Religion used as vote-getter

Published October 1, 1999


Guatemalan church leaders have called on their country’s politicians not to use religion as a tactic to win votes in the Nov. 7 elections.

A number of parties running candidates are headed by prominent Christians.

“It bothers us that candidates manipulate the faith and goodwill of the faithful for political ends, in order to win the presidency. That’s wrong,” said Moises Colop, a Presbyterian pastor and spokesman for the Guatemalan Conference of Evangelical Churches.

Despite the statements from church leaders, religion has been and will almost certainly remain an election issue. One leading candidate, Francisco Bianchi of the Democratic Reconciling Action Party is doing his utmost to convince Protestants, who make up at least 20 per cent of the electorate, that he is the best candidate for them.

A lay leader of the neo-pentecostal Church of the Word, Mr. Bianchi was press secretary to General Efrain Rios Montt who led a military coup in 1982. Mr. Montt, also a member of the Church of the Word, was deposed by fellow officers the following year, but his short reign is remembered for massacres in indigenous communities.

Some conservative Evangelical church leaders seem to hold ambiguous views, declaring that churches should be neutral, but also campaigning for Mr. Bianchi.


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