From the Worldwide Faith News archives

ALC Noticias Peru, Columbia, Ecuador, Argentina, Guatemala

From Worldwide Faith News <>
Date Mon, 05 Apr 2004 13:22:34 -0700


PERU: Survey about religiosity of Lima residents emphasizes Evangelical
COLOMBIA: Controversial legal project about security in churches enters
ECUADOR: CLAI condemns terrorism in letter to the Spanish government
ARGENTINA: The changing religious face of Buenos Aires
GUATEMALA: Rights of migrants examined in meeting

Survey about religiosity of Lima residents emphasizes Evangelical advance

LIMA, March 15, 2004 (alc). In an article about the religious affiliation 
of Lima residents the daily La Republica stated Evangelical Christians are 
advancing and positioning themselves in society.  Today, they represent 
the second largest religious group. According to the survey, 11.7 percent 
of those surveyed said they belong to the Evangelical community.

This percentage represents some 900,000 people given that the city of Lima 
has more than 8 million residents. Of that total 17.1 percent belong to the 
Christian and Missionary Alliance Church, followed by Pentecostals with 
14.6 percent and members of the Christian Way of Life Community with 7.3 

We used to be ignored in the surveys, which hurt us. Now they do consider 
us. We are having an influence on society through professionals and 
business people but our greatest mission is committed to the universities 
because it is there that the leaders of the future are formed with 
principles and values, said Pastor Luis Vela Salazar of the Champions for 
Christian Church.

Estuardo Zevallos, director of communications for the Assemblies of God 
told ALC that the 11.7 percent is in line with Evangelical studies. 
However, he objected to the reported number of Pentecostals. In Lima alone 
the Assemblies of God has 450 congregations and is the most numerous Church 
in the country, he said.

The University of Lima offers other interesting data. The first best 
seller is still read, said Nilton Torres V., author of the report. He 
affirmed that 69.3 percent of those surveyed said they read the Bible and 
the most avid readers are in the middle class.

According to the survey, 98.6 percent of the capital city population is 
Christians. Of those surveyed 1.1 percent said they were Jehovahs 
Witnesses, 0.9 percent said they were Mormons and 0.3 percent said they 
were Adventists.

This evidently confirms that Peru is a Christian society and for this 
reason Christmas, Holy Week and other religious festivals are so important. 
Moreover, there is also a Christian tradition that originates with the 
arrival of the Spaniards, Christians but Catholics, said anthropologist 
Juan Ossio Nunez.

While the Catholic Church continues to the majority church when asked how 
often they attend Mass, 40.7 percent said once a week while 34.1 percent 
said once a month. These averages reach 58 percent in the upper class, 56 
percent in the middle class, and 48 percent in the lower class. This means 
that religion is something secondary for the lower class sectors, 
according to the study.

  Regarding communion, of those surveyed 14.6 percent said they take 
communion once a week, while 34.2 percent said once a month, 23.1 percent 
said once a year and 24.4 percent said they never do.

The anthropologist said that there has been a significant change that would 
have been unheard of 20 years ago. This change has taken place because 
Lima society has become too complex. There used to be a much more solid 
adhesion to rites but now we are bombarded by a serious of exogenous 
situations, he said.

On the other hand, the Catholic parish has lost importance as a center of 
religious activity. Of those surveyed 73.6 percent said they do not 
participate in its activities.

Joaqumn Diez Esteban, theologian and professor from the Pontifical Theology 
and Civil Faculty of Lima said that today the manifestation of formation 
and experience tends to be exteriorized through so-called Apostolic groups 
that carry out retreats and other participatory activities.

Regarding devotion to the saints and virgins, 65.4 percent of Catholics 
said they participate while 33.6 percent said they dont.

Controversial legal project about security in churches enters debate

BOGOTA, March 16, 2004 (alc). This week Senate will debate a controversial 
legal project that imposes conditions in a bid to ensure safety in 
Churches. Many Evangelicals Churches are unable to meet the conditions and 
therefore the law violates the right to freedom of worship, according to 
the Christian leaders.

While historically the State has provided the Catholic Church with broad 
spaces and resources to build their Churches, Evangelicals depend on their 
own resources with the exception of some denominations that have 
international connections.

The project was drafted in 2002 by the Ombudsman to address some weaknesses 
that the Constitutional Court had detected in the 1994 Religious Freedom 
and worship law and to ensure that places of worship are also safe places.

