Latin America

Latin America comprises 20 countries and 14 territories, including Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central and South America. As a result of European colonization, national languages include Spanish, Portuguese, French, and English.

Politically, many Latin American countries have stabilized as civil wars and authoritarian regimes have given way to more democratic governments, though Venezuela and Cuba continue to struggle. Various reform efforts target corruption, violence, and poverty, but drug and gang wars persist in many nations. In recent years, over half a million have fled violence, poverty, extortion, and political turmoil in El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua.

Although many Latin American countries have enjoyed economic progress over the past decades, the COVID-19 pandemic and war in Ukraine have exacerbated the region’s wealth gap. Over one-third of the region’s 600 million people live in poverty, with over 13% facing extreme poverty, defined as living on less than $1.90 daily. Poverty, unemployment, and educational declines have impacted indigenous and Afro-descendent populations at higher rates.

In Latin America, Roman Catholicism dominates the religious landscape, but Protestants, especially Evangelicals and Pentecostals, continue to grow in number and now represent nearly 20% of the region’s population. In the 1960s, liberation theology developed in Latin America as a response to government oppression and economic exploitation. The movement has focused on social justice but has faced criticism for deemphasizing personal salvation. Among Evangelicals, a theology of holistic or integral mission developed decades later, uniting faith in the efficacy of the cross with advocacy for the poor and marginalized. Led by theologians such as Samuel Escobar and René Padilla, the movement continues to influence the Church through the work of the Fraternidad Teológica Latinoamericana.

As part of the Vital Sustainability Initiative, ScholarLeaders has completed strategic planning with Fundación Universitaria Seminario Bíblico de Colombia (FUSBC). Ongoing and planned work in the region includes engagement with Servant of Christ Seminary in Brazil, Seminario Teológico Centroamericano (SETECA) in Guatemala, and Seminario Sudamericano (SEMISUD) in Ecuador. Through Leader Studies, ScholarLeaders has supported 29 Latin American leaders in their PhD research, including nine currently.

Learn about the perspectives and ministries of Latin American Christian leaders through these Global Insights:

Please join us in prayer for our sisters and brothers in Latin America. Pray for bold pastoral leadership, deepening Christian discipleship, and wise theological voices that can address justice issues with Christ’s grace and truth. Pray for vulnerable neighbors in need of protection, provision, and hope in Christ.

Photo: “Medellín, Colombia” (2019) by Kobby Mendez (Unsplash)

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