Uruguay needs a resurrection of faith
Posted on: 3rd April 2021
CMS missionaries Pedro and Joy Oliveira Woolmer are in their second year of ministry in Uruguay, working with university students. Joy explains that unlike the Catholic culture of surrounding countries, Uruguay is strongly secular.
In the lead up to Easter, countries throughout Latin America are celebrating Holy Week, Semana Santa. But here in Uruguay, businesses and schools are closed for tourism. Literally. While neighbouring nations hold prayer rallies, processions, church services and celebrations for Easter, Uruguayans go camping, hiking and travelling in the country—for Tourism Week.
A secular country
Uruguay is the most secular nation in Latin America. It has been so for over 100 years. In 1919 the Holy Week holiday was officially renamed La Semana de Turismo (Tourism Week) as part of a conscious effort to separate church and state and foster secularism in the country. It followed the prohibition of teaching religion in schools and the rewriting of the constitution to enshrine religious freedom within a non-religious nation.
From what we can see, the push towards secularism has succeeded. There seem to be few who continue to acknowledge Easter, and many of those are caught up in its commercialisation—the Easter bunny and chocolate eggs. In fact, most of the country seems to have no idea that Easter has anything to do with Jesus.
Easter is not the only Christian festival to be renamed. Christmas here is ‘Family Day’. Renaming religious holidays is just one of the many symptoms of the fierce secularism of Uruguay society.
On a predominantly Roman Catholic continent, the tiny country of Uruguay (with its population of 3.4 million) is proud of laicidad, that is, its secular character
Freedom from religion
While there is freedom of religion, the practice of religion is private: it has no place in the public space. Evangelism is considered rude and socially unacceptable. Even speaking about one’s faith, or asking about the beliefs of another, is frowned upon.
You can imagine how hard it is for Uruguayan Christians to share the significance and celebration of Easter with their non-Christian friends and neighbours!
Would you pray that the widespread antagonism would only serve to grow the compassion and determination of Uruguayan Christians to evangelise, driving us to our knees in prayer as we boldly seek to share the good news of Jesus at Easter time?
Uruguayans need to hear the gospel of grace and know the risen Jesus. To find out what opportunities there are to serve in Uruguay and many other locations get in touch with your local CMS branch.