Thank you for the opportunity to participate in this conference and to share with you the various efforts to do Anabaptist theology in Central America during the last decade of this millennium. I want to speak from a very current and painful reality, but a reality that is also full of hope. This hope is rooted in our biblical heritage and it emerges in spite of tears, pain and injustices.

     Theology in Central America is currently being done by sisters and brothers whose economic situation forces them to consume their meager pay before they receive it. Most of them cannot read or write. Theirs is a theology of the road, temporary in character. It is done in the dusty and dangerous path of life and not, as John Mackay expressed it, from the security of the theological balcony.[1]  It is a theology that develops among those laboring in agriculture plots and working in the transnational factories, among street vendors and maids working in the homes of strangers. This theology is not written; it is sung, it is lived and it is suffered daily amid incredible social and economic circumstances. It is a theology taken from daily life with the Bible as a "mirror-hermeneutic" that reflects our pain and anxieties. This is why many in our settings prefer to focus on concrete biblical themes such as the Exodus.

     The descriptions of the persecuted and tortured Anabaptists in the preface of The Martyrs' Mirror offer an accurate and terrible picture of what many Guatemalan Christians are suffering today.[2]  And yet, today, as in the time of the Anabaptist beginnings, the joy of faith paradoxically emerges in the life and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Theological Formation in a Context of Economic, Political and Religious Survival

     The church's current ministry in Central America takes place in a context in which the majority of the inhabitants have lived and still live in marginalized conditions of basic survival. In most of these countries, natural resources are scarce and the primary interest of both internal and external economic powers has been the exploitation of cheap labor. Central American people also live under the heavy weight of foreign debts exacerbated by usurious interest rates.[3]  The struggle for economic survival in Central America is further aggravated by world-wide practices that favor a market economy designed to protect first-world economic systems, even though many people are dying of hunger.[4] 

     From the arrival of the Spanish and Portuguese explorers in the sixteenth century until today, social dissatisfaction in most Central American countries has been contained by the physical elimination of people and by other genocidal tactics. Through these dehumanizing actions a culture of torture and death has been perpetuated in which the basic value of life has been diminished. Threats to life are constantly present, not only from military policies and the normal dangers in the streets,[5]  but also from systems that compromise the future and any hope of superseding dire poverty.

     A common strategy is to pit the people against each other. Violence and terror are methods used to maintain power. These tactics reach into all social strata and consequently affect the life of the church. For example, one Guatemalan denomination in the years 1982 to 1984 lost ten percent of its members due to military repression and a "scorched earth" policy.[6]  Following a pattern of quasi-feudal church-state relationship, economic and political power systems have been militaristic and autocratic. This pattern has persisted from the sixteenth century to the present and has provided structures for careful, official control of all means of production, marketing and political systems.[7] 

     Social benefits, as well as secular and theological education, continue to be accesible to only a privileged minority. Supporting the structural framework of Central American societies are theological and educational systems inherited from the colonial era. These systems represent foreign interests and further legitimize other oppressive and exploitive systems. Furthermore, present educational systems, now about a century old, continue to maintain most of the paternalistic educational philosophy and structures of nineteenth-century liberalism.[8] 

     This dependency in educational and theological matters, which accommodates itself to the status quo, is reinforced by traditional European hierachical and dogmatic Catholic theology or by Reformed-evangelical theology imported largely from North America. Numerous denominational groups representing "evangelicalism" have reinforced a theology that legitimizes the status quo, including direct and indirect justification of war and violence.[9]  Those groups have emphasized an individualistic pietism that divorces faith from the realities of life and teaches that the soul is of primary value. They have interpreted evangelism primarily as incorporating persons into the church rather than following Christ in life. They have taught us to respond antithetically to the Catholic Church's polemical insistence that it has exclusive control of salvation. Evangelicals have often understood their presence and mission as divorced from people's social and political needs, even though the political needs were the cause of many of their own members' suffering. [10] 

     Now since the 1970s a new generation of churches has developed, influenced by the North. Although those churches are convinced that politicial participation is necessary, they equate the will of God with North American government politics. They claim that the church is "God's defense against communism and its evil empires" and that the realization of the kingdom of God is tantamount to the American Dream. These churches not only "save souls for Christ" but also entice already established Christian groups to join their cause against liberation theology, which they claim is only another ideology undermining sound doctrine.

