Peru Religious Climate Pepperdine University Dr. Nina Balmaceda

March 13, 2018

What I Learned about Peru’s Religious Climate on My Study Abroad Trip

Two weeks ago, I was blessed with the opportunity to visit Peru, one of the most beautiful countries in South America. The trip was part of Pepperdine University’s international study tour. The landscape was absolutely breathtaking. I could not help but praise God’s amazing work. The hills and rivers glorified His name, and I was in a constant state of awe. I imagined that Peruvians live in a constant state of praise too. Unfortunately, the current religious climate of Peru is not so cheerful.

During the trip, I was privileged to talk with several locals and also native Peruvian Dr. Nina Balmaceda, who is currently the professor of Latin American Politics at Pepperdine. After talking with Dr. Balmaceda and several locals, I realized the Christian faith in Peru was largely attached to culture, rather than conviction. In addition, many Peruvians’ Christian teaching is mixed with indigenous religious practices.

Balmaceda explained to me that there are evangelical churches in Peru, but there is a growing sentiment of secularism. Religion is a diminishing facet among social life. A growing number of younger people have strayed away from the Church and rather take it as something of the past and sometimes are even hostile to religion. To them, religion is skeptically viewed as something used to manipulate others.

This caused me to reflect on the similarities between Peru and my own American community in need of the truth in love. Like so many of my American neighbors, Peruvians are in desperate need of the Gospel.

There are several social challenges facing Peru that need the Gospel, such as poverty, exploitation, and violence against women. In addition to teaching at Pepperdine, Dr. Balmaceda is also the CEO and president of a Christian non-profit organization called Peace and Hope International, whose mission is to assist families, individuals, and communities in poverty throughout Latin America. (Peace and Hope International was originally founded to help combat the horrors and terrors of the Communist Party of Peru, also called the Shining Path.)

Balmaceda informed me that many Peruvian women are victims of sexual harassment, assault, or domestic violence. According to Balmaceda, there is a correlation between women facing violence and poverty. Without funds or education, many Peruvian women are financially dependent on their husbands. Therefore, women in abusive marriages feel unable to escape because of financial reliance on their husbands. Essentially what occurs is “systematic violence in exchange for financial support,” said Balmaceda.

In addition, there is an enormous amount of labor exploitation happening in Peru. Companies are exploiting workers who have little to no education. They do not provide adequate healthcare or even enough wages in order for them to provide for themselves and their family. Children are also exploited and often seen on the streets of Lima and Cusco begging for money. Thankfully, Peace and Hope International is working to provide shelter for Peruvians and others in need.

There is hope for the people of Peru and I’m encouraged by the Christian organizations and churches that are fighting to end the social injustices. Some of them include Food for the Hungry and World Vision. I pray that God continues to use these organizations to bring glory to Him and to ultimately bring these people into His kingdom.

My heart longs to see my own church and others in America supporting local churches and Christian non-profits working to spread the Gospel throughout Peru. And one important fact that I learned while visiting Peru is that no matter how many thousands of miles away I live, I can and will pray for Peruvian Christians ministering to their neighbors.

Will you join me? Please pray that the Holy Spirit will work through local Peruvian ministers and lay leaders as they testify of God’s goodness and mercy.

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