The life of evangelical churches and their spiritual leaders has been portrayed in some recent films and series. Can they help us start conversations?
Another church was destroyed last Friday. “These violent actions seek to prevent our growth”, the Council of Pastors of the region of La Araucanía says.
Another evangelical church was totally burned by a fire, allegedly intentional, last Friday at dawn in the town of Padre Las Casas, in the Chilean region of La Araucanía, in the south of the country, police sources reported.
The church, of the Christian Missionary Alliance, suffered another arson attack a month ago, but on that occasion the firefighters managed to stop the flames and no significant damage was caused.
Mauricio Ojeda, Governor of the province of Cautín, where Padre de las Casas is, said that pamphlets alluding to the Mapuche cause have been found on the site of the fire.
For decades, there has been a conflict in the south of Chile, between Mapuche communities, which demand ancestral territories, and agricultural or forestry companies that legally own them.
In recent years, the conflict has led to episodes of violence in which several villagers, policemen and farmers have died. Several dozen Mapuches have been tried and convicted of various crimes, especially arson attacks.
GROWING DESPITE THE DIFFICULTIES
The Council of Pastors of the region believes that, apart from other possible reasons, “these violent actions seek to prevent our growth”.
The president of the Regional Council of Pastors of the area, Matías Sanhueza, points out that in a land registry prepared by his entity, the preliminary figures show more than two thousand evangelical temples distributed in the 32 communes of the area.
This coincides with a reinforcement of the actions to promote the faith in Jesus that the churches are doing whithin the Mapuche community.
According to Sanhueza, growth has been sustained and the latest data say that 37% of the Mapuche in the region consider themselves evangelical, while 50% define themselves as Catholic.
REASONS FOR GROWTH
Among those activities, evangelical leaders mention the growing training initiatives for Mapuche pastors that are taking place to help them lead their communities.
Sanhueza highlights the project of an evangelical institute for 2019, which aims to rescue the Mapuche language. They hope to present it to the Ministry of Education for its approval.
Another important project is the translation into the Mapuche language of the Old Testament, initiated in 2017 by the Bible Societies, and in which 15 native speakers participate.
12 CHURCHES DESTROYED SINCE 2015
Despie this development, twelve evangelical churches have been destroyed by incendiary attacks since December 2015.
Two other attacks were avoided by the action of the communities.
Just one month ago, ten hooded attackers forced the people inside a church in the south of the Arauco province, to leave the building, using violence in some cases, and then set the building on fire.
Between 2000 and 2017, a total of 182 evangelical denominations have managed to become legal in La Araucanía, according to the data of the former regional coordinator of the National Office of Religious Affairs (ONAR), Hernán Fernández.
“There are communities that have formed churches in which 100% of their parishioners are Mapuche”, Fernandez says.