The Mennonite Churches

     The majority of our Mennonite churches, founded in the 1960s, were strongly influenced by various North American evangelical currents. That is because the theological bases of North American Mennonite missions had been deeply shaped by conservative evangelicals in the U.S.[11]  Some other Mennonite churches were the result of alliances with independent leaders and groups who have adopted the name "Mennonite" as casually as they might have chosen any other denominational name. In reality, when those churches were formed one could rarely distinguish in them any significant theological, liturgical or pastoral differences from other evangelical churches. Many of these churches and their principal leaders brought with them a primarily Pentecostal background.[12] 

Resistance to Established Christian Theology

     Resistance to established Christian theology occurs not only among Catholics and Protestants but among all who confess to follow-or not follow-Jesus Christ. From the time of the Second Vatican Council the Catholic Church in Central America has undergone decisive, qualitative renewal. Many Catholic communities can no longer be said to be either merely traditionalist or religious sacramentalists. Thanks to a pastoral process inserted into real life, Catholic base communities have emerged from the privatization of faith and now see "serving the world" as another way of living the Gospel.[13] 

     Many of these communities understand clearly that the church is not just another reductionism of the Gospel to the socio-political realm. These Christians do not pretend to supplant the secular world. Rather, they try to illuminate and evaluate their world so the kingdom of God can be realized in their midst.

     However, these groups are in the minority in the Catholic Church, whose hierarchies continue in medieval darkness. Among Catholic leaders some noteworthy exceptions are the late Salvadorean bishop Oscar Romero or Mendes Arceo and Samuel Ruiz of Mexico. The base community groups are blossoming and will not likely join the Protestants. They are the germ of a new church and a new evangelization. Today's evangelizers will sooner or later themselves be evangelized by sisters and brothers who, more than belonging to a given confessional group, live out kingdom faith and commitment among the most needy in the world.

     Finally, Christian growth in Central America is meeting theological resistance from other faith expressions which see that Christianity frequently allies itself with culturally and socially oppressive systems. This includes resistance from indigenous peoples who were quickly identified as "pagan" by Christians, who then made them the objects of their mission.[14]  In some places, certain expressions of Christianity are being rejected by indigenous faiths which had earlier been victimized by the rigid and uncompromising attitudes of Christian missions. Today's challenge comes not merely from the confrontation itself but because the vital, living presence of these faiths causes us to reflect on the authenticity of our own faith.

     The so-called monopoly of western religion is no longer accepted. Many voices from within and without Christian circles are pushing us to reflect on God as one not limited to a given theological heritage. Becoming aware of the poverty and marginalization of the indigenous peoples has made us keenly aware of the inadequacy of a Christianity that is primarily believed rather than lived. The problem is exaggerated by the fact that indigenous groups have so much to teach us about worship, faith and ethics.

     How then can we speak of a God who is good and who provides? How do we speak of a God of justice and judgment, especially among abused and persecuted people? In the face of the gross injustices they suffer, it is difficult for those people to speak of a just God. How much more difficult it is for the first world-so-called "Christian"-to speak of a just God while its technology and economy support a system that keeps many persons trapped in terrible subhuman conditions!

Religious Formation Faces a Theological Challenge

     With this kind of sad background in our Guatemalan experience, it is necessary to ask whether doing theology implies formulating theology or living theology? Who is the primary subject of theology? What is theology?

     Theology has traditionally been done or defined from two bases: (1) as meditation on the Bible and (2) as a rational exercise. Both the spiritual and the rational are important in theology. The first has been a persistent concern of Anabaptists. The second has always been very suspect to large sectors of Anabaptists, since for them the formulation of theology implied the danger of limiting or "locking up" the Word of God.[15] 

     When the written word is interpreted primarily to make formulations, one risks changing the focus of the word. By the Spirit of God the word is illuminated in the believer's heart. Some sixteenth-century Anabaptists were called "spiritualists" for insisting that their "inner light" revealed all truth. That was their way of being active participants in doing theology.

     Theology need not be written to be theology, since rationalism and intellectualism do not determine or qualify theology.[16]  As a pragmatic question, how can traditional theology be formulated in countries like ours where large sectors of society cannot read or write?[17]  The alternative is either to import theologies or to create a theology in harmony with our particular needs and worldview.

