The Church and Political Ambiguity

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For many latin americans the former President of Chile, Salvador Allende, was a symbol of hope. Democratically elected in 1970, he was for them the embodiment of a cherished desire for revolution without bloodshed. Under him Chile became the laboratory for a new political experiment that sought to combine radical social change with the rights commonly recognized in a country with a long-standing democratic tradition.

But the experiment was doomed to failure. Whatever one may think of the ideological color of Allende’s revolution, the fact remains that no small nation in the Third World is truly free today to follow its own course and to keep its economy unaffected by international pressures at the same time. Add to this the internal pressures created not only by the political conservatives but also by the extreme leftists, and you will easily understand the great economic chaos that overtook Chile in the months preceding the military blow of September, 1973.

For anyone who had no firsthand acquaintance with the Chilean Situation under Allende’s regime it is difficult to imagine the degree to which society was politicized during that period. Regardless of whether one had a political affiliation or not, he could not avoid siding either with or against the government and being labeled accordingly by everybody else among his neighbors, his fellow workers, and even his relatives. Not only neutrality but even fairness to those across the ideological barrier was nearly an impossibility. Even some evangelical churches were divided over political issues.

At the same time that thousands of citizens opposed to Allende left the country permanently, Chile became the Mecca of leftist activists from all over Latin America, particularly from ...

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