Republic of Chile
March 23

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Area 756,626 A 4,200 km long country wedged between the mountains of the Andes and the Pacific Ocean and averaging only 150 km in width. Also Easter Island in the Central Pacific. Great extremes of climate from the hot northern Atacama Desert to Antarctic tundra in the south.

Population Ann.Gr. Density
2000 15,211,294 +1.37% 20 per sq. km.
2010 17,010,268 +1.06% 22 per sq. km.
2025 19,547,916 +0.81% 26 per sq. km.

About 40% of the population live near the capital and 85% overall in the temperate central provinces. The northern desert and wet, cold mountains in the south have few inhabitants.

Capital Santiago 5,261,000. Urbanites 86%.


A relatively homogeneous society.

Chilean 89.7%.

Mestizo 70.7%.

European 19% (Spanish, Italian, French, German, British, etc.).

Amerindian 8%. 9 peoples. Mapuche (Auracan) about half of whom still speak Mapudungun 1,100,000; Quechua 120,000; Aymara 76,000.

Polynesian 0.2%. Rapa Nui 27,000.

Other 2.1%. European 120,000; Roma 60,000; Arab 3,000; Chinese 2,000.

Literacy 95%. Official language Spanish (but Mapudungun increasingly recognized). All languages 10. Languages with Scriptures 2Bi 2NT 1por 2w.i.p.


Mining and export of minerals, especially copper, is the most important economic activity. Considerable industrialization and agricultural development. Draconian implementation of free market policies by the former regime brought economic stability, a trade surplus, tamed inflation, curbed corruption and fostered growth, but at great social cost. A prospective member of NAFTA. About 30% of the population live in poverty. Unemployment 13%. HDI 0.844; 34th/174. Public debt 6% of GNP. Income/person $4,860 (15% of USA).


Republic independent from Spain in 1810. The socialist government elected in 1970 was ousted in a bloody military coup in 1973. The controversial Pinochet regime imposed political conformity and economic change with many cases of human rights abuse. The referendum and electoral defeats in 1988/9 opened the way for a democratic government which is cautiously attempting to heal the wounds of the past and the deep divisions in society.


The Catholic Church was disestablished in 1925. There is freedom of religion, but legislation to make all denominations equal under law foundered in the 1990s on Catholic objections.

Religions Population % Adherents Ann.Gr.
Christian 89.16 13,562,390 +1.3%
non-Religious/other 9.55 1,452,679 +2.1%
Traditional ethnic 0.88 133,859 +1.1%
Jewish 0.22 33,465 +2.3%
Baha'i 0.12 18,254 +3.2%
Buddhist 0.04 6,085 +4.3%
Muslim 0.03 4,563 +5.6%

Christians Denom. Affil.% ,000 Ann.Gr.
Protestant 39 3.36 512 +3.5%
Independent 1,192 14.31 2,177 +0.4%
Anglican 1 0.08 12 +0.5%
Catholic 1 72.97 11,100 +1.1%
Orthodox 5 0.16 24 -0.7%
Marginal 3 3.85 585 +3.6%
Unaffiliated   2.97 452 n.a.
Doubly affiliated   -8.54 -1,300 n.a.

Churches MegaBloc Cong. Members Affiliates
Catholic C 800 6,646,707 11,100,000
Pentecostal Methodist I 4,000 300,000 602,000
Latter-day Sts (Morm) M 1,036 269,461 450,000
Evang Pentecostal I 1,800 180,000 361,000
Pentecostal I 340 110,000 157,300
Jehovah's Witnesses M 645 59,519 135,000
Seventh-day Adventist P 480 96,000 135,000
Evang Army of Chile I 200 60,000 75,000
Chr & Miss. Alliance P 128 18,139 70,000
Baptist Convention P 270 35,000 47,000
Methodist P 120 16,000 30,000
Ch of God (Cleveland) P 231 17,301 30,000
Assemblies of God P 194 8,944 16,000
Anglican Ch of Chile A 46 6,000 12,500
Other denoms [1,227]   11,828 1,278,387 2,190,000
Doubly counted I   -556,000 -1,000,000
Doubly affiliated     -844,000 -1,300,000
Total Christians [1,241]   23,197 7,990,486 13,377,000

Estimates for Independents/Evangelicals vary widely. Few indigenous groups keep statistics.

Trans-bloc Groupings pop. % ,000 Ann.Gr
Evangelical 16.8 2,556 +1.7%
Charismatic 24.4 3,705 +1.2%
  Pentecostal 12.2 1,850 +0.1%

Missionaries from Chile
P,I,A 233 in 16 agencies to 27 countries: Chile 170, Bolivia 7, Middle East 6.

Missionaries to Chile
P,I,A 630 in 72 agencies from 22 countries: USA 387, Paraguay 46.

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Answers to Prayer

1 The stabilization of democratic government, and obtaining of equal privileges for Evangelicals with the Catholics.

2 The steady growth of Evangelicals this century to 16% of the population by 2000. This growth is unique. A Pentecostal revival in 1909 within the Methodist Church gave birth to a dynamic, indigenous Pentecostal movement with great evangelistic zeal. The lower classes were evangelized and churches and denominations multiplied. Pentecostal growth has catalyzed change in the Catholic Church; there is now a significant Catholic charismatic renewal movement.

Challenges for Prayer

1 Chile is a deeply divided nation. The political problems of the past – violence and crimes on the part of the extreme left, then the severe repression of the subversives with the disappearance of about 1,500 people and exile of many more by the military government – continue to be live issues. The great need is for both sides to forgive and forget the past and become reconciled to each other. Christians are also divided on the issue.

