From the Worldwide Faith News archives

ALC Noticias - Cuba Costa Rica Colombia Argentina Ecuador

From Worldwide Faith News <>
Date Mon, 26 Apr 2004 11:36:14 -0700


CUBA: The Passion of Christ movie sparks Evangelical debate
COSTA RICA: Environmental citizenship project launched
COLOMBIA: Theologian Harold Segura offers proposals for Baptist renewal
ARGENTINA: Ecumenical meeting identifies themes for Catholic-Pentecostal 
ECUADOR: Bishop Murray: We cannot deceive the people

The Passion of Christ movie sparks Evangelical debate

By Josi Aurelio Paz
HAVANA, April 21, 2004 (alc). The movie the Passion of Christ, by Mel 
Gibson, sparked a debate in Cuba among pastors from different denominations 
about whether or not the movie faithfully reflects the Biblical history it 
seeks to portray.

A group of pastors from eight denominations met last weekend in the city of 
Camaguey, in central Cuba, to examine whether the film is anti-Semitic, as 
speculated by mass media, and whether is uses hyper-realism in showing the 
images of the suffering on the cross.

The movie has not been officially shown in Cuban movie theatres but it has 
been viewed in pirated copies that have entered the country and passed from 
hand to hand.

Many of these copies are blurry and difficult to understand due to the fact 
that they are translated from Aramaic to English and then to Spanish using 
superimposed subtitles.

The Rev. Ester Quintero, vice president of the Cuban Council of Churches 
told ALC that after watching the film we reached the conclusion that it is 
not an attack on Judaism but rather a strong criticism of the reigning 
power structures of the time.

Of course, it is upsetting to see the delight which, in some scenes, 
manipulates the suffering of Jesus of Golgotha, very much in line with the 
violent cinema that is sold in the world today.

"Claro que molesta un poco ese regodeo que, en algunas escenas, manipula el 
sufrimiento de Jeszs en el Gslgota, muy a tono con el cine de violencia que 
hoy se vende en el mundo".

As a believer and as someone who knows history, one knows we are not going 
to confront a complacent argument but I also do not think we are prepared, 
as spectators, to see a Biblical theme reflected in such a straightforward 
fashion, said Quintero.

She added that we cannot pretend that a movie, a result of the artistic and 
personal vision of the movie maker, is reality itself.

Even the Bible, inspired by God, cannot be limited to an interpretation of 
the events based on our knowledge of the time.

The group of pastors and leaders who saw the film reached the conclusion 
that regardless of the positive and negative opinions that the Passion may 
have motivated, according to the very personal Gospel of Gibson, we must 
thank the actor and director for the convocation it has permitted.

The movie made it possible to reach Holy Week with a spirit of 
confrontation and searching, which has overshadowed the contemplative 
nature with which we sometimes commemorate the date, as if it were a story 
detained n time and not a challenge, from the cross, for everyone, every 
day, she said.

Environmental citizenship project launched

By Eduardo Chinchilla
SAN JOSI, April 21, 2004 (alc).  The Costa Rican chapter of the UN Program 
for the Environments Global Environmental Citizenship project was 
unveiled before more than 100 representatives from civil society.

The meeting was held in the Former Presidents Chamber in the Legislative 
Assembly on April 20.

The project seeks to form citizens who, based on knowledge of the local, 
national and global environmental reality, exercise their rights and 
responsibilities in the construction of a sustainable society.

The themes that will be addressed include formation and concrete actions 
such as Biodiversity, climatic change, international waters and the ozone 

The Latin American networks convened to implement the work are: The Latin 
American Parliament (PARLATINO), the International Union for Local 
Authorities (IULA), the International Consumers network (CI), the Education 
and Communication Commission of the International Union for Nature 
Conservation (CEC-UICN). At the same time, the World Association For 
Community Radio (AMARC), together with the Latin American Association for 
Radio Education (ALER) and the Latin American Council of Churches (CLAI).

The work will be developed in Mexico, Cuba, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Peru, 
Chile and Argentina.

The national working group, which is the body that will implement the 
project in the country, is made up of representatives from different 
networks, including Evangelical Churches which attended the event to 
reaffirm their backing for the initiative.

Amadeus Da Cosa, of Brazil, and general secretary of PARLATINO emphasized 
the importance of the Church. Without the presence of the Churches this 
project would be incomplete because the soul has a great deal to do with 
the environment, he affirmed.

The municipalities selected for the implementation of the project include: 
Osa, Corredores and Golfito in the province of Puntarenas in the central 
Pacific, Abangares in the province of Guanacaste in the north and Upala, 
Guatuso and the Chiles in the province of Alajuela.  CLAI will seek to work 
together with Evangelical Churches to integrate them in the work of all the 
other networks. Not only with pastors and leaders from these places will be 
trained, but also from the Atlantic zone in the Port of Limon.

