Pentecostal Churches on the Rise in Predominantly Secular Uruguay

The Pentecostal movement is gaining steady growth in Uruguay amid its reputation as Latin America's most secular country, helping the number of evangelicals rise from 2 percent a decade ago to 6 percent of its current 3.3 million population.

The growth of evangelical churches is due in part to the spreading of the Gospel through radio and television platforms and preaching in unconventional venues like plazas and movie theaters, according to La Red 21, a Uruguayan-based news website.

"While we don't have any specific studies or surveys, we do have approximately 1,600 Christian churches, 300 which are evangelical and 1,200 that are Pentecostal," said Jorge Taberna, president of the Representative Council of Evangelicals of Uruguay (CREU), to The Christian Post.

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Jorge Marquez, pastor of the Life Mission Church for the Nations, told La Red 21 that, "People come to us because we have given a more accessible God, an everyday life kind of God. A God who is interested in finding a solution to marital problems, a God who is interested in how we earn our living and what we get to eat every day."

 According to American missionaries who are part of the Fields of the Fatherless ministry based in San Jose, Uruguay, the factors that contribute to a low percentage of evangelicals in the country is that religion has been removed from its government and education system for nearly a century. In addition, Uruguay's liberal and socialist government continues to pass laws that oftentimes do not align with the interest of families. But now, Uruguayans are slowly beginning to change their perspective on religion.

"Uruguay is obviously an agnostic and materialistic country but people have gotten tired of rationalism and have started searching for something more spiritual," said Marquez.

Amid the rise of Pentecostals, non-religious Uruguayans still face many issues such as its high suicide rate given that a large number of its residents suffer from depression. Child abandonment is another common problem caused by legal prostitution, but primarily because family units are known to be unstable as a result of the 70 percent divorce rate.

In the past year, CREU did their part in helping to eliminate a few of these social issues when the government invited the organization to contribute to public policy initiatives. Additionally, a Uruguayan sociologist, Nestor Da Costa, told La Red 21 that the Pentecostal movement has strategically played a role in helping individuals deal with these issues because their belief system is based on supernatural occurrences like miracles and many experience an individual connection when they are receptive to the Pentecostal doctrine.

"They introduce other elements, such as their belief in healing. They elaborate less on theology and embrace a more direct approach and in turn, this demands a personal relationship with God," said Da Costa.

Miguel Pastorino, a Catholic priest from Montevideo, Uruguay, also said that the movement has stirred up a genuine, enthusiastic and popular devotion among a population that embraces emotions more than concrete philosophies.

"This movement is real...without a doubt, this is a version of Christianity that's expanding over the world," said Pastorino, reports La Red 21.

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