The Evangelical Church in Peru, which accounts for only 5% of the population, recently organized a strong push to successfully elect Alberto Fujimori, a dark horse candidate for President.
The explosion of evangelical churches in Peru (a term which, in Latin America, denotes active Protestants, Pentecostals, and Charismatic Catholics) is credited with fueling Fujimori’s successful bid. While novelist Mario Vargas Llosa made appeals to intellectuals and relied heavily on his television campaign, Fujimori made use of an army of evangelical volunteers who quietly went from house to house among the villages and towns of the Peruvian hills.
Amidst a worsening economy, the mood of the electorate began to change as the people of Peru found in Fujimori the honesty and simplicity they were looking for in a candidate. Fujimori was able to finish a close second to Vargas Llosa in a first round balloting in April and then gained the momentum to win in the runoff election.
When Fujimori founded his maverick Cambio 90 (Change 90) political party last year, he was able, as a reform-minded and moderate Catholic, to enlist the aid of many evangelicals. Technical workers, who were disgusted with Vargas Llosa’s urbane deflationary economic policies, also joined the party in a well planned thrust to enlist the discipline and organization of the evangelical churches.
As a result of Cambio 90’s successful strategy, four senators, 13 deputies, and the second vice president, all identified as evangelicals, were swept into office. About one-third of Cambio 90’s congressional candidates are evangelicals. With only 5% of Peru’s population of 20 million, the quick advance of the evangelical presence in politics is seen by some as a “miracle from God.”
It is suspected by some that the number of evangelical Christians in Peru may actually be larger than 5%. It is reported by Christian and Missionary Alliance sources that church builders in Lima, Peru have trouble keeping up with the explosive growth. In addition to this phenomenon, growing numbers of professionals and upper class technocrats, a group that is rarely affected by missionary presence, are showing up in these churches.
This change in the Peruvian government is characteristic of an evangelical movement that is beginning to gain momentum in all of Latin America. For a good overview of the move of God in Latin America, the editors of The Forerunner recommend David Martin’s book, Tongues of Fire, The Explosion of Protestantism in Latin America.