The resurgence of indigenous peoples - and their fight for recognition, greater autonomy and self-determination. From Arctic to tropics to Antarctic, natives were routinely exterminated, subjugated and swindled out of their lands and rights. In many regions this struggle took on violent overtones - Guatemala, Peru, Mexico - while in others it has been chiefly legal and political. Such trends also foster growth in the pre-Christian religions and superstitions once held by these peoples. Additionally, the legacy and progeny of the 11 million African slaves brought to the New World are issues that likewise demand repentance, reparation and reconciliation from the European colonizers. It was chiefly Christians who fought to end the slave trade and evangelize the native peoples of the Americas; it should be Christians who lead the way in walking out the path of full reconciliation. Pray that God would create humble hearts in His people. May we be willing to truly listen to one another and do whatever it takes to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. (Eph 4:3)
Illegal drugs, particularly cocaine, cause untold suffering and upheaval. They have wrought havoc in the countries producing the coca leaf as a crop (Colombia, Bolivia, Ecuador, Peru, others), to the countries used for trans-shipment (Central America and Caribbean, but mostly Mexico), to the consumers (primarily the US), but in fact all countries. Addictions, broken lives, violence, crime and corruption, greed, and overwrought judicial, law enforcement and prison systems are all results of this systemic sin. Criminal cartels and leftist guerrillas are funded while legitimate governments are seemingly powerless to stop the billions of dollars enriching wicked men. Gangs involved in trafficking wield more power than the government in some areas. Quite apart from cocaine, new forms of synthetic drugs are more easily produced and harder to detect – but just as dangerous. Current strategies to end the drug trade are not effective at reducing production, demand or dealers. Pray for effective and viable policies to combat this evil, and pray that God might move in such a way as to end the seemingly insatiable appetite that fuels the whole evil structure.
Widespread human need exists, even in these relatively stable and affluent continents. Economic poverty is the most obvious, having been a defining factor for decades in the political and even theological developments in Latin America. But lack of education and literacy, health issues, lack of clean water and sanitation, and persistent urban violence and crime all continue to plague much of the region. The Caribbean has the highest murder rate of any region in the world. While democratic government continues to take root in some places, in many others it is a fledgling concepts and needs both integrity by leaders and committed endurance by the population.
Environmental degradation and exploitation will have a direct and tragic impact on Amerindian peoples and indirectly on the entire world. The disappearing Amazon rainforest is only the most prominent of such issues; the Central American forests and overuse of US aquifers are other serious issues. Short-term greed is doing long-term or even permanent damage. Unsustainable consumption and industrial pollution exacerbate the problem. Biblical stewardship of natural resources is a theological imperative.
Countries facing an uncertain, possibly traumatic future:
- Cuba, after the 2009 resignation of Fidel Castro as president, still needs to recover from over five decades of Marxism and economic isolation.
- Venezuela, despite its vast oil reserves, is in the midst of an economic and political meltdown. In 2017, massive protests against the obdurate and increasingly autocratic leader and ruler party saw millions of Venezuelans take to the streets. Government intransigence led to violent crackdowns, hyperinflation, widespread poverty, and unprecedented emigration simply to find safety, food, shelter, and medical care.
- Haiti, where the devastation of the 2010 earthquake piled onto the extant poverty and human suffering. Failure to adequately rebuild, corrupt or inept governments, and scandal even among aid organisations adds more layers to the helplessness and frustration.
- Guyana, with unresolved ethnic tensions, unstable government and looming claims upon its territory by larger nations.
Economic changes are sounding for the Americas in the 21st Century. The Andean Community of Nations (CAN), CARICOM (Caribbean Single Market and Economy Treaty), MERCOSUR (Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay) and NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement) oversee the spread of shared markets and free trade arrangements. In the future, this may grow to encompass the entire New World. The emergence of Brazil as a world economic power, the proportionate decline of the USA as the same and the increased investment and involvement of China are all significant factors. Pray that economic policies might be determined with moral rightness and courage - not moved by selfish, vested interests of ethnicity, economic power structures or big business. Pray that the results may also benefit the poor and the marginalized, improve the quality of life and human rights and address vital ecological concerns.
A healthier but still idiosyncratic approach to democracy is growing in most countries. The majority of Latin Americans polled seem to favour governments with autocratic and populist strains, but they despise military dictatorships. The assumption that market capitalism is the only economic way forward empowers neo-liberal parties and economics. Democracy, once seen to empower only the elite, is increasingly being levelled - as the elections of Morales in Bolivia and Lula in Brazil indicate. However, corruption is still endemic to some nations, and political stability and healthy multiparty systems remain difficult to achieve, especially for poorer or smaller countries and those with weaker democratic traditions.
A massive movement of peoples - unprecedented since the discovery and colonization of the New World - is changing the face of many nations. North America is a land full of immigrants of every imaginable background, with Hispanics in particular increasing rapidly. The Caribbean routinely suffers a huge loss of its most gifted and well educated (including Christian leaders), with negative social and economic consequences. Internal migration in Brazil from the poor northeastern states to the burgeoning Amazon, and migration from poorer regions of Central America to wealthier areas, only partially complete the picture. Chinese and Arab peoples continue to immigrate to the Americas in large numbers.
The rise of anti-Christian secularism and aggressive atheism that seeks to marginalize the Church through control of the media and legislation. The increasing imposition of secularism upon civic, academic and political life, and the growing stridence of atheist apologists, disguise a specific disdain or even hatred for Christianity. The watchword of tolerance is exercised through multiculturalism and pluralism, but not extended to those who wish to practice their Christian faith in the public sphere.
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Content taken or adapted from Operation World, 7th Edition (2010) and Pray for the World (2015). Both books are published by InterVarsity Press. All rights reserved.