2 The Roman Catholic Church has been deeply impacted by three major forces:

a) Liberation theology. The identification of many Catholic leaders with liberation theology (with its Marxist presuppositions) alienated many Chileans of the middle and upper classes from the Church and did little to win the poor who had already abandoned it because of its past identification with the ruling classes.

b) Loss of political power – now that there is equality of all religions before the law.

c) The widespread distribution and use of the Bible, the growth of the charismatic movement, and a significant exodus of Catholics to evangelical churches. About 20% of the population was born Catholic, but has left the Roman Catholic Church. Only 15% of Catholics regularly attend church.

Pray that Catholics may adapt to a new era and that many might find true liberation and peace through a personal faith in Christ.

3 Evangelicals are poised to exercise a pivotal role in the new millennium. The danger remains that goodwill and respect may be eroded by failures and squandered opportunities. Pray against:

a) Disunity and fragmentation of Evangelicals. It is estimated there are between 1,200 and 5,000 denominations, with one or two starting every week. Nowhere in the world has there been so many divisions among Pentecostals. There is a need for humility and reconciliation.

b) Traditionalism. A century of growth and success is increasing a gift-less Pentecostal nominalism, perpetuating dynamic methods of evangelism no longer effective and imposing dictatorial leadership patterns that stunt spiritual growth. Revival is needed.

c) Contempt for theological education and message preparation before services has resulted in poor teaching, legalism, the Word becoming less important than personal visions, personality cults – especially among Pentecostals – and a steady loss of Evangelicals to the Mormons and Jehovah's Witnesses. Pray for TEE (SEAN and FLET) programmes and the various theological institutions addressing this widespread need, such as the National Bible Institute of Chile with 700 students in the capital and a further 700 in the provinces.

d) Isolationism. Of the 16% of the population that is evangelical, 75% belong to indigenous denominations that have impacted the lower classes but have few links with global Christianity. This stunts a vision for missions, and leaves culture quirks and weaknesses unchallenged.

e) Affluence. Numerical growth and increasing wealth breed complacency. Only 38% of Evangelicals are regular church-goers. Pentecostal nominalism is a major problem. For the past 15 years growth has plateaued.

4 The middle and upper classes have been far less impacted by Evangelicals. Only 12% of Evangelicals are of these groups. Evangelical denominations from abroad have generally been more effective than Pentecostals in reaching them. Santiago has 1,150 evangelical congregations, but only 20 of them are middle/upper class. The Baptists, CMA, Anglicans (SAMS), AoG, CoN, SIM and others have made some progress in planting churches among them. Pray for every stratum of Chilean society to be reached.

5 The Chilean Church lacks mission vision. Its contribution for its size is very small. Pentecostal churches have shown little concern for world evangelization. The country's geographical and spiritual isolation and political upheavals have all contributed to this deficiency. The influence of COMIBAM and locally based mission agencies (OM, YWAM, CMA, CENCAMI, SIM, WBT and others) on the Latin American Missions movement in setting up missions training programmes have stimulated some interest in missions.

6 Foreign missions in Chile. The major agencies are Christian Chs/Chs of Christ (92 workers), YWAM (81), IMB-SBC (62), ABWE (40), CMA (39), AoG (35), Gospel Mission of South America (29), MTW (21), Brethren (20), BBF (19) and SAMS (15). The major task for missionaries is to serve the large Chilean Church in teaching, developing Chilean leadership and encouraging a missionary vision. Pioneer work is limited to some peoples listed below and among the upper class and the urban slum dwellers. Pray that the missionaries' contribution may prove vital for maturing the Chilean Church.

7 Less reached peoples:

a) The Mapuche (speaking Mapudungun) are the largest and most independent of Chile's indigenous peoples. A strong nationalist movement is agitating successfully for improved land rights and cultural recognition. About 70% are nominally Catholic, but the old animistic religion is still the most influential spiritual force and years of abuse, exploitation and oppression by outsiders have bred deep mistrust. The work of the Anglican Church has resulted in a strong community of 4,000 Christians. CMA, AoG, MttW and others have initiated work among them; SIM is developing Mapudungun TEE programmes. The Pentecostals have won many Mapuche migrants in the cities. Two SIL workers completed the New Testament into one of the dialects in 1997.

b) Rapa Nui (Easter Islanders) are a largely Polynesian people. The majority now live on the mainland. Their society is in disintegration and many are losing hope. Tourism, movie-making, AIDS, alcohol and emigration have all exacted their toll. Most are nominally Catholic, but there are about 50 evangelical believers in two small fellowships. One SIL couple is seeking to translate the NT into their language.

c) Drug abuse is a major problem in the cities. Pray for those seeking to bring deliverance to those affected.

d) The Jews of Santiago.

e) The Roma (Gypsies) have been neglected. Only the SdA have a church among them.

f) The handicapped. Little has been done to reach the deaf, blind and other handicapped.

8 Student witness in the 17 universities and among the 233,000 students is not strong. There are 14 GBU(IFES) groups and three full-time staff workers. CCCI (40 overseas workers) has a considerable impact on secondary schools and some universities.

9 Christian media:

a) Literature is proving a vital evangelistic and teaching tool, but too few Christians have developed a reading habit. Pray that more pastors buy study books. CLC is the only major book distributor in the country; pray for the 26 workers, the seven bookstores and the large wholesale distribution network. SIM also plans to open a literature ministry.

b) Christian radio and TV programmes are widely available on national, commercial and 25 Christian stations. Radio has had a big influence on the spread of the gospel in Chile. IBRA radio has continuous transmission from 10 stations. International broadcasts from TWR-Bonaire, HCJB-Ecuador and others from the USA beam in many hours of Spanish programmes.

c) The JESUS film is in wide use in both Spanish and Mapudungun.

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