LATIN AMERICA: Academy equips Christian leaders to tackle political challenges

A training course at the parish hall of the Cathedral of Ciudad Quesada, Costa Rica.
A training course at the parish hall of the Cathedral of Ciudad Quesada, Costa Rica.

An international academy is offering training courses for future Catholic leaders to help them apply Christian values to their decisions at a turbulent time in Latin American politics.

The Latin American Academy of Catholic Leaders aims to nurture politicians with a Christian outlook on the world in countries where Catholics tend to withdraw from politics for fear that it “corrupts”, according to the organisation’s director general, Jose Antonio Rosas.

The academy, which involves aspiring leaders from Chile, Uruguay, Mexico, Colombia, Brazil, Costa Rica and Peru, provides training programmes at universities and other educational institutions, in collaboration with Latin American bishops.

The programmes include courses, conferences, formation initiatives and workshops.

Mr Rosas told Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), which helps fund the initiative, that there is a poor understanding of faith among many Catholics who isolate themselves from the world because they see it as a source of unsolvable problems and challenges.

He explained: “The idea that politics corrupts has led to a situation where even countries with a high number of Catholics, such as in the American continent, are bereft of politicians who can reflect Christian values.

“Of course, politics does sometimes corrupt, but that is why we need committed politicians with a Christian sense of responsibility.

“If we want results we have to play, we have to get in the game.”

He added: “Thanks to the academy, many people have decided to enter politics and contribute to the greater good of the community.”

The director general said that the many demonstrations throughout the region reflect a deeper social crisis, while Christian leaders are few and far between.

He highlighted that politicians of an atheistic persuasion are often more successful during social revolutions, which often lead to anarchy. 

He said that the Latin American Academy of Catholic Leaders is trying to change this lack of commitment by encouraging people who embrace Christian values to strive to have a positive impact on society.

Catholic social teaching is an important part of the training, which is not limited to theory but aims to form consciences, according to Mr Rosas.

He said that the academy stresses the positive consequences of having a personal relationship with Jesus Christ without imposing an ideology, explaining: “Lay Catholics have to commit to politics with a strength that can only come from prayer.

“Only then will they be able to face the sacrifice of leaving their comfort zones, of giving their life for an ideal, for faith, without that faith being lost.”

He added that politics can lead to isolation, therefore it is crucial to have the support of a community.

He also expressed his gratitude to ACN for supporting 12 educational institutions participating in the project.