     Latin American theology-that is, liberation theology-has again placed the doing of theology among the tasks of the faith community. First comes a reflection on experience and then a writing of theology follows. Since the epistemological rupture emerges from a "locus theologicum,"[18]  it is intimately connected with the pastoral process. Conceived in this way, theology goes beyond the devotional and rational to situate itself in the existential. It transcends the formal and is incarnated in the actual. Many Anabaptist theologians of the past as well as some of us today insist that the essence of theology is its praxis. That makes discipleship one of the principal elements of our Anabaptist theology. Latin American theology today calls it "following Christ"! The German term Nachfolge indicates precisely this existential element which appears to be a special focus of Anabaptism. Anabaptists did not generally write theology and their few theological writings were not intended to be systematic. Their theology was implicit in their lives rather than explicit in theological formulations.[19] 

     In his "Anabaptist Vision" Harold S. Bender sought to formulate the unformulatable. His understandings are valid insofar as they are propositional and respond to a given historical moment.[20]  The term "Anabaptist Vision" which Bender used in his essay fifty years ago is appropriate in trying to describe the phenomenological. The three main elements in his vision-defining the essence of Christianity as (1) discipleship, (2) the church as community and (3) an ethic of love and nonresistance-can exist only in action lived out in a specific historical moment. Christian practice does not come out of a formulation; on the contrary, first comes action and then comes the word of explanation or definition.

     Bender's three characteristics transcend formal theological categories. They constitute a worldview that explains reality while setting new parameters that help Christians to know who they are, why they are here and where they are going. Bender's synthesis captured what society in his time needed because of the anxiety it experienced during World War II: a new ethic that would review human conduct in the face of hate, egoism and rivalry. Bender offered a new social horizon that would give humanity a new sense of belonging in the face of uprootedness and alienation. He offered a new, yet old, Christian praxis that established the church's mission as peacemaking in the world.

     It is surprising how we in Central America today are living in circumstances very similar to those of the peasants of sixteenth-century Europe. These circumstances in our theological scene force us to theologize in a way that addresses our needs and offers hope. Hence we modern Anabaptists must ask whether the making of dogmatic theological formulations is not contradicting much of our theological inheritance. This questioning process is very important for training institutions that attempt to teach Anabaptist theology, for instance the Central American Mennonite seminary SEMILLA. How can one formulate that which is not formulatable? Define the undefinable?

     I am surprised by two things: (1) that many of the people's requests in Central America emerge from circumstances so similar to those of the peasants of sixteenth-century Central Europe, and (2) how applicable Bender's three propositions still are, fifty years later. Why these coincidences? Because they arise from the "theological place" in which theology must respond to needs and the confrontation with the Word. That is why we Anabaptists must notice that the insistence on dogmatic, non-contextualized theological formulations is placing us in complete contradiction to the heritage received from many of our predecessors.

     But even more serious questions arise for institutions such as SEMILLA. How can one teach without formulating and how can one formulate the unformulatable? The answer is that the rationale for traditional theological exercise must emerge out of a reflection on the experience of faith. As theology is expressed in this manner, Mennonite congregations in Central America are embracing the Anabaptist heritage as their own. For many, however, Anabaptist theology seems strange because the theology transmitted to them by the Mennonite missions largely reflected the Christianity implanted in North America from the end of the seventeenth to the mid-eighteenth centuries.[21] 

     How can we build a body of ideas without allowing them to become "sound, orthodox Anabaptism"? How can we develop a body of thought that helps us discover our mission and maintain a chosen identity? How can we write the history of the sufferings of the people alongside the doctrinal prejudices that define a vision?

     As the result of our searching experience in Central America I suggest the following thoughts. By comparing these with the experiences of Anabaptist-Mennonites of all times perhaps we can see the challenge that some groups of Anabaptist churches have begun to face.

     1. A living Anabaptist theology affirms life in the constant face of death. (Salvific.)

     2. A living Anabaptist theology seeks unity in the constant presence of divisions. (Essence and Nature.)

     3. A living Anabaptist theology practices justice and peace in the constant presence of alienation. (Ethics and Mission.)

     1. A living theology is salvific; it affirms life in the constant face of death.

     First summary reflection: Human life and the life around us are the concrete expression of God's intention that culminates in the saving work of our Lord Jesus Christ. Threats against life are signs of anti-life and an insult to the Creator.

