Exploring the Andes

Cover picture: The Holy Family portrayed as Latin American migrants by Mino Cerezo Barredo

By now well established in my annual calendar is the 30 June commitment to submit to Edinburgh University Press the next volume in the Edinburgh Companions to Global Christianity series. This year it is the one on Latin America and the Caribbean, arriving just slightly late.

This is a part of the world where the Christian faith looms large, though always complicated and compromised by the fact that it came with the sixteenth-century conquest. This casts a dark shadow and creates an equivocal picture. Whatever may have been gained with Christianity, much was lost in terms of culture, justice and self-respect.

Nor is this something that can be confined to history. As many contributors to our volume argue, today the forces of neo-liberalism represent a further wave in the same conquest. Is Christian faith a force that aids and abets these forces or is it a source of resistance to them? The struggle around this question is shaping the history.

Besides the usual challenges of bringing together a big, multi-authored book, this one presented two others. One is that most of it was first written in Spanish so the journey into English has been a long and challenging one. The other is that the continent has been reeling from the effects of Covid-19. This has, directly or indirectly, affected many of our authors and we must salute their resilience in completing their work in these painful circumstances.

The continent is restless, with many questioning the Catholic faith that is a widely shared heritage. Millions have adopted the more intense spirituality that is offered by the Pentecostal movement while millions more have departed altogether from organised religion. Nevertheless, Christian faith continues to be a defining reality at many different levels. The pontificate of Pope Francis has prompted many to renew their Catholic faith as a crucial resource in meeting the challenges of our time.

Deep human experience of Christianity still persists in corners of the Andes, in the Pampas, in the mountains of Central America, in the vastness of Brazil, in every corner of Mexico and on the enchanting Caribbean islands. There are communities feeding the poor, educating themselves in faith and caring for the sick. There are groups taking initiatives to sustain the natural environment and others defending human rights… Among Latin American and Caribbean Christians there is still faith, like that of a mustard seed, bearing fruit in the twenty-first century.

Ana Maria Bidegain, Conclusion, Christianity in Latin America and the Caribbean

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