A frail pope recently completed a desperate trip to the last major Roman Catholic continent to try to re-lock the spiritual jail where 8000 people per day are escaping to freedom in Christ.
For nearly 500 years in Latin America, Jesuit inspired power politics has used superstition and idolatry to keep half the western hemisphere in grinding poverty and spiritual bondage.
But, since 1960, approximately 50 million have escaped. The break in the dam started with a trickle and is now a flood.
Newsweek's February 12 edition calls it a new Protestant Reformation. The Washington Post states that, "In the last 30 years, Latin America has experienced the largest increase in evangelical Christians of any region except Asia."
The pope's most pointed attack against Protestants was in Guatemala where he accused Protestant missionaries of sowing "confusion and uncertainty" among Roman Catholics. About 30 percent of the 10 million Guatemalans are now Protestant.
In recent years they have gained enough political power to threaten the Vatican's control of the government. In the last 20 years, evangelicals have been elected to the presidency as well as other government positions. While major evangelical denominations in the U.S. are cozying up to the pope, tens of thousands of Latin American Bible believers have been driven into refugee camps for converting from Catholicism.
Evangelical leaders have been assassinated, their wives and daughters raped and their houses burned to the ground. Much of the persecution is against native Indian tribes.
In the past, the local Catholic elite owned all the land and kept the impoverished natives in near slave labor conditions. Local officials did a thriving business in moonshine liquor. Drunken husbands and fathers would beat their wives and families and then obtain quick absolution from the local priests.
In the 1940s, Christian missionaries began filtering in preaching freedom from sin and Catholic bondage. Like Paul and Barnabas in Ephesus, this didn't sit well with the local idol makers.
Soon drunken mobs began overrunning the services of the "evanjelicos." Protestant leaders would be gunned down or simply disappear. For years local and even state government officials looked the other way.
As news of the atrocities leaked out, public opinion began to pressure the national governments into token gestures against the persecution. The Chiapas uprising in southern Mexico has focused the world's attention on the plight of these peoples.
When Pope John Paul II arrived in the area he was met by the hopes of millions enslaved by this political-religious system. Most are too deceived to understand that he is the cause of their plight, not a possible solution.
One 86-year-old woman traveled for five hours by bus and then walked five and one-half miles to join a crowd of 200,000 at one of the papal masses. After seeing him she declared, "He is the same as God."
So what was the pope-god's solution for the troubled lands? In country after country, he held up the wafer god for the huge crowds to worship and led his entourage from one idol to another in the shrines and cathedrals.
Instead of the gospel of hope, he played to the corrupt leadership and chided them for not doing a better job of "evangelization" of the poor. But for 10 generations they have suffered under this "evangelization" of superstition, ignorance and idol worship.
Newsweek quotes one Latin American writer: "the Catholic Church risks becoming an empty shell" because it is losing touch with the common people. "That is precisely what has enabled the Protestants to convert 8,000 Catholics a day," says Newsweek.
One of the things that has brought the simple message of salvation through faith alone to the streets of Latin America is gospel literature. Hundreds of thousands of Spanish Chick tracts that have been sown there by missionaries and local leaders.
If you know missionaries who work in Latin America or have contact with any local churches there, Chick Publications has tracts in their language that you can put into their hands to multiply their outreach.