     Our formative programs must emphasize a theology of creation. In an urban ambience where the synthetic and the imported are imposed upon us as being more valuable than our own products, it is important to return to the biblical emphasis that gives priority to life. This biblical principle elevates the human element over the accumulation of power, goods and capital. To prioritize humanity leads to having a love for life ("biofilia," according to Erich Fromm),[22]  whereas excessive emphasis on capital and production leads only to love of death (what Fromm called "necrophilia").[23] 

     Human and ecological degradation must be eradicated from any professed Christian people or democratic state. Therefore our theology must not indirectly support contaminating and blood-letting systems. We must cooperate in making Central America a more just and human place. The future of the world depends on the creation of a conscience for the preservation of life on our planet.[24]  A biblical theology of creation will not only reduce the consumption or destruction of natural resources but it will also foster alternative means whereby men and women can have a life of dignity and satisfy their basic needs. A Nicaraguan pastor recently told me, "I dread Sunday because more than one member of my church will tell me he has no way to get food for his children. What can I do other than share the little [$20 monthly] that the church gives to me as their pastor?"

     To join with people in their struggle for life is to be one with the Creator. To favor an economic system rather than human needs is to be one with death. We must choose God or mammon (Matt. 6:24; Luke 16:13). When we choose money or material things we devalue human beings. As Jesus tells us, what we do not do for one of the little ones, we refuse to do unto him (Matt. 25).

     All teaching based solely on doctrine leads to favoring dogmas, creeds and particular confessions instead of the lives of human beings. If we paraphrase the words of Jesus, such teaching serves the Sabbath day more than it serves the human persons who live on the Sabbath.

     Excessive emphasis on scholasticism and textual criticism frequently by-passes the valuable contents of the creation story of the biblical texts, which then leads to ignoring human experience as a valid source for understanding creation. Ideological systems which see the human being emerging from nature, as from an archaic stage, have contributed to sacralizing intellectual knowledge at the expense of experience itself. Nevertheless, lay theology which is non-systematic and ignores our educational institutions has pointed the way back to the core concept of creation with its clear vision of the world and of life itself. That is why the people unite religion with harvest and celebration days.

     Formative programs should favor a Christology of discipleship, developed from below-from the human realm-where humans suffer as Jesus suffered. Societies with imposed governments and power structures separate daily life from spirituality; it is to their advantage to emphasize things to believe rather than examples to imitate. Christology is thereby reduced to a system of theological thought-to a catechism which becomes a kind of saint to worship, something to believe rather than to be lived. To concur with this tendency is to consent to human dependence and control and to worship our understanding of God rather than God.

     As Hans Kng says, "Concepts are mute and cannot respond, they are rigid and implacable."[25]  Discipleship and the following-after of a concrete person like Jesus-whose adaptability and human transparency make the Christian life possible-is very different from the pursuit of some fantastic, unreachable idea. The systematizing of theology reinforces rigid intransigence and imposed political systems. Jesus is the revelation of God because he incarnates the suffering of the world. This suffering is also seen in creation which implies that life is generated only from below. Life that begins with the seed, that rises triumphantly to new life, must first die in the depths of the earth. Perhaps this was the vision of some Anabaptists who saw Christ crucified in the life-death cycle of vegetation and creatures.[26] 

     Our Anabaptist vision has emerged in the last twenty years from the suffering of many people in Central America at the hands of their own authorities. Pastors, priests, religious workers and many lay people form a "cloud of witnesses" who call for justice and who testify to the salvation spoken of in Hebrews 11.

     Our congregations and institutions of biblical theology are challenged to develop a theological method and content that leads students of Bible and theology to follow Jesus rather than make rambling discourses on theories about Jesus. To follow Jesus is to empower life and to live the resurrection that annuls all impulses that lead to death.

     Formative programs should emphasize a participatory ecclesiology. When Christian churches become exclusive and homogenous they become alienating gatherings. Similarly, individuality can become individualism. Christian teaching should avoid all intimate, privatized contents as well as a "communitarianism" masked as community. True, we need identity, but not as a pretext to accommodate ourselves with triumphalist, sectarian positions. Too often we transform the culture of individualism into "success theologies" that dominate our style of life.

     All of the above reinforces a clericalism that inhibits both community life and pastoral work understood broadly as our mission to be incarnated in society around us. The appropriate ecclesial formation emphasizes ministry as a tool for the faith community and the world and not as a vehicle for aspiring stars to gain followers. Our programs should accept students not to become pastors but because they already are pastors. They should not create a pastoral profession but a sense of pastoral vocation. That would be the best degree or diploma we could grant.

