Argentinian-born evangelist Alberto Mottesi on September 30 had the rare opportunity to advise Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega on the problems of Latin America. Ortega attended the closing session of a leadership seminar during which some 2,500 Nicaraguan pastors, lay leaders, and youth attended meetings taught by 16 members of Mottesi’s team.
At one point in his closing message, the evangelist turned to Ortega and said that the solution to the region’s economic and political turmoil will come “from neither the White House nor from Moscow, nor Havana.” Mottesi continued, “Mr. President, the solution will come by returning to God, serving God, by loving Christ.”
Ortega, in his greeting to the group, said he favored freedom of religion, without prejudice, for all religions in Nicaragua.
Mottesi was invited to the country by the National Council of Evangelical Pastors of Nicaragua (CNPEN), an assocation of over 850 pastors from several denominations. In an interview with CHRISTIANITY TODAY following his recent trip, Mottesi addressed several topics relating to Nicaragua:
• The status of evangelicals: Mottesi said Ortega’s presence at the closing session marked the first time the government has recognized CNPEN. He said Ortega guaranteed that official, legal recognition—something CNPEN has long sought—is forthcoming. Mottesi added that evangelicals were encouraged both by Ortega’s presence at their meeting and g by his remarks.
• The spread of Marxism: The evangelist did not g comment directly on the motives of Nicaragua’s Sandinista government, which has identified itself as Marxist. But he said the situation in Nicaragua cannot be compared to that in Cuba following its Marxist revolution. The difference, Mottesi said, is the size and influence of the church. Noting what he called “explosive evangelistic growth” throughout Latin America, the evangelist strongly expressed his confidence that “Marxism in Central America will not be able to stop the growth of the church.”
• CEPAD (Evangelical Committee for Aid to Development): While referring to those associated with CEPAD as “brothers,” Mottesi said the group, which emerged following the country’s 1972 earthquake, has compromised the gospel as a result of its blatantly political efforts. He cited as an example a CEPAD-sponsored “Pastoral Ethics” seminar that was essentially a public relations effort on behalf of the current government.
Mottesi also accused CEPAD of trying to destabilize the evangelical community. He explained that while even the government press reported favorably on his recent visit, a published article written by a CEPAD representative alleged the visit had political purposes. The article cited the timing of the trip, just a few months away from next February’s elections. Mottesi said, however, that he scheduled the leadership seminar before the government set the date of the elections.
• The February elections: While in Nicaragua, Mottesi said, he preached that Christians should be “missionaries in sports, the arts, in industry, at the university, and in the political realm.” He said that CNPEN leaders have encouraged believers to become involved in the political process, something they have eschewed in the past.
Opinions among evangelicals differ, the evangelist said, as to whether or not the elections will be fair. But he said confidence in a fair process is increasing as more become involved either as participants or observers.
Mottesi declined to speculate as to which—if any—candidate evangelicals favor. But he said some evangelical leaders have expressed concern about the main opposition candidate, Violeta Chamorro, whose family owns the opposition newspaper La Prensa. The paper, Mottesi said, declined to report on the October 1 “Day of the Bible” celebration organized by the United Bible Society in Nicaragua until it received the approval of Catholic authorities.
• Nicaragua’s future: “I want to think that the best will happen, that democracy will be established in Nicaragua,” Mottesi said. He added his view that the country’s ability to solve its problems will depend on its establishment of an “authentic, democratic state.”
Meanwhile, he said, “The church is defining its position within Nicaraguan society. The government is listening to the church; the press is listening. And the church is having an influence.”
Mottesi and his team will return to Nicaragua later this month for crusades in seven cities, including Managua. He hopes the effort will reach 500,000 people with the gospel.
By Randy Frame.
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