“The current state of affairs here worries us,” prayed my much respected compañero and colleague during our staff meeting on a Tuesday afternoon. Every Tuesday afternoon at about 3:00PM, I sit at a table surrounded by seven other men who are much older and wiser than myself. I have asked myself from day one, “What am I doing here?” And the truth is, I’m still asking that question. Who are these men? These are the people whom I serve with, eat with, encourage, and meet together to pray with.
So what are the events for which we were praying and were (are) somewhat troubling? Politics. The religious freedom that we currently
enjoy have is very loosely applied. It is also subject to change. It is cause for alarm when a city hall in a major city cancels the lease contract that an evangelical church has on a building and is up to date on their payments. How can a city hall, for no apparent reason, force any non-catholic church/organization/association to close it’s doors? But that is the reality. There is a new law here in Cataluña that says all religious entities must have a license/permit to perform any type of religious activity, be it a prayer meeting, church service, etc. The law is to be enforced as loosely or strictly as every city hall, specifically the mayor, sees fit. At any time the city hall has the power to make a decision to close any religious establishment.
If you would like to read more on this, provided below are two articles (in Spanish).
As a response to these things, the evangelical churches and Christians here in Cataluña made a public gathering in Barcelona last Saturday at 17:00 hrs. Here are some photos of the event.
It is interesting that during the Franco regime, there was no law, hence there was no religious freedom. Churchgoers during the years of Franco’s dictatorship might have arrived to church on Sunday and have found chains on the doors barring their entry. What we have today, is actually worse than the Franco dictatorship. We’re not moving into a progressive bright future, we’re taking steps backward. During the dictatorship of Franco, there was no law. Now, there is law but it does not protect the religious people in this country. Have you heard about what’s happening in Egypt
? It is a different case, in a different country, but it is an example that we are not guaranteed protection from the government.
We have upcoming elections in Spain and it is probable that the tide will shift from one majority party to another. Over the lasts several years we have had a very socialist, very liberal government that has openly helped and aided religious groups here in Spain. An example of this would be the granting of religious worker visas, of which I currently have. The party that is likely to come into power is very conservative, strictly Catholic, and protestants/evangelicals are unsure what this means as far as legislation, funding, freedom, etc.
There is a sixteen year project that is in the final step of being approved (by the current government). The project is the formal accreditation of five protestant seminaries here in Spain. These five seminaries have sacrificed and worked through every possible obstacle that the government has put in it’s way, dotting i’s and crossing t’s and prayerfully gone through each step (and they have been numerous) leading up to the last one. If this does not get pushed through in time before the elections, the slate will be wiped clean with the new government. Which means the accreditation project will also be nothing but a post-it in the trash from the old administration. The encouraging thing is that these seminaries have been forming men and women for ministry and service for decades and will continue to do so, with or without formal recognition.
Last Friday, 11/11/2011, the ministers of the government approved the bill and the five seminaries now stand as International Universities with full rights and privileges. To read some articles about this momentous decision:
Goverments change. The people that govern us change. The church has struggled since it’s beginning with challenges and persecution, maybe we just need a wake up call.