Encuentro Quito, Ecuador

Ecuador: The last word on reality and life

Encuentro Quito 2023, a 'small meeting' dedicated to peace in the South American country, for months the scene of violence and a climate of social insecurity.

When on 15 October 2022, in St. Peter's Square, the Pope invited us to accompany him in the 'prophecy of peace', I did not fully understand what it meant for us in Ecuador, who at that time were feeling a little distant from the war in Ukraine. Added to this, after the Assembly of Responsibles of Latin America, came the desire to learn what the communal judgement Davide Prosperi had spoken about was. At that time, a general situation of violence and insecurity broke out in the country, as never before. So together we wrote a flyer: "What enables us to live without fear and in peace?". It ended with these words: “We want to help build places of peace where every person can be understood to the depth, embraced and saved.” The flyer was the cue to take the idea seriously, born almost as a joke among us, of giving life to Encuentro Quito, a 'small' Meeting on the theme of peace. In April, the Bishops of Ecuador had dedicated a letter to peace, in which they asked for “civil society initiatives to build bridges of reconciliation and peace among Ecuadorians.”

Six months of preparation, in which we identified the people we wanted to meet. The biggest surprise for me was that, as we got deeper into the work, the topics and the people we wanted to be involved grew more and more. It was a life that was exploding. A few weeks before the event, dialoguing with some speakers on education and the religious sense – with which we opened the Encuentro, to define the horizon in which we wanted to remain by talking about everything – I realised that the evil and violence that we were breathing in these recent times were not the last word on reality and life. Through the Encuentro, I met many good people, who want to build, to work, who love their land and do not want to leave it, as thousands of Ecuadorians have done in recent times. This gave me hope and even physically I no longer had the fear that had gripped me when I returned from Italy, after a presidential candidate was killed a few blocks from our house and the situation of insecurity in the neighbourhood where we work had increased. Truly, when one is full of Christ present in reality it is a whole other story.

The days of the Encuentro were also an event: Vicente Albornoz, one of the country's best-known economists, among the speakers, said that it had been years since he had attended an event of this type, where what prevailed was a desire for dialogue within a constructive climate. The journalist Francisco Rocha, presenting The Religious Sense, said that reading it had brought him back to the sense of 'we' of his youth. Over dinner, he confessed to us that the book had restored his nostalgia for God and religion, and with tears in his eyes, he asked: "Why does life lead us to lose the important things?” The most impressive factor for me, however, was seeing the involvement of many young people and parents from the educational work I am part of. Humble people, with few opportunities even to get out of the neighbourhood where they live, found themselves in one of the most modern and prestigious universities in the capital. The young people helped with security, spoke to ministers and ambassadors, and held a meeting with XXL 593, a famous rap singer they had invited. Society is very divided in Quito and social classes are very marked. In the Encuentro, on the contrary, there was unity, familiarity, fraternity for the desire to live and build, a desire – it was evident during the two days – that only Christ present in a companionship can fill and fulfil.

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I thank Davide for this year's journey, without which such a complete gesture of culture, mission and charity, capable of enhancing everyone and everything, a generator of communion between us and with the world, could not have happened. Having made us experience the joy of communicating to all what we have encountered, I am now looking forward to what the Lord will give us.

Stefania, Quito, Ecuador