Theologian Harold Segura offers proposals for Baptist renewal

CALI, April 22, 2004 (alc). In an event leading up to the Latin American 
Union of Baptists Assembly (UBLA) that began last night in this city, 
Colombian theologian Harold Segura, currently residing in Costa Rica, 
presented proposals for what he considers a necessary change within the 
denomination in Latin America.

After emphasizing that the sap of non-conformity runs through the roots of 
the Baptists, Segura noted that many years have passed and traditions have 
grown stale and structures have grown rigid.

We have traveled recent decades slowly, witnessing how our continent bleeds 
and is dragged toward misery, he added. We have continued to be embroiled 
in discussions, applying artificial respiration to institutions inherited 
from missionary boards, repeating the learned theology, practicing how to 
be neo-Pentecostals, yearning for foreign subsidies, caring for spectacular 
buildings and becoming upset over our financial limits.

Some have made efforts toward renewal, he said. Many have opted for the 
charismatic movement and have found growing numbers, financial stability 
and have reanimated the spiritual life of their members.

New forms of Episcopal management have also infiltrated, pastoral 
authoritarianism - clericalism and doubtful practices of faith. A high 
price has been paid.

Others have sought change toward evangelism and planting new works, the 
only reason their Churches exist. These go hand in hand with the policies 
of some missionary boards that decided to turn their back on service. This 
excessive pragmatism once again leaves aside the social, economic and 
spiritual realities of our hurting continent, said Segura.

The Baptist faith depends on its ability to respond. It has always been 
this way. Today, this is even more so if we taken into account the speed of 
the changes taking place in society. We have not received a legacy to 
conserve it frozen in history, but a legacy for the transformation of our 
world, he said.

Change will not wait. In his opinion it is a ministerial structural change 
that leaves aside authoritarian vertical structures and returns to the best 
of the congregational legacy. The response to the ineffectiveness of the 
democratic system lies in the renewal of the system as opposed to its 
substitution, above all when it is substituted for Episcopal systems that 
are foreign to our best tradition.

Therefore, there is an urgent need to change the way we conceive of the 
mission of the Church. Mission is integral or it is not mission. All of 
human life, in its spiritual, psychological, ecological and social 
dimensions, is of interest to the Creator, he said.

Together with these changes is a need for a new proposal for the financial 
system. There were times when we had the luxury of having dollar budgets 
with expenses in the national currency. The new conditions demand 
administrative capacity, creative lucidity, the ability for dialogue, 
collaboration and fidelity in stewardship, he said.

Moreover, added to the list of renewal is: the role of women in the Church, 
the youth mission, the need to place liturgy in its context, the capacity 
for inter-confessional dialogue, the theological formation of leadership, 
dignifying the pastoral ministry, deepening spirituality and the 
transformation of the operative structures of the conventions, associations 
and unions.

Ecumenical meeting identifies themes for Catholic-Pentecostal Dialogue

BUENOS AIRES, April 23, 2004 (alc). Priests, pastors and lay people from 
the Roman Catholic Church (RCC), the Evangelical Argentina Pentecostal 
Church (IEPA), Good News  (Pentecostal) and the Methodist Evangelical 
Church (IEMA) met together and identified a series of points where they 
differ and points for dialogue.

The meeting took place in Bariloche, in Rio Negro, in southwestern 
Argentina on April 17 at the initiative of the Latin American Council of 
Churches (CLAI) - River Plate Region, the Bariloche Ecumenical Encounter 
and the RCC in that city.

The objective was to meet together and examine the potential and obstacles 
for dialogue between Evangelical and Catholic traditions.

At the end of the event, participants proposed creating a team that would 
program new meetings and could include the Rev. Juan Angel Dieuzede, Hugo 
Ferrada (Baptist Church) Pastor Daniel Chavez (IEPA), Pastor Frank de Nully 
Brown (IEMA) and pastor of the Lutheran Church.

Moreover, participants also recommended that the Bariloche Ecumenical 
Encounter seek to incorporate new Churches in the task, to discover allies 
in the Catholic - Pentecostal dialogue, to insist on common prayer, to 
address pastoral issues in future dialogues and to hold the next meeting 
during the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.

During the presentations, Pastor Santiago Cortez, vice president of the 
IEPA, said that his denomination arrived in Argentine as a mission from 
Chile and that his grandfather, IEPA founder, established the first Church 
in San Rafael, Mendoza.

The Rev Juan Angel Dieuzede said that in 1780 Jesuits coming from Chiloe 
(Chile) reached this part of Argentina. Later the Salesians would carry out 
decisive Evangelical work in Patagonia.

Pastor Frank De Nully Brown noted that the Methodist Church reached 
Argentina at the beginning of the XIX Century but has been preaching in 
Spanish for the past 135 years. In Bariloche, Paul Williams began his 
ministry some 50 years ago.

Norberto Saracco said that Pentecostalism in Argentina dates back to 1908 
with Louis Francesco and in 1910 Alicia Wood began what would later become 
the union of the Assemblies of God.

