Political and economic inequality. Narco-trafficking and violence. The Church answers by organizing people to face these challenges through a Pastoral Plan.
Those who visit the country can see big avenues, high buildings, beautiful houses. The city of Santo Domingo, looks like a western metropolis. But data show that the distribution of wealth is unequal and that 40 percent of the population lives on the edge of poverty. The great economic inequality also implies political and cultural disparity, which seriously affect the life of the people of the Dominican Republic. The high cost of life and unemployment are among the negative consequences of this situation.
Dominicans are merry and responsive people, with a great love for freedom as their history shows. Children and teenagers are the majority of the population so there is a real interest in education since they wish to improve themselves. Tourism has become the main income source of the country which relies heavily on its several natural resources.
Family values are extremely important among the Dominicans: being family, behaving as family is a characteristic element of the Dominican society. This also explains how the money sent to their families by those who emigrated abroad represents the second income source of the country.
As other countries of Latin America, the Dominican Republic is affected by the scourge of drug trafficking. In the beginning, the country was only used as a transit area for the drugs arriving from other Latin-American countries, where drug cultivation and manufacture are a really big business. But, gradually, the drug business has become a serious internal problem which has affected Dominican society, due to the proliferation of micro drug-trafficking, which has generated violence, delinquency, insecurity among the people, who are often even scared of walking in the street.
Challenges and the Pastoral Plan
Some studies regarding the failure in facing the challenges of Dominican society, which were carried out by the Church, have identified three social causes: disorganization, lack of connection and lack of definition. The disorganized current urban transportation system is an example of this. There are laws, policemen, nothing is missing, but when it comes to facts, everything is done ‘the Dominican way’, thus hampering, the development of the country. Political clientelism and corruption are two more factors that favour and contribute to social and economic inequality.
The Church is in search of solutions by carrying out a National Pastoral Plan which involves the 11 dioceses of the country. The long-term project is aimed at creating organization and developing connections and communication, within the Church itself, in order to help the Dominican people become organized and work together to better face common problems.
One of the main goals of the Pastoral Plan is the process of global evangelization throughout the Dominican territory in order to enhance connection and reciprocal support. The process of evangelization also includes the implementation of the organization of all those elements that are an integral part of the life of the community.
The Church wants to be a missionary and evangelizing Church and a guide and a support for these people who have to face challenges in their everyday life.
The Church also collaborates with social movements to promote and demand improvements in the country, as in the case of the allocation of 4 percent of the national budget to the education sector. Recently the Church and some environmental movements have worked together to protect the area called Loma Miranda, a nature reserve, against the attempts of exploitation by a mining company. The archdiocese of Santo Domingo has led the movement of opposition to the project and achieved its goal of halting it.
The Church contributes to the community organization by training small ecclesial communities, thereby creating spaces for Christian initiation, which imply commitment to real life. All these initiatives allow us to have hope for the future of the country, through the establishment of a network of popular participation and solidarity that will help to solve the problems that affect the majority of the population.
Fr. Lorenzo Vargas
Vicar general in charge of the pastoral work
in the Archdiocese of Santo Domingo