A History of Resistance

01Mar12

“…And what does God require of you? To do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God.”  Micah 6:8

A few weeks ago, we mentioned that the theme of resistance is an important part of the identity of Disciples of Christ churches in Argentina and Paraguay. We recently visited one example of resistance in Paraguay: the Committee of Churches for Emergency Aid (known as CIPAE after its initials in Spanish).

The CIPAE office in Asunción, Paraguay

Paraguay's ecumenical Committee of Churches for Emergency Aid

Paraguay is still recovering from the effects of the 34-year dictatorship of General Alfredo Stroessner, who ruled from 1954 to 1989. During the 1970s the dictatorship became even more repressive, and many religious leaders were arrested. In response, Disciples of Christ, Catholic, and Lutheran churches joined forces and established CIPAE to speak out against Stroessner’s government, becoming the country’s only human rights organization during a very dangerous and violent period in Paraguay’s history.

CIPAE Human Rights Reports

One of CIPAE's many projects: an annual report on human rights in Paraguay

Today, though Stroessner is gone and Paraguay has been a democracy for over 20 years, CIPAE continues its important human rights work. According to the Committee, one crucial need is to empower and raise the self-esteem of the average Paraguayan voter. During a dictatorship, one CIPAE employee explained, you wait for the leader to do whatever he wants to do. Now that Paraguay is a democracy, citizens don’t understand the power of the vote. As a result, constituents don’t know how to hold their leaders accountable, and all the rosy campaign promises for reforms and social programs go unfulfilled election after election.

Our visit to CIPAE had us mulling over the role of U.S. churches in our own political system. Is your church or religious institution active in the politics of social justice? If so, why? What makes some churches engage in political activism, while others prefer to stay out of politics? Could your religious institution take a stand against a dictatorship in the same way that the Disciples of Christ did in Paraguay?

For more information about CIPAE, visit the Committee’s website: Spanish | English

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3 Responses to “A History of Resistance”

  1. Your post made me think.. and reflect on our own religious institutions.. In Hinduism as such, there are no institutions as we have only temples.. built by kings as places of worship. Ofcourse these days we have some, but there have been many “Gurus” and “Saints” who had actively participated in political scenarios of the society throughout our history.. to make the state a better place for people to live.

    • Thanks so much for your thoughtful comment, Hindupur. You bring to light an interesting contrast between CIPAE in Paraguay, in which a group of churches takes collective political action, and Hinduism in India, in which, based on your comment, political action has tended to emerge out of the work of individual leaders. Ultimately perhaps the two styles go hand in hand!


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