By Gabriel Sales Triguero
The international event Economy of Francis having closed, in which over 2,000 young businessmen and economists took part, Zenit had the opportunity to talk with Diego Perez on his family’s participation in the events held from November 19-22, 2020.
The young Mexican family, of the diocese of Nezahualcoyoti, is made up of Diego, his wife Betty Garcia, and his three children: Emilio, Tayde and Regina. The interviewee was in charge of coordinating a Mexican villa and a Hub for the meeting.
Organization of the Event
Before understanding the work done by Diego for the Economy of Francis, it’s necessary to explain what a Hub is: it is an entrepreneurship center created to connect persons who, through workshops, chats and other activities, work in a team to generate synergies in order to project their results in a specific reality.
An International Committee organized the event that defined, first of all, the 12 themes to develop. Adapting for the situation caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, it was decided that the events should be virtual; therefore, the organization requested the formation of a sub-group of national advice that would organize the treatment of their topics.
With the mission to foster an adequate participation in the topics, the organizers of each country created villas for the specific diffusion of the Economy of Francis and also regional identity Hubs and their groups.
Preparation of the Hub
Diego Perez was the coordinator of the Energy and Poverty villa for the whole of Mexico and of a Hub in the ecclesiastical province of Tlalnepantla, which includes eight diocese as well as almost 50% of the state’s municipalities.
Seeking the greatest possible participation of people in the concrete realities of his region, the objective of Diego’s work was to start a real process of economic conversion. To this end, he said, “I got in touch with the Bishop, Monsignor Hector Luis Morales, and I explained the initiative to him, to which he responded favourably.”
“My wife Beatriz helped me in its diffusion and in adding important personalities of the Mexican and Latin American Church,” he continued, such as Rodrigo Guerra Lopez, Ph.D. in Philosophy; historian Maria Luisa Aspe; Archbishop Carlos Garfia, and writer and theologian Emilee Cuda. “We were able to organize with them a parallel program of conferences to respond to the international proposal of the Economy of Francis but with the local vision of Latin America and Mexico.”
From his Mexican Hub, made up of 33 people, Diego focused on three objectives: encounter and participation in the event, consolidation of a community to contribute stability to the solid construction of a regional structure, and the proposal and implementation of initiatives to generate a better economy from institutions and the State. This way responds, he said, to the method of seeing, judging and acting.
Management of the Villa
As coordinator at the national level of the Energy and Poverty Villa, I had the task to coordinate the relative topics, join efforts with other members of the Committee and seek investments for the need of clean energies and poverty that so afflicts our Mexico,” he explained.
He also said that the Villa had a “special task in the project of the Economy of Francis, because the pandemic has made the problem of poverty in our country more acute.” It’s true that Mexico has a “minimal business and entrepreneurship reality,” and the true reality is “more of workers, employees with low salaries, of the evil called informal commerce and especially of the excluded from the labor, financial and social security system,” he explained.
In Pope Francis’ words, “it is the poor and the excluded who are the real protagonists of this Pact for a more just economy and that it’s a great challenge to coordinate this villa,” he concluded.
Family Participation in the Meeting
All the Perez family was involved in the Economy of Francis, but the participation of Emilio, the eldest son, calls attention, as the only person younger than 18 (14) of all Latin America who intervened actively in the event. Initially, only his parents were going to go, but Betty was pregnant and couldn’t travel by plane, so finally, it was the son who went with Diego on this adventure.
“It has been a great experience. It was a joy to know that many adolescents of other nationalities would be representing Latin America,” he said. In this line, he points out that “as parents, this was providential, because we have always been in different areas of service in the Church, but for my son to have the opportunity to share this unique experience and at the same time advance in his Christian commitment in the social realm is an inestimable gift.”
Emilio’s participation consisted in “hearing talks, interacting one-to-one in conversations and intervening in the Hub program. “He was able to be part of it and add <his thoughts>.” His reaction to the news was very moving because since Emilio was small he has had formation in subjects related to the Church “ and vocational and pastoral movements.” “To know that he had been accepted made him enthusiastic, to be able to share with young people from all over and build a better world.”