However, since the end of last year, the Ombudsmans delegate for 
constitution affairs Karin Kuhfeldt and Gina Parody, the Senate speaker, 
have met opposition from Evangelical Churches. Evangelical representatives, 
according to the weekly Semana, believe that the project violates freedom 
of worship, that it is undue interference by the State in religious affairs 
and they have requested that it be withdrawn to draft a new one with their 

Kuhfeldt believes that this is not necessary because four forums have been 
carried out and another two are pending, where Evangelical leaders have 
expressed their points of view and their observations that, according to 
Kuhfeldt, have been incorporated.

Senator Jose Maria Villanueva, of the National Christian Party, said that 
the project has improved a great deal because it took our opinions and 
those of the church in general into account.

However, Pastor Hector Pardo, president for the past three years of the 
Evangelical Council of Colombia (CEDECOL), an institution that brings 
together 80 percent of the evangelical Churches in the country, said the 
changes were superficial, cosmetic and failed to address the essence of the 

Pastor Oswaldo Pinzon, president of the District Association of Ministers 
of the Gospel (ADME), which brings together 600 of the more than 900 
pastors that there are in the capital, agrees with Pardo and said that the 
project has a tendency to disturb the development of religious in 
Christian Churches.

Colombia has only legally admitted religious pluralism as of the 1991 
Constitution. The Catholic Church continues to be the most important in the 
country. A survey held last week by the Colombia Values Studio indicated 
that 66.9 percent of the population is Catholic while 5.2 percent is 
Protestant and Evangelical.

For historic and cultural reasons, Catholic temples have always been well 
located with appropriate architecture. Evangelical Churches, given that 
they do not have a vertical structure like the Catholic Church, have 
evolved very differently.

For example, the case of Bogota legislator Luis Salas is characteristic. 
Salas, who has completed his second legislative period for PNC, has been a 
pastor for the past 12 years in the In Your Presence Christian Church, 
which began with 80 members.

When it had 120 members it obtained legal status. The original place of 
worship had a capacity for 120. Salas extended it to fit 400 and opened two 
other places. Today his Church has 1,200 members. This growth system 
explains why there are 343 Catholic chapels in Bogota but 919 places of 
Evangelical worship.

The aim of the legal project is that all Churches or temples fulfill 
regulations to guarantee the tranquility, security and health of those who 
attend. This includes regulations related to possible earthquakes, 
illumination, ventilation, escape routes, in particular for the 
handicapped, protection against fires, bathroom facilities, among others.

We are not asking anything extraordinary, said Senator Parody. Given 
their architecture and location, the majority of Catholic Churches can 
carry out the necessary changes. The same is not true for Evangelical 

Architect Mauricio Sanchez carried out the corresponding investigation and 
found that the majority of Evangelical Churches present structural problems.

Pastors are aware that some Churches need repairs. However, they are not in 
agreement with being obligated to carry them out. A project like this is 
now does not recognize the Churches that already exist, said Pastor Pardo.

If the law is approved it will also put a break on the creation of new 
places of worship given the extensive regulations.

Senator Villanueva insists, We are not opposed to the control that 
authorities exercise over the places of worship, however, we consider that 
the current regulations are sufficient.

CLAI condemns terrorism in letter to the Spanish government

QUITO, March 16, 2004 (alc). Terrorism is the symbol of a frightening 
trend toward violence on our planet and the inability of nations and 
communities to find a peaceful way to resolve their conflicts and 
differences, said a letter of condolence from the Latin American Council 
of Churches board of directors (CLAI) to Spanish President Jose Maria Aznar.

In reference to March 11 terrorist attacks that left 200 dead and 1,500 
injured in Madrid, CLAI leaders expressed their concern about the magnitude 
of the tragedy and the inhumanity of those who perpetrated this act.

These innocent and unacceptable deaths have profoundly affected our 
Christian awareness because we know that each human being is made in the 
image of God and that when human life is injured, it is also an assault 
against God.

The letter recalls that the Spanish people have borne the brunt of ETA 
terrorist actions for many years, which are now joined by this attack on 
the part of groups liked to Islamic extremism in an unjustifiable revenge 
for Spains unfortunate participation in the coalition that went to war 
with Iraq a year earlier.

The Latin American Council of Churches, a body that groups together more 
than 150 Churches and Christian organizations in Latin America and the 
Caribbean energetically repudiates this terrorist act and expresses it 
heart-felt solidarity with the families of the victims and all the Spanish 
people at this time of profound pain, said the letter signed by Bishop 
Julio Cesar Holguin, CLAI president and its secretary general Israel Batista.

