By Angie Washington
COCHABAMBA, BOLIVIA — Honoring the Pachamama in the nation has been one of the President’s priorities since the beginning of his term. President Evo Morales gave his inaugural speech at a sacred religious site called Tiwanaku. He continues to place importance on the issue of freedom of religion.
He even took extreme measures to remove all political power from the Catholic archbishop in Bolivia, yet was unsuccessful. To date the position carries with it a political influence.
Recently, evangelical groups saw a threat in a distinction made in a proposed law. The wording stated that the evangelical gatherings were associations and not churches. In the same aspect, no allowances were made for groups dedicated to the tribal religions to be anything more than associations.
It seemed as though the exclusion from being identified as churches had as its intent to enable the government to collect taxes on all tithes and offerings given by the members of the groups.
Dressed in traditional clothing a group of Bolivians stand by a hand painted sign that reads “Unified Bolivia.”
The leaders of ANDEB [La AsociaciÃ³n Nacional de EvangÃ©licos de Bolivia or The National Evangelical Association of Bolivia] found certain points of the law disturbing and discriminating.
They were able to procure a meeting with President Evo Morales and some of his top leaders to voice their concerns.
On the morning of Friday, November 26, 2010 the group found a favorable reception from the President complete with an assurance that said discriminatory laws would not be passed.
Rather, he sought their help in establishing new laws that would protect the freedom of religion for all groups of beliefs.
Current reports of the percentages of the distribution of different religions in Bolivia are contradictory at best. The religious state in the nation finds itself currently changing at such a rate that the studies are unable to accurately gauge where the people’s interests lie.
Suffice it to say that the main religion represented remains Roman Catholic as a majority. Next, the Evangelicals and Protestants follow far behind; some estimate a mere 5%, others up to 30%.
Not to be forgotten are the Native religions, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, etc. whose presence has just recently been recognized but has yet to be calculated with an official percentage.
Not even half a century ago during a violent attack on a peaceful meeting of Evangelicals by some of the townspeople who were upset that a non Catholic church was meeting in their small city resulted in more than one death. Some have called these people martyrs because they were killed on the basis of their religious beliefs. While this happened many years ago, and no other official reports have been found to indicate an attack leading to the loss of life, there remains a tension between believers of distinct religions.
Prejudices exist. People judge and criticize differences. Families excommunicate loved ones if they convert. These things should not be. Our diversity should not lead to such drastic division.
While I do not share the President’s native beliefs, I am grateful for his tolerance of various religious groups. It reassures me to know that legal advances are being vigilantly monitored so as to protect both the majority and the minority churches in this nation.
Learn more about Angie
Angie Washington lives with her husband and five kids in Cochabamba, Bolivia in the heart of South America. This has been her home since 2001. They run an orphanage called the House of Dreams and have a church called Christ Nation.
She believes faith without coffee is dead, enjoys laughing out loud, and collects cacti and kaleidoscopes.
Angie not only lives life to the fullest but it would probably be an understatement to say her life is full — full of children, full of love and full of the unpredictability that goes with living in another country.
Luckily, Angie shares her daily adventures at her blog “the @.” Readers can also follow her on Twitter at “atangie.”