellin Champagnat by God.
We ask Marist teachers to constantly progress in their commitment and in their devotion in order to offer a quality evangelising education.
We ask the students to take up their educational project in a responsible way in order to be able to incarnate in their persons the Marist values that they have received.
We ask parents who identify themselves more each day with the values of the Marist ideal to assume a greater co-responsibility in the accompaniment of their children.

Finally, at this time of uncertainty which the country is experiencing, we commit ourselves: to look at reality with the eyes of faith and to develop an attitude of hope and confidence in God who is leading us in history, to be instruments of dialogue, of encounter and understanding which contribute in breaking the current climate of confrontation, to continue to enthuse ourselves in our vocation as Marist teachers, by centring our lives passionately on Jesus and his Gospel, in the way of Mary, to continue to prefer to teach children and young people in need, to offer a quality evangelising education by stressing academic, pastoral and solidarity aspects, and to be creative in our educational responses in order to face the challenges that this new world presents to us and which touch our lives.

Santa Cruz, 10th September 2006.

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