Thursday, April 26   Sign in or Register
Evangelical Focus
  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • Google +
  • Instagram
  • Soundcloud

Newsletter, sign up to receive all our News by email.

State and Religion
Should religious symbols be displayed in buildings of the public administration?




Spain, forty years after Franco’s death

Spain is still coming to terms with the dictator’s legacy. “Our parents and grandparents resisted the political persecution and harassment”, recall evangelicals. Many were incarcereted.

AUTHOR Belén Díaz, Evangelical Focus MADRID 20 NOVEMBER 2015 21:50 h GMT+1
Valley of the Fallen, the grave of Franco in Madrid.

November 20 marks exactly 40 years since Francisco Franco died. In bed, with no strong opposition. In this time, Spain has transformed itself into a dynamic and modern nation, but its former dictator has remained a provocative figure whose legacy continues to divide Spaniards and confound their leaders. Evangelical Christians recall the times of hardship under the so-called National Catholicism.

Franco lead the 1936 rebellion against a leftist republican government, unleashing three years of civil war, before governing for 36 years with a repressive right-wing ideology.


Dictator Francisco Franco.

British biographer Paul Preston estimates the dictator was responsible for the killings of upwards of 150,000 people, who were then buried in unmarked graves, during the war and in the years that followed.



After Franco died in 1975, Spain's transition to democracy included an agreement among political parties to put the war and the Franco era behind them in the interest of unity and rebuilding.

Both sides in the conflict: Franco's Nationalists, and the Republicans of the leftist government he ousted committed atrocities, but under a 1977 amnesty, no war crimes trials were held.

Those years of accelerated political and social change became known as “la Transición” (The transition). These years of agreements were lauded around the world,  showing how a country could emerge from dictatorial rule and transform itself into a modern state in a consensual and relatively peaceful way.

The dictator appointed young Prince Juan Carlos as his successor, but the new monarch set about creating a parliamentary system that included the legalisation of political parties and a new constitution, approved in 1978 by referendum.

From then on, Spain has become a solid democracy, well settled internationally, but facing now other challenges, like unemployment, education, corruption, and internal debates about national identity.



In 2007, the Socialist government introduced the country’s first historical memory law. The law aimed to remove Francoist monuments and symbols from public places and made it easier to locate and exhume the remains of the estimated 114,000 people who disappeared during the civil war and the dictatorship.

However, there are still streets and public places in Spain bearing the names of those associated directly with the Franco regime, or that recall the date of the uprising on July 18, 1936; commemorate battles. There are still controversies around the dictator’s grave in the Valley of the Fallen, in an imposing complex carved into the granite mountains near Madrid.

In early December, the Francisco Franco Foundation, which celebrates the dictator’s life and work, will hold a dinner to highlight the achievements of Franco’s long rule. In the coming days, there will be at least 16 Masses held in honour of Franco throughout Spain.

At the same time, last September a local court agreed for the first time ever to hear a legal challenge launched against the Valley of the Fallen, by descendants of victims wishing their relatives’ bodies be removed from the complex.

Additionally, this year the state-funded Royal Academy of History officially defined Franco as a dictator.




Juan Antonio Monroy.

During Franco´s dictatorship, National Catholicism was the only authorised religion. Confessing any other faith was dangerous and a reason to be incarcerated or even executed.

In fact, as pastor and author Juan Antonio Monroy explains, many Spanish Protestants were incarcerated, beginning with Franco's victory and until the late sixties. Most of them were brought to the courts by Catholic priests.

In 1965, Monroy recalls, private Protestant meetings to pray, sing and study the Bible were approved. But the meetings were onlylegal if there were less than 20 people. Christians were were fined and even incarcereted. In the public spaces, only Catholic ceremonies were allowed.



X. Manuel Suárez, Vice President of the Spanish Evangelical Alliance, remembers how “our parents and grandparents resisted the political persecution and harassment, with undoubted courage, in the rural and urban congregations.”


X. Manuel Suárez.

But the discrimination was not only political, Suárez says Spanish Protestants also suffered “social isolation in the workplace and schools, or the closing of places where they gathered to worship.”

But even after Franco´s death, in the early years of the transition, it was not easy to be Protestant in Spain.

Pedro Tarquis, Director of Evangelical Focus and Protestante Digital, recalls his conversion in 1978. “I realised the lack of religious liberty. I felt 'normal' as a doctor, but 'strange' and 'suspicious of belonging to a cult' when I said I was evangelical or Protestant.”



Suárez laments that, when the democracy came “the door was opened for us, but we were unable to understand that we had a crucial message for the society, ignoring that Western democracy was built upon the Protestant thinking and values.”

“We should have brought our voice to the political arena, to give principles to the new born democracy, but we did not dare to do it, we had the complex of a minority and were content with just being tolerated”, he adds.