     To affirm an ecclesiology of pastoral community is to affirm the life of the body of Christ and to minimize the superstructures that give our congregations so many headaches. To develop a biblical pastoral approach is really to promote training communities. Seminaries should not train people in the sense of dictating norms to follow. Rather than creating compendiums of answers, institutions should "plant the problematic" and bring together a synthesis of the experiences of the faith communities. Then our congregations can be creators of life and will reflect the image of a communicative God who participates and allows participation. Thus, by the grace of God and the power of the Holy Spirit, the believers will be freed from theological and ecclesiological dependency and become owners of their own destinies. Believers who live in this way practice a theology of solidarity, sharing with others what they have. Only in giving are they imitating Jesus Christ, who is the gracious incarnation of the Word of God.

     2. Anabaptist Theological Formation Seeks Unity in the Constant Presence of Divisions.

     Second summary reflection: Unity is the essence and nature of God and humanity. All intent to destroy this unity implies separation which is averse to the nature of God's being and averse to God's will that humanity should reflect God's image.

     The battle against the "powers of the air and world rulers" of which St. Paul wrote is related to the diabolic methodology of divisiveness. For centuries the warrior axiom of "divide and conquer" has continued to function effectively. Military manuals and practices today express it in sophisticated ways. Our socio-cultural context impresses its stamp on our congregations and theological institutions in both macro- and micro-social ways. Our small Central American countries continue to be politically divided in a manner contrary to the distribution of the population. One need only to travel by land in Central America to become keenly aware of the difficulties and uncompromising border-crossing barriers that hinder free commercial and human interchange.

     The people have been enslaved to patriotic signs and symbols that represent merely the limits of the economic domains of the circles of power. One need not be a Central American to observe that if Central American economic production were more integrated the situation would be totally different. But personal interests and monopolies of power by a miniscule 5% to 8% of the power-broker population in each country perpetuate our backwardness. As Xavier Gorostiaga of Panama says, "What is in collapse here is a power model that no longer addresses the social dissatisfactions."

     Do our theological programs, which often are very local and denominational, reinforce and reproduce this form of structural sin? Yes, our programs must develop identity in the form of a coherent ecclesiology and theology but not at the expense of reinforcing division.

     The people of Central America are making a theology of solidarity and unity that empowers them for living. They expect a diversified preparation suitable to a reality in which more than half cannot read and write but nevertheless live the faith and hope of our Lord Jesus Christ. The distorted importance of the church, the doctrines of the theological institutions, and the parachurch aspect of our theological programs are forms that threaten to drown the message of salvation. Theology then becomes the captive of magisterial programs and high academic studies but is inadequate because it arises from its own agenda and not from the living body of Christ which is the local community of faith.

     All dividedness is death. Curriculums separated from reality, traditional and progressive fundamentalism, power conflicts, homicides, wars, divorce in the family-all these create separation, weeping and pain. To the indigenous religions that are commonly accused of polytheism we present our particular doctrinal emphases that sound more like "creedolatry."

     Unity in the biblical sense is essential and basic but it is not the same thing as methodological strategy. Unity is more than organizational; it is a way of being, a style of life. Our life as believers must be congruent with the realities we live. How can we preach unity when we live the anxieties of the rich in the midst of a suffering society? How can we eat our abundant bread peacefully when many die from lack of bread?[27] 

     Since Christian formation is primarily "caught," the teaching person must demonstrate a style of life faithful to the Gospel and to the context in which it is taught. Christianity after the resurrection proceeded not from doctrine but from following Jesus. Therefore one of the requirements for being apostles of the Lord was to have lived with him. The world is tired of words, discourses and oratory-even phrases full of good theology-none of which go beyond being intellectual exercises.

     True fellowship should be the result of a theological formation whose content was modeled by God in incarnating the Son Jesus. This implies that unity with God can be achieved. Jesus leads us to the Father because Jesus is our brother. Authentic evangelical human fellowship leads to divine fellowship. In Where Is Your Brother? Alonso Schoekel suggests that Genesis, more than a book of beginnings, is a book about reconciliation. He shows how Genesis can teach us how to relate as sisters and brothers to one another.[28] 

     3. A Living Anabaptist Theology Practices Justice and Peace in the Constant Presence of Alienation.

     Third summary reflection: Peace is a sign of eschatological hope that reconciles, satisfies, integrates and harmonizes God's creation. All powers that attempt to be lord exercise violence which cannot prevail before God.

