(Photo: Facebook/Movimiento Misionero Mundial)
Thousands of people throughout Peru trekked to Lima earlier this month to partake in a weeklong national congress where church leaders affirmed their conservative movement and brought together the country's expanding Christian population.
Worldwide Missionary Movement was the organization behind the event that attracted over 70,000 Peruvians for the congress, "Only God Can Make Man Happy." During the event, several preachers spoke on denouncing homosexuality and abortion among other social issues.
While many of the participants were drawn in from areas near the capital city, many came from the highlands as well. In recent times, the growth of Christians has occurred due to converts from rural and remote areas who have heard the Gospel through radio stations. Although some of them continue to practice their indigenous rituals, the church has been accepting of them even though they consider their practices to be pagan.
"Evangelicalism offers them something the Roman Church has failed to offer, a sense of purpose and belonging, and a new identity in Christ," said Caleb Sutton of Peru Mission, a U.S.-based ministry that plants churches in Peru, to The Christian Post. "This is something particularly appealing to those classes traditionally discriminated against within society."
Currently, three in four Peruvians identify as Catholics. However, evangelicals account for 20 percent of the country's population. Evangelicalism in Peru is also associated with the impoverished class, although that is gradually changing, according to Sutton.
"We work with people from a wide range of backgrounds, from the poorest of the poor to the well-to-do professional class," said Sutton. "We have come to value the importance of evangelism outreach to all Peruvians."
The ministry also says although Peruvians are not strangers to some doctrines of the faith, the Gospel has yet to be fully embraced even though the Christian movement has been around for decades in Peru. Furthermore, the growth that exists within the church now has progressed because Peruvians are open to hearing the Word and are in desperate need of a transformation.
"[The growth] was steady from the beginning, but picked up speed in the 1960s with the beginning of the Christian and Missionary Alliance and Letourneau [University] urban initiative," said Wesley Baker, who leads communication efforts for Peru Mission, to CP.
He also says the Assemblies of God began to grow around that same time within the country and most of the evangelical growth stems from a shift from mountain and rural to coastal and urban areas, where the majority of Christians live.
In addition to planting churches in the South American nation, Peru Mission pursues other ministries such as seminary, its university ministry and evangelism. It is also involved with "deed" ministries related to the population's health and economic development.
"We pray that God will bring leaders in Peru in business, education and government to Him in order to bring lasting reformation to the country," said Sutton.