Latin America News: A Referendum That May Alter Chile Forever

By Stephen Carrier, missionary to Chile

Chile, which has long been the most stable country in South America, is about to decide whether it wants to invite uncertainty in a year in which nothing is beyond the realm of possibility. 

Last year, protests in Santiago turned violent after a rise in metro prices, and the president of Chile agreed to have a referendum on the constitution. Now, on October 25th, Chileans will head to the polls to vote on whether or not they would like to rewrite their constitution. They’ve had several amendments to their original, but this would be a completely new step for them. Those advocating for change declare that there are income inequalities and rising healthcare costs, among other grievances. Those against rewriting it would point out the lowering poverty levels and higher access to education. 

On the one-year anniversary of the 2019 protests, many Chileans once again took to the streets to voice their displeasure. Some even saw fit to begin rioting and burning. Especially notable was the destruction of two Catholic churches. One of these churches, the San Francisco de Borja, is often used by the Carabinero police for institutional ceremonies. A video posted online shows the spire falling from one of the churches, completely ablaze.

As one watches this video, it almost seems symbolic. First, that which is normal in the political realm may soon find itself being toppled, as changes may come that bring a more socialistic approach to the government. On the other hand, it symbolizes the fall of Catholicism, as Chile has become one of the most secular countries in South America.

What is a Christian missionary in Chile to make of all this? He sees the possibility that the stability he has come to cherish as he works amongst Chileans may soon be taken away, while at the same time he notices that Catholicism is losing its hold on the general populace. Chile is changing at a seemingly rapid pace, and he knows some doors may open for him while others close. Ultimately, however, he knows that God is in control. He knows that all things work together for good to those who are the called according to His purpose. He knows that, for now, Chile is still a wide-open country where God is working.

And he knows that, no matter what happens on October 25th, he has a responsibility to keep getting the gospel to Chile and the world. 

About the author

Tracy Paver is a missionary to Chile working alongside veteran church-planting missionaries Jason and Lori Holt.

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