     Theology has been used, even by theologians, to legitimize wars.[29]  Early peoples thought that their gods participated in wars and other human weaknesses. The people of Israel misinterpreted their own prophetic heritage in appealing to God for help in their wars, just as many Christians today still believe that Yahweh acts like the gods of other nations. A theology that attributes bloody war victories to "the arm of God" leads to blasphemy. The salvific promises of the "arm of God" are powerful precisely because they do not involve pagan forms and methods.[30] 

     The Constantinian period also saw God identified with human powers. The medieval crusades illustrate the human attempt to situate God in sacred places. The martyrdom of Anabaptists by Reformers and the Catholic "holy inquisition" are other sad examples of orthodox zeal using violent, dehumanizing processes.

     In Central America the just wars of the Spanish conquest still cause us pain, even after five centuries. The inconsistencies of Christianity are also present in the theological justifications of the Central European Reformers and evident in the political-economic system of the Saxon nobles who supported them. Similarly, the European colonizations of North America, Asia, Africa and Oceania were legitimized by theologians who saw the design of God in them. The same thing is true in Central America in regard to the world economic and political powers and their philosophy of manifest destiny. Even closer at hand is the case of Christian leaders blessing the U.S. involvement in the recent Gulf war.

     Peace as Christian utopia is simultaneously a denunciation and a proclamation. But this is not an easy, cheap peace proceeding from the security of power and complicity. Rather, it is a suffering, pilgrim theology. Nowadays many Christians, even though they are heirs of past persecution and poverty, will not risk civil disobedience against war because they live in opulence and fear of losing their privileged positions. The people in the third world, however, increasingly request that all war systems be eliminated.[31]  Today there is no place for so-called neutrality, silence and cheap pacifism for they are part of the theology that upholds the status quo.

     Courage is required to promote a biblical peace that is neither anesthetic nor neutralizing but disturbing and disquieting. This peace is an anticipation and sign of the fullness of God that denounces injustice while proposing wholesome human relationships. The peace that Jesus gives to the faith community is not like that which the world gives. Jesus' peace overcomes evil with good; it places "coals of fire" on the heads of the oppressors.

     Biblical peace is the life and nature of daughters and sons of God (Matt. 5:9). It is the evangelizing force of those who are suffering martyrdom and which completes the sufferings of Christ in salvation (II Cor. 1:3-7). As peacemakers, we are not called to sacralize any war, regardless of how just it might seem. Nor are we to impede the self-determination of people on their road to freedom. Instead, we are called to empower life and liberty. In so doing, we join other women and men of good will who exercise pressure on first-world countries not to arm third-world countries. We thereby discourage armed confrontations, pain and death.[32] 

     Women and men of Central America live with threats to their lives, joy in the midst of persecution, hope where there is no hope. They are illuminated and exhilarated by the Good News of salvation. This Good News affirms life in the face of systems of death and, by the grace of God, unites that which sin divides. It reconciles enemies in the midst of wars and prepares a new heaven and new earth where the Shepherd of shepherds, our beloved Lord Jesus Christ, will heal all pain and wipe all tears from our eyes.

[*] Mario Higueros is the Academic Dean of SEMILLA, an advanced leadership-training program for Mennonite congregations in Central America. 1. Juan A. Mackay, El Otro Cristo Espa¤ol (The Other Spanish Christ) (Guatemala [City]: Ediciones Semilla, 1989). 2. Thielman J. van Braght, The Bloody Theater or Martyrs' Mirror of the Defenseless Chris-tians . . . (Scottdale, Pa.: Herald Press, 1975), 6. Return to Text

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[]]  3. World Bank Atlas Country Report (The Economist Intelligence Unit, 1993-1994) reports in an extensive article along with others from Latin America the following data of some of the Central American countries. Guatemala: infant mortality, 58% (1992); gross income per capita, $980 (1992); foreign debt, $3,000,000,000 (1993); unemployment, 42.6%, including underemployment (1990); illiteracy, 45%. Nicaragua: infant mortality, 53%; gross income per capita, $410 (1992); foreign debt $11,126,000,000; unemployment, 12% (1990); illiteracy, 19% (1990). Return to Text

