Latin America is a large geographic region with more than twenty countries and 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, portions of the region have stabilized considerably as civil wars and authoritarian rule have given way to more democratic governments, though Venezuela and Cuba continue to struggle. Various reform efforts address the corruption, violence, and poverty plaguing the region, yet drug and gang violence remains prevalent in many nations. The five countries with the world’s highest per capita murder rates are all in Latin America. Consequently, displacement and migration have become significant issues as well. Most recently, thousands have fled the violence, poverty, and political repression in countries like Honduras, Guatemala, Nicaragua, and El Salvador. The recent coup attempt and ongoing unrest in Venezuela attest to the ongoing power struggle in that country.
Economically, the region has continued to improve. In the next 30 years, Brazil and Mexico will become among the world’s strongest emerging economies. Brazil received considerable attention after hosting the World Cup in 2014 and the Olympics in 2016. Recent scandals, however, have led to a recession and lack of trust in the political leadership.
Roman Catholicism dominates the Latin American religious identity, but the Protestant Church continues to grow. Protestants now represent more than 16% of the total population throughout Latin America. Much of the growth has come from Evangelical and Pentecostal churches. In countries like Brazil and Guatemala, Protestants represent more than a quarter of the total population. As the Church grows, so also does the need for trained leaders who can both shepherd the Church and address the specific challenges of the region.
In the 1960s, liberation theology developed in Latin America as a response to government oppression and poverty. The movement has focused on social justice, but has been criticized for losing an emphasis on personal salvation. Among Evangelicals, a theology of holistic or integral mission developed some decades later, uniting faith in the efficacy of the cross with concern for the poor and marginalized. Led by theologians such as Samuel Escobar and Rene Padilla, the movement has continued through the work of the Latin American Theological Fellowship and has influenced the Church in the region.
Through the Vital SustainAbility Initiative, ScholarLeaders has completed work with Fundación Universitaria Seminario Bíblico de Colombia (FUSBC). We have also begun work with a cohort of three seminaries in Brazil: South American Theological Seminary (SATS), Servant of Christ Seminary, and the São Paulo Baptist Theological Seminary. We have future work planned with additional schools in the region, including Seminario Teológico Centroamericano (SETECA) in Guatemala, and Facultad Internacional de Educación Teológica (FIET) in Argentina. Through LeaderStudies, ScholarLeaders has supported 29 leaders from this region.
Please join us in prayer for the leaders and schools in Latin America. Pray for pastoral leadership, deepening Christian maturity, and the development of theological voices that can address justice issues with the truth and power of the Gospel.