The mention of Spains unfortunate participation in the war in Iraq recalls 
that 90 percent of the population was opposed by was not heard by the 
government. Analysts agree that this participation was probably one of the 
decisive factors in the overthrow of the ruling Partido Popular in last 
Sundays elections.

The changing religious face of Buenos Aires

By Hilario Wynarczyk
BUENOS AIRES, March 19, 2004 (alc). The Universal Church of the Kingdom of 
God (IURD) recently opened its biggest temple in Buenos Aires, slated to be 
formally inaugurated in April.

This denomination, created in Brazil in 1977 by Bishop Edir Macedo bought 
the huge Las Flores Market and modified it to set up a huge 2,000 square 
meter Church with a capacity for 2,600 people. The land covers 5,000 square 
meters and cost the IURD $8 million.

This event is emblematic of the changes that are underway in Argentine 
society and in its culture. Up to the 1980s the center of Buenos Aires only 
housed Protestant Churches linked to European States. All were built in the 
XIX Century and were near port, banking and import-export businesses.

In the front of the Plaza de Mayo, the political center of the Church, 
there is one enormous Church, the Catholic Metropolitan Cathedral. The 
Anglican Church is two blocks away, in the middle of the banking sector. 
Five blocks away is the First Presbyterian Church, linked to the Scottish 
community. Some six blocks from the Plaza de Mayo is the First Methodist 
Church, historically linked to the Anglican Community, once visited by 
educator and statesman Domingo Faustino Sarmiento.

Some six blocks away is the oldest Church of the Evangelical Church of the 
River Plate, originally an extension of the German-Prussian Evangelical 
Church. These above mentioned Churches form the inner circle of Protestant 

Some 16 blocks from the Plaza de Mayo, in a second circle of Protestant 
Churches is the Baptist church, also set up in the XIX century and the 
cradle of the Argentine Protestant patriarchs.

Finally, a third, distant circle traditionally housed the Pentecostal 
Churches. However, things changed in the 1980s when some neo-Pentecostals 
started a trend of renting huge movie theatres for religious shows in the 
downtown core. Perhaps the most noteworthy was Pastor Hictor Anmbal Giminez.

As of the 1990s, the changes became more drastic. The IURD definitively 
occupied a cinema and set up what has historically been its central church 
in Argentina.

The new IURD temple, some 30 blocks from downtown lies in the heart of the 
Almagro barrio, one of the most characteristics neighborhoods in inner 
Buenos Aires. It is a zone with lots of businesses, coffee shops, and 
middle class apartments. The Las Flores market had an impact on Almagros 
economy for decades.

Today the IURD temple will have an impact on the neighborhood, with its 
vast architecture and lights. The IURD, famous in Brazil for its media, 
political and financial presence, has spread to many countries in America 
and other continents, is growing fast in Argentina and making in roads in 
the communications industry.  (170/2004).

Rights of migrants examined in meeting

By Trinidad Vasquez
CITY OF GUATEMALA, March 19, 2004 (alc). Migrants and their right to 
communication was a theme for analysis and reflection during a meeting in 
the Migrants House in Tecuman, on the border zone between Guatemala and 
Mexico held March 11-15.

The event was attended by journalists and religious leaders from Central 
America, Mixico, and Arizona, who concluded the event by sharing the pain 
and sadness with 60 young people in transit in search of a better life in 
the north.

Guatemalan journalist Amafredo Castellano  said that he was impressed by 
how many of the young 18-25 year olds who hope to the cross the border shed 
tears when they

They recommended not using the term illegals to refer to migrants but 
undocumented people and to avoid sensationalism as well as to strengthen 
relations with major media.

They studied the possibility of making a movie that would reflect the real 
tragedy of the migrant without overlooking the fact that the money they 
send saves their families in their countries of origin.

They also agreed to publish a manual that would orient their demands and 
the fulfillment of their rights along the way, indicating houses for 
migrants and solidarity friends, to avoid being the victims of attacks and 
the so-called coyotes.

They also agreed to lobby governments and human rights organizations for 
agreements that would respect migrants, according to international 
agreements, establish accords and cooperation programs among Churches of 
origin and those that receive migrants and to constitute an informative 
network to disseminate the initiatives and the challenges.

They also agreed to train religious ministers to attend the needs of 
migrants even when they are detained and levied some criticism against the 
Evangelical Church in the region for its passivity about the issue.

Agencia Latinoamericana y Caribeqa de Comunicacisn (ALC)
P.O. Box 14-225 Lima 14 Peru
Tel. (51 1) 462-0189  Telefax (51 1) 463 2496
Cell Phone (51 1) 9724 3959 / E-Mail:
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