[4] . Guatemalan daily newspaper reports indicate the severity of the basic survival problem for the majority of the people. In La Hora (March 9, 1993) the Episcopal Confer-ence of the Catholic Church of Guatemala published the following communique: "The extreme and desperate poverty experienced by the vast majority of the people is becoming increasingly irritable due to the ostentatious accumulation of riches by small groups of the economically powerful, speculation and hoarding, and the gross insensitivity of many of the rich who take advantage of the present reality . . . . This situation simply is not acceptable to Christian conscience." El Gr fico (March 23, 1993) cites statistics showing that violent crime in the country is among the worst in all Latin America-that in 1992 alone there were more than 2045 violent deaths. Siglo XXI (July 21, 1994) reports that the "Umbrella/Joint Group" of El Salvador, a special commission which opens the doors to a deeper investigation into the operations of the "death squads," states that "thousands of Salvadoreans were assassinated or 'disappeared' by armed men dressed in civilian clothes who then disappeared in their Jeep Cherokees without leaving a trace." Return to Text

[5] . In 1982, following the principle that "fish can be trapped by eliminating their water," the army decided to eliminate more than a hundred villages considered to be the logistical bases for the guerrilla forces. Return to Text

[6] . See Carlos Figueroa Ibarra, The Recourse to Fear (San Jos‚, Costa Rica: EDUCA, 1991). This essay is on the state of terror in Guatemala. The author wrote: "Comparing the total figures of the massacres and number of victims for the years 1982, '83 and the first months of '84, it is easy to perceive that in 1982 there was an elevated number of massacres and victims from these. In that year there were 249 massacres that cost nearly 7,000 lives. . . . Of this data one can deduce that this happened in the first months of [the presidency of] Rios Montt [supposedly an evangelical Christian] . . . the same who rigorously promoted the massification of terror." 7. Marta Arzu Casaus, Guatemala, Lineage and Racism ([San Jos‚?] Costa Rica: FLACSO, 1992), 15. Return to Text

[ ] 8. Antonio Nu¤ez, a well known and respected evangelical seminary professor, wrote the following in the Christian daily newspaper La Palabra (Sept. 1984): "It is not strange that many say that the Gospel has not been a factor to encourage social change, but rather [to encourage] the preservation of the established order. It is clear that the acclaimed `Protestant apolitical' position has consciously or unconsciously favored forces that resist social transformation. . . . The coincidence of USA economic expansionism and the beginning and progress of Protestant missions in Guatemala cannot be denied. Furthermore, it is evident that there was a certain ideological affinity between Protestantism and Guatemalan liberalism." Return to Text

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[9] . The only study to date of the evangelical churches was sponsored by INDEF [Institute for Evangelism in Depth] and SEPAL [Latin American Pastoral Services] in 1980. It indicates that at that date there were a total of 210 denominations and 4712 churches for a population of 7.2 million inhabitants. 10. "The political dimension and utilization of Protestantism in the country has its own history: There are two significant moments of convergence of the interests of political power and Protestantism and in each case they sought the same objective[:] . . . a confrontation with the Catholic Church to modify its power on the national scene. . . ."-Report of SIEG (Information Service and Analysis of Guatemala), no. 40 (June 1985). Return to Text

[1] 1. This happened principally because many of the Mennonite mission agencies' theological bases had been strongly influenced by the conservative and evangelical currents then prevalent in the United States. Return to Text

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[1] 2. For example, one congregation in the capital calls itself "the Evangelical Pentecostal Mennonite Church." 13. This identification with the suffering of the people led to the persecution of these pastors in the decades of the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s and to the massacre of 17 priests in Guatemala in 1982 and 6 Jesuits along with two lay associates in El Salvador in 1990. Return to Text

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[]]  14. In contrast to this position, the Anabaptists had already considered that through the aid of the Holy Spirit there were "elect" in all corners of the world, including in Catay (the name given to the newly discovered American continent).-George Williams, La Reforma Radical (The Radical Reformation) (Mexico [City]: Fondo de Cultura Econ˘mica, 1983), 921-22. Return to Text

[1] 5. Hans Denck, for example, differentiated between the Bible and the Word of God but held that there was a complementary relationship between them. He said, "The Bible written on paper can be erased, but the Word of God is written on ink and paper that cannot be erased."-Quoted in Walter Klaassen, Selecciones Anabautistas (in English, Anabaptism in Outline) (Scottdale, Pa.: Herald Press, 1985), 111. Return to Text

[1] 6. Robert Friedmann, The Theology of Anabaptism (Scottdale, Pa.: Herald Press, 1973), 20. Return to Text

