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Regional Report for the Seoul Council 2009 (September)

South America Region

Omar Larrazabal




1.    South America has a population of approximately 380 million spread out in 10 countries.

Its population is eminently religious, with the Catholic Church having
 numerical predominance with approximately 75% of the population.   Religion is intimately related to the popular culture, in which celebration has special importance.

2.    The Gospel has advanced with greater liberty in the year 1980.  Huntington in his book “The Clash of Civilizations”, indicates that number of Protestants in Latin America has grown from 7 million in 1960 to some 50 million in 1990.

3.    For the Catholic hierarchy, South America has ceased to be “the continent of hope” and has become “the continent of concern”, and its followers are leaving the church in numbers which arae so great that it might cause the collapse of Catholicism in the next decade and a half.  Monsignor Cipriano Calderon, member of the Congregation for Vatican Bishops and former President of the Pontifical Commission for Latin America said: “the loss of faithful Catholics is a painful reality which asks us, the Pastors of the churches in Lain America, to make great changes.”


MCF Situation


4.    The first organization of military Christians developed spontaneously in Chile in 1961 with the purpose of carrying out the Great Commission in the military environment.  Dell and Betty McDonald of the USA travelled to South America in the years 1977-78 with the vision of establishing MCFs in other countries, although there were already grouping of military Christians.

a.    The 10 countries of South America all have MCFs.

b.    Evangelical military Chaplaincy has been instituted in Chile, Paraguay and Venezuela in 2008.  In Chile an official was recognized as Chaplain who has no connection with the MCF.

c.    In Brazil the Evangelical military Chaplaincy has been established since 1998.

d.    In some countries Evangelical military Chaplaincy is still a dream, in others they are in the process of being established.

e.    None of the countries have programs working in the international arena.

5.    As a region which has not yet reached geopolitical maturity, the tensions between countries are also reflected in the relations between the MCFs of the countries involved.




6.    The MCFs in South America present a challenge which has not yet been overcome, such as the make-up of their organizations which will include equally both high ranking personnel and enlisted.  Chile for example, has a strong fellowship, but with a small number of officers.  In Peru the debate is ongoing as to the direction it should go always being made up of officers, (for the representation that they have) or it should be all ranks.

7.    Although the military Christians in South America are beginning to “make yourself known” one can see that there is still fear, principally amongst the officers.  The communications amongst the countries of the region is not a strength, each does its own programs in an independent manner, which does not permit it to be an inspiration to others.

8.    Some forms of Pentecostalism are causing interior conflict in the MCFs especially those which place emphasis on external manifestations.

9.    Some denominations see a danger in having their military and police members become involved in the MCF because of fear of their alienation. 


The Path Ahead


10.  A strategy for the next 5 years in cooperation with ACCTS:  Communication is the preferred instrument for evangelization.  For that reason I propose that this quinquennial be developed amongst us with maximum effort, employing all means: letters, telephones, web-sites, email, conferences, visits, reunions.  All this is communication which informs us, encourages us, and causes us to make a commitment.




11. South America is on the way to new times.  The traditional Latin religiosity is being replaced by a genuine desire to search for the Lord, which is taking place although with stumbling blocks, because the work will always have a price to pay.  A clear orientation towards holiness will be the best way of facing the stumbling blocks that today are faced by the church in South America, as are the desires for wealth and popularity.  In this sense the military Christians have a great responsibility their lives as models.





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