Undoubtedly, however, “as a family, the most important participation was to support one another to attend the three days of the event with cooperation at home, at work and in tasks, to be able to be part, together, of this great experience, so that all the additional activities could flow adequately.” Although, “unfortunately,” the family couldn’t go to Assisi, prevented by COVID-19, ”next year we will participate, and especially Emilio,<who will be> more mature in age and have a different view of the scenario that the pandemic leaves in the subject of the economy.
Experience of the Meeting
Diego recounted how the Economy of Francis implied for them a “great experience in every human dimension.” It was “incredible to coordinate everything with people you didn’t know and that the intimacy of the participation, although virtual, during 12 hours a day, led us to create a united group committed to seek a more influential economy.
“The most concluding proof that the culture of encounter is fundamental is to see how we have met with unknowns, presenting ourselves as ‘we are,” and we have ended saying ‘we exist,’” he stressed.
He also said that the experience was good thanks to the talks of the expert speakers, which were “enriching in the intellectual <dimension> and in our realizing that changes in the social economy are not a utopia but a reality to which we must add ourselves and visualize, that it’s more important to act than to theorize.”
In the spiritual <dimension>, “encountering the figure of Saint Francis was providential,“ especially, “as reference of a new lifestyle that leads us to better economic practices and not so much of consumerism and the search for usefulness, but a true expression of integral humanism and of commitment to our common home.”
Vision of the Future
Making known the sensations that remain after the event, Diego said that he takes from the meeting “the hope that we can walk together and build a better future, and a humanity with hope, if kept alive in man, can achieve great things.”
However, he warns, “we will have to travel “a road full of challenges. As human beings we are exposed to great temptations; we will have to fight a very culturally rooted individualism, including in the youngest, given that we tend to form elite groups, and there will be a great temptation to look to the circles of power to carry out the proposals, given that the poor and excluded must be at the center, and never the throwaway culture or speedy results.”
He also recalled that, in face of this, the Pope has called on young people, “because of their capacity to dream, willingness to build a more just and more beautiful world,” and for “those of us more advanced in years, we share this dream and will accompany <young people> in the process so that the flame of hope is not extinguished in their hearts and that they attain the very yearned for celebration of universal fraternity.”
The Holy Father’s Attitude
Diego Perez believes that Pope Francis’ economic vision is “prophetic and is based on a perception of the realities of a world full of inequalities, but especially of the excluded, people that have been considered not apt for the economic model of some of the privileged.”
The Pontiff’s proposal, he clarified, is “to reflect on the question we must pose ourselves: “Is our heart a closed area in which no one can enter, which it closed in indifference, in comfort and that doesn’t let others enter?”
This is why Pope Francis did not want to “postpone any longer the Pact of Assisi, which commits us not to isolate ourselves from people’s suffering but to seek models that foster integral human development, aimed at the common good and at the service of human life in reciprocity with nature,” he added.
“Virus that comes from a Sick Economy”
Analyzing the words pronounced by the Bishop of Rome last August, Diego said that the Economy of Francis has invited all to reflect on “a sick economy by the virus of indifference that attempts against every form of life.”
Supporting this thesis, Diego gave the example that “not only is it for pro-life to be concerned about abortion but even more to understand that there are millions of children aborted annually and thousands that die of hunger every year,” and these deaths, “beyond the statistics, must make us indignant, as well as those caused by the phenomenon of abortion.”
“In the same way,” he argues, “education has become a bargaining chip and tool of exclusion. It’s only a few privileged ones that have the right to a quality education.” According to UNESCO, there are about 263 million unschooled children and young people in the world. “This is a reality that challenges us to keep alive the flame for the Global Educational Pact, and an educational transformation that will enable more children to have access to a quality education that gives them the possibility to develop integrally and guarantees fitting work, land and roof to every person in the world,” he concluded.
Translation by Virginia M. Forrester