Bolivian Methodists look for calm after turbulence
11/13/2003 News media contact: Linda Bloom · (646) 369-3759 · New York
By United Methodist News ServiceIn
the wake of political and social crisis, Methodists in Bolivia are
hopeful that country's new interim president will bring stability and
Bishop Carlos Intipampa, leader of the Evangelical
Methodist Church in Bolivia, conveyed his support and prayers for Carlos
D. Mesa, the new president, in a recent pastoral letter; he also called
upon the Methodist community to continue to pray for the entire nation.
is a political moderate and widely respected as a moral leader,
according to the Rev. Wilson Boots, a United Methodist missionary who,
with his wife, Nora, has been based part-time in Bolivia since 1993. At
the moment, there seems to be "a positive view" of his abilities to
stabilize the Latin American country, he told United Methodist News
Service in a Nov. 12 interview.
The former president of Bolivia,
Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada, resigned Oct. 17 after violent clashes
between demonstrators and army troops resulted in more than 80 deaths.
The widespread protests, which also left more than 400 wounded,
underlined the continuing social and political crisis in Bolivia, the
Although indigenous Indian groups, representing
Bolivia's poor and the majority of its citizens, initially organized the
protests, other groups joined the movement, according to the New York
The Methodist church was involved in joint efforts with
the Permanent Assembly on Human Rights to end the violence and bring
about reconciliation. Several churches served as centers for those who
fasted as part of a nonviolent protest. Three church vehicles were
destroyed during the protests.
Clergy and laity donated blood,
shared medical supplies with public hospitals and provided pastoral care
to the wounded and family members of those who suffered death or
The church also made public statements supporting
struggles for a more just society for all Bolivians. "The Bolivian
Methodist Church is engaged in community building and nation building,"
While a proposal for a $5 billion pipeline to export
Bolivia's natural gas was a trigger for the protests, underlying anger
exists regarding long-time government corruption there, he explained.
previous president, Boots said, was forced to bring in Mesa as a vice
presidential candidate "to give respectability to his government because
corruption had reached an extraordinary level." But when Mesa tried to
address corruption issues, the president publicly embarrassed him, he
Boots considers it a positive sign that Mesa, who has no
political party affiliation, was able to bring in a cabinet not related
to the party of the former president.
About 60 percent of
Bolivia's nearly 8 million citizens are indigenous and Wilson considers
this new shift of political power "a watershed moment." The Indian
groups want a new constitution and would like to dissolve the current
congress and replace it with a popular constituent assembly.
Evangelical Methodist Church in Bolivia has 169 congregations and about
8,000 members with 85 percent from the Aymara indigenous group.
Intipampa, who grew up in a sheepherding family, is the first Aymara
theologian to receive a doctoral degree.
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