Guatemalan Pentecostals emphasize equality


From BBC News. In a suburb of Guatemala City, a 90-day non-stop televised fundraiser for a Pentecostal church is in full swing. At one end of a courtyard is a make-shift TV studio, where a steady stream of believers are queuing to present gifts to a pastor live on air.

A man and his son have brought two floppy-eared puppies. A boy of seven has brought a cute white kitten. A woman and her daughter are clutching a plump brown hen. Noise fills the air, but the animals are quiet.

Perhaps they know they are about to be donated?

The man and the boy with the puppies are next up. They are ushered in front of the cameras, where the pastor waits to bless and thank them. With tears in their eyes the pair hand over the dogs to church workers, who whisk them away.

But these tears are not for the puppies, they are tears of joy at having helped the church. "We are not sad to give these dogs," explains the man to me afterwards. "We are doing something that will help spread the word throughout Guatemala."

The dogs do not have far to go. Next door to the studio is an ad-hoc market. Here, everything that is donated to the church is put on sale to other worshippers. The money raised this way joins the donations pouring in from callers to the phone lines. The goal is to raise enough to build a new television studio, a high-tech purpose-built media hub to carry the Pentecostal message across all of Guatemala.

"They bring wonderful gifts - animals, televisions, even cars," the church's smiling PR woman tells me. "And it's all for one reason, and that is to spread the word of God."

Here at the tele-marathon, it is clear from the dark skin and flashes of traditional textiles that many of the followers are of indigenous Mayan descent.

These people are generally poor, and discrimination against them by the elites of European descent is a part of life here.

Not inside the churches, though, where everyone embraces everyone. In a deeply divided society, Pentecostal churches offer a level of equality difficult to find elsewhere...

Read the full article at BBC News.

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