At an international level, Saracco said that the Catholic-Pentecostal 
dialogue has existed since 1972 but it basically takes places between 
Christians in the northern hemisphere. Dialogue in Latin America only 
exists in small spaces and has not been formal, he said.

According to the Pentecostal leader, Latin America is where this dialogue 
should be centered given that it has the largest Catholic population and 
the fasting growing Pentecostal sector.

Regarding so-called neo-Pentecostalism, Saracco said that this 
denomination does not do justice to Pentecostalism. The phenomenon has 
nothing to do with Pentecostalism itself, he said. However, he warned that 
significant changes are taken place regarding the religious phenomenon and 
Churches should try to understand and discern what is taking place.

In an exercise to identify obstacles for dialogue between Catholics and 
Pentecostals, the RCC leaders pointed to the fundamentalist, sometimes 
fanatic, reading of the Bible, difficulties with popular religiosity and 
its theological deviations, the fact that they are labeled idolaters for 
their conception and relationship with the Virgin Mary and the saints and 
different interpretations of the Sacred Scriptures.

Evangelicals mentioned Mariology, the RCC understanding of Church unity 
(they expect other Churches to return to Rome), the benefits the RCC enjoys 
(an issue that is raised in the Religious Equality Law) and the rigidity of 
the liturgy and the Catholic position on reproductive health rights and 
family planning.

Bishop Murray: We cannot deceive the people

By Manuel Quintero
QUITO, April 23, 2004 (alc). Barely two weeks before general elections and 
when the four president candidates enter the final stretch, the Rev. Julio 
Murray, Anglican Bishop of Panama warned about the tendency to overwhelm 
the people with proposals that will be difficult to carry out and said 
people are aware of the reality and cannot be deceived.

In the face of the nations realities, the situation of unemployment, the 
financial crisis, problems with social security, violence and corruption, 
we need realistic proposals and not mere electoral promises, said Bishop 
Murray who traveled to Quito for a Latin American Council of Churches 
(CLAI) finance commission and executive committee meeting.

The Anglican prelate said that after 21 years of militarism and two 
democratic elections, the general elections that will take place May 2 
should constitute a festival of democracy, in which the voting population 
can exercise their rights in a framework of citizen participation. It is 
the most important event in the countrys democracy life, he said.

However, each time the people have the opportunity to freely participate to 
elect their leaders, there are some who try to ruin the festival with 
arguments that want us to regress in history, where the times demand 
original and creative proposals that take us to the future.

In order for it to be an authentic democratic festival it is imperative 
that we overcome the personal attacks and diatribes between candidates, 
essentially all of the politicking that has traditionally characterized 
electoral processes in the past, he said.

Three candidates from traditional parties and one independent candidate are 
vying for the presidential chair next Sunday.

Businessman Ricardo Martinelli, head of a supermarket chain, a sugar 
refinery and other businesses, is the independent candidate and the 
farthest behind, according to polls that give him barely 7 percent of the 
voter preference.

Jose Miguel Aleman, who was foreign minister during the current Mireya 
Moscoco government is the ruling party candidate and has the support of 16 
percent of the electorate.

Former President Guillermo Endara, who claims to represent that political 
current of Arnulfo Arias, a key figure in Panamanian political life last 
century, is in second place with 30 percent of the voter preference.

Finally Martin Torrijos, son of the disappeared military officer and head 
of state Omar Torrijos is running on a Partido Revolucionario Democratic 
slate and heads the polls with 48 percent support.

In their campaigns, the four have referred to the need to sign a Free Trade 
Agreement with the United States, job creation and the need to combat 
corruption as priorities for the government. They have also promised to 
support small businesses and to shore up the agriculture sector to combat 
unemployment and poverty.

According to Bishop Murray, these proposals need to be backed with clear, 
concrete plans that do not merely respond to party lines and interests but 
rather a national project.

The proposals surrounding trade agreements, the FTAA or a (bilateral) FTA, 
have not been sufficiently discussed. It is fundamental that the electorate 
really knows what these treaties consist of and what their implications 
are. They must also know what alternatives exist so that Panamanian 
producers are able to compete in conditions of greater equality in the face 
of a giant with state-subsidized markets, he said.

Moreover, he also said it is important to go beyond the strictly national 
and short-term solutions. Panama is part of a concert of nations, 
beginning with Central America nations and the policies that are applied in 
our country will have consequences on our relationships in this regional 
context and in a much broader framework, because we live in a globalized 
world, he said.

As a Church we want to see viable proposals that help to promote life and 
not the signs of death that accompany us on a daily basis. We want these 
proposals to lead us to practices that are not excluding and help the 
integral development of our people.

The people of Panama want justice, the opportunity to work and earn a 
living and to participate and contribute, from our uniqueness, in the life 
of other countries in the region. And these steps will lead us to 
increasingly consolidate this national project that is Panama, said Bishop 

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