[1] 7. World Bank Atlas Country Report, 1993-1994. Return to Text

[1] 8. Gustavo Gutierrez, TeologĦa de la Liberaci˘n (Salamanca, Spain: Sigueme, 1985), 29. Return to Text

[1] 9. Friedmann, Theology of Anabaptism, 21. Return to Text

[2] 0. Bender's presentation was given on December 28, 1943 in the midst of World War II. Christianity was being questioned, since this was already the second time that cruel confrontations had occurred between the people of supposed Christianized countries. Bender's proposal was both a denunciation and a message of good news to Christians hurt in these worldwide confrontations. Return to Text

[2] 1. Since these Mennonites coming from the persecution in Europe did not have a formulated theological "corpus" for the reasons already stated, they borrowed or were influenced by theological currents that later were seen to contradict the very genius of the Anabaptist biblical insights and understandings. Return to Text

[2] 2. Eric Fromm, El Corazon del Hombre (The Heart of Man) (Mexico [City]: Fondo de Cultura Econ˘mica, 1979). Return to Text

[2] 3. These conditions lead humans to resort to any methods to acquire economic gain. In 1992 the Guatemalan government officially acknowledged the existence of more than 1000 known illegal landing strips in the country where small aircraft loaded with drugs were refueling. It has been said that the country of Guatemala is like a large drug aircraft carrier. The migrations from countryside to cities have caused the major cities to have large numbers of unemployed persons. Emigration to North America is also increasing daily. Return to Text

[2] 4. Many villagers and members of our churches continue to cut trees for firewood. They lack adequate income to purchase commercialized energy and find no recourse but to use wood to prepare their own food. But much more of our ecological degradation comes from the toxic residues from some fertilizers and asphalt road-building materials that come to our countries as "donations." Return to Text

[25] . Hans Kng, Ser Cristiano (in English: On Being a Christian) (Madrid: Ediciones Cristiandad, 1977), 690. Return to Text

[26] . Klaassen, Selecciones, 25. Return to Text

[27] . In our countries hundreds of families are divided by wars or by economic conditions. Many times principal family members have to live and work in North America in order for the family to survive. President Clinton recently made refugee policies more stringent. The government of El Salvador strongly protested this since nearly a third of El Salvador's national income comes from Salvadoreans who live and work in North America and send support to their relatives. Return to Text

[28] . Alonso Schoekel, Donde Est  Tu Hermano? (Where Is Your Brother?) (Valencia, Spain: Editorial Valencia, 1989), 9. This author identifies 34 cases in Genesis that deal with issues of caring for fellow humans as brothers and sisters. Return to Text

[29] . In one discussion Fray Bartolom‚ Las Casas says, "If judging them [indigenous people] first by war is a form and manner contrary to law and the 'easy yoke and light burden' of Jesus' gentleness, it is the same erroneous way that Mahummad took as well as the Romans who disquieted and robbed the world. . . . It is therefore extremely sinful, tyrannical and defaming to the name of Christ, causing innumerable new blasphemies against the true God and Christian religion which is in fact our long-standing experience in what was and is being done to indigenous [people]. . . ."-Quoted in Jorge Luh n Mu¤oz, comp., Inicios del Dominio Espa¤ol en Indias (The Beginnings of the Spanish Domination of Indians), 3rd ed. (Guatemala: Universidad de San Carlos de Guatemala, 1969), 15-17. Return to Text

[30] . See Millard C. Lind, Yahweh Is a Warrior (Scottdale, Pa.: Herald Press, 1980), 34. The church fathers in the first two centuries testify to a more biblical hermeneutic in saying that a radical following of Jesus, who did not justify Old Testament wars, will result in the love of enemies. Return to Text

[31] . The Guatemalan daily El Gr fico (Aug. 30, 1993) reported that CONAVIGUA, the umbrella organization of Guatemalan widows, proposed a law called "patriotic civil and military service." This proposal asks for military service to be truly voluntary with no one forced to participate in the military; for the right to conscientous objection; and for creation of a social service to address the many social needs of our country. At the risk of their very lives, an increasing number of Christian youth in Honduras and El Salvador are choosing to be conscientous objectors to war and military careers. Return to Text

[32] . The Guatemalan daily Prensa Libre (March 10, 1994) announced that the U.S. government granted another $42,000,000 in military aid to Guatemala, which brings the total for Latin America to $770,067,000. The Mennonite Quarterly Review The Anabaptist Vision in Central America