Even inside the church “those who participated in political initiatives were frown upon”, Suarez comments.


Pedro Tarquis.

Social isolation was the reason why Tarquis “started my first steps in the media, writing letters to newspaper directors, participating in radio programs, and, later on, creating Protestante Digital and Evangelical Focus.”

Spain is experiencing many changes and facing new challenges. This is why the Vice President of the Spanish Evangelical Alliance believes that Spanish evangelicals “should take a step, because we have a significant political message that no other group can offer.”




    If you want to comment, or


YOUR ARE AT: - - Spain, forty years after Franco’s death
Christians in politics? Christians in politics?

What is the role of Christians serving in politics? An interview with Auke Minnema, the new General Director of the European Christian Political Movement (ECPM).

Michael Ramsden: Communicating the Gospel in today’s societies Michael Ramsden: Communicating the Gospel in today’s societies

RZIM International Director Michael Ramsden responds to questions about the secularisation of Europe, the role of Christians in public leadership and the new ‘culture of victimism’.

Michael Schluter: Relationships are the key to build Europe Michael Schluter: Relationships are the key to build Europe

The economist summarises the manifesto “Confederal Europe: Strong Nations, Strong Union” and explains why personal relationships should be at the centre of our economy, education and democracy. 

Efraim Tendero: Relationship with Roman Catholicism and other current issues Efraim Tendero: Relationship with Roman Catholicism and other current issues

The World Evangelical Alliance Secretary General participated in the Italian Evangelical Alliance assembly (Rome, 8-9 April). In this interview with Evangelical Focus, Bp Tendero talks about the need to listen to local churches and to face challenges like the refugee crisis and climate change. 

Greg Pritchard: European Leadership Forum Greg Pritchard: European Leadership Forum

Pritchard explains the vision of ELF, comments on the 2015 event in Poland and reflects on what it means to have an "evangelical identity".

Evi Rodemann: Youth and mission Evi Rodemann: Youth and mission

“We want to see the youth not just being equipped, but also being multipliers”, Evi Rodemann director of Mission-Net. The European Congress took place in Germany from December 28 to January 2.

Coexistence in the church - a model for society Coexistence in the church - a model for society

“Gospel, identity and coexistence” were the themes of the General Assembly of the Spanish Evangelical Alliance. Two days in Palma de Mallorca to reflect about the role of evangelical churches in society.

'Ungi kulimi changana' 'Ungi kulimi changana'

Educator and journalist Jordi Torrents shares images of the Sekeleka social centre in Mozambique. About 50 children live there, many with some kind of disability. All photos were taken with permission.

The President in an evangelical church on Christmas Eve The President in an evangelical church on Christmas Eve

For the first time, the President of Portugal attended a worship service in an evangelical church. It was in Sintra, on Christmas Eve.

I am not on sale I am not on sale

Young Christians gathered at Madrid’s central square Sol to denounce human trafficking. A flashmob highlighted the work of three evangelical NGOs which support women who escape sexual slavery in Spain.

Stamps to commemorate the Reformation Stamps to commemorate the Reformation

Poland, Lithuania, Namibia and Brazil are some of the countries that have issued special stamps on the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther’s 95 theses.

Why are Christian leaders particularly vulnerable to sexual temptation? Why are Christian leaders particularly vulnerable to sexual temptation?

“The reasons why somebody might have sex with a prostitute are very different from the reasons why somebody might want to have an affair with a member of their congregation”. An analysis by John Stevens, National Director of FIEC (UK).

Be safe on social media Be safe on social media

A video about the way traffickers target teenage girls online, produced by anti-slavery gorup Abolishion.

In Mission In Mission

A 360º lyric video about how all followers of Jesus Christ are called to serve God. Duo in Spanish (Alex Sampedro) and Portuguese (Marcos Martins).

Heart Heart

A short animation film by Swiss cartoonist Alain Auderset tells the message of the Bible in four minutes.

Philip Yancey interview Philip Yancey interview

An 8-minute interview with Philip Yancey on the role of Christians in a secularised society. Recorded in Madrid, September 2016.

An interview with Prof. John Lennox An interview with Prof. John Lennox

New atheism, the definition of "faith", Christianity in Europe, the role of the Bible in mission, and the need to listen more. An exclusive interview recorded at "Forum Apologética" (Tarragona, Spain) in May 2016.

Follow us on Soundcloud
Follow us on YouTube

EVANGELICAL FOCUS belongs to Areópago Protestante, linked to the Spanish Evangelical Alliance (AEE). AEE is member of the European
Evangelical Alliance and World Evangelical Alliance.

Opinions expressed are those of their respective contributors and do not necessarily represent the views of Evangelical Focus.