Intervention d’Alexander Wilde au séminaire Mémoires et histoires du temps présent en Amérique latine et Espagne le 16 Novembre

Alexander Wilde (Senior scholar, Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, Washington, D.C.) :

Las iglesias ante la violencia en América Latina. Los derechos humanos en el pasado y el presente

“I have read the latest document by Father Francisco de Roux and think that he has thought so differently than we have about the issues…there are perspectives here that open constructive possibilities….”*
Ex-President Álvaro Uribe, commenting on Colombian peace negotiations, El Tiempo (Bogotá), 29 de octubre de 2016

Religion is an inescapable dimension of the history of Latin America in the last half century. It was a visible force shaping national events in many countries and an active presence in societies and individual human lives throughout the region. This dynamism was quite unanticipated. When the Revolution came to power in Cuba in 1959, no one envisioned the sweeping changes in the Catholic Church set in motion by the Second Vatican Council (1962-65), or the emergence of a distinctive Latin American theology of liberation. Similarly, no one could have predicted that after four centuries, Evangelical churches would challenge the cultural dominance of Catholicism, drawing unprecedented numbers of followers everywhere.


Throughout this same half century and across the region, Latin American history is notably violent. Political violence characterizes the first part of the period – employed by armed insurgents in the name of social revolution and by military forces in the name of national security. Revolutionaries came to power only in Nicaragua; elsewhere, authoritarian states repressed dissent with unprecedented ferocity. These regimes then gave way to elected governments everywhere (except Cuba). Despite this fundamental shift to what we might call democracias reales, and despite the vast social and economic changes over these 50 years, high levels of violence have continued everywhere – violence now generally seen as criminal and social rather than political in character.

The coincidence of these two phenomena – the dynamism of religion and the persistence of alarming violence – motivated the fresh research published in 2015 in Las Iglesias ante la violencia en América Latina (or in the original English, Religious Reponses to Violence). This volume brings new perspectives to our existing understanding of the history of this period and proposes new directions for research on religion and violence – particularly on religious agency to mitigate violence and address human suffering. Fourteen authors – drawn from anthropology, sociology and political science as well as history – all demonstrate careful attention to specific historical context. The range of the volume offers significant opportunities for comparative analysis – between 10 countries studied in different chapters, between Catholic and Protestant Christianity, and between religious perceptions of violence in the past and in the present.

Two ideas – human rights and pastoral “accompaniment” – were distinctively religious contributions to the history of the period. Human rights became a broad social cause in Latin America for the first time, and the experience of the region was key to the international movement that emerged and continues to shape our contemporary world. The spread of grassroots pastoral ministries actively addressing issues of social justice – understood as the religious duty to “accompany” the poor in their daily struggles – was another significant phenomenon that changed how the churches related to conflict and violence and remains a social reality in Latin America today. The themes of human rights and pastoral accompaniment provide two major axes of analysis throughout the volume.

Together they suggest new answers to a number of basic questions about the relationship between religion and violence in Latin America during the last half-century:

What happened to Liberation Theology within the Catholic Church?

What was the relationship between Liberation Theology and the active religious defense of human rights?

How do Catholic and Evangelical responses reflect common ground within different branches of Christianity and how do they differ?

What do religious perspectives reveal about the changing nature of violence – and its remedies – in Latin America?

* “He leído el último documento del Padre Francisco de Roux, creo que ha pensado tan diferente de nosotros…ahí hay unos temas importantes que abren posibilidades para construir….”

Documents d’accompagnements pour suivre cette intervention :

Citer ce billet
Vincent Auzas (2016, 15 novembre). Intervention d’Alexander Wilde au séminaire Mémoires et histoires du temps présent en Amérique latine et Espagne le 16 Novembre. Carnet de l'Institut d'histoire du temps présent. Consulté le 15 juin 2024, à l’adresse

Par Vincent Auzas

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