Evangelicals are caught in the crossfire between Communist guerrillas and government forces.

Terrorist-related violence has bloodied Peru’s Ayacucho state for more than four years. In at least two recent incidents, evangelical churches were singled out and Christians were killed.

The Evangelical Pentecostal Church of Peru has lost 10 pastors in Ayacucho through terrorist attacks. A Presbyterian leader who fled to Lima, Peru’s capital, said guerrillas connected with the Maoist Sendero Luminoso (Shining Path) movement have prohibited evangelization and other church activities in remote villages that are under their control. It is considered dangerous even to carry a Bible, he said.

Another evangelical leader in Lima said it is believed that the army has killed innocent people it suspected of being terrorists. Merely talking with either the guerrillas or the soldiers is often regarded as complicity.

Shining Path has generally operated in the remote Andes Mountains regions of central Peru, and especially in the state of Ayacucho. Between 3,000 and 4,000 people have been killed, and hundreds more wounded since the Maoist organization’s seeming declaration of war four years ago.

In July, terrorists armed with machine guns and explosives attacked a Pentecostal prayer meeting in the jungle village of Santa Rosa. They left behind seven dead, seven seriously wounded, and seven with lesser wounds, said a pastor who survived the attack. He said guerrillas had previously threatened to kill the evangelicals because they refused to join Shining Path.

Santa Rosa has two churches—referred to as Number 1 and Number 2—that belong to the Evangelical Pentecostal Church of Peru. Due to a terrorist attack several days earlier, the Number 2 church had closed its doors. To encourage the congregation, the other Pentecostal believers called a united prayer meeting on July 27 at the Number 2 church. “A church of God should not be closed,” said Alfredo Vasquez, pastor of the Number 1 church.

Vasquez said violence erupted the afternoon of the prayer meeting. Terrorists burst into the church shouting and firing weapons. They sprayed the congregation with machine gun and small arms fire, he said, and some touched off explosives.

“The earth shook,” he said. “The brothers and sisters began running. Some threw themselves on the ground under the benches.”

Finally, the terrorists moved on to sack stores in the village for provisions. One of the Christians touched off a hand grenade given him by some soldiers, and the terrorists began to scatter, said Vasquez, who was wounded in the attack. The pastor was shot by a man he recognized as a baptized member of the church who had joined the guerrillas. The next day Vasquez was taken to the city of Ayacucho, the capital of Ayacucho state, where doctors removed 33 pieces of buckshot from his body.

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A few days later in the village of Callqui-Nisperocniyocc, two hours north of the city of Ayacucho, six Christians were murdered. Witnesses say government soldiers interrupted a prayer meeting at the National Evangelical Presbyterian Church. After searching for a certain woman and not finding her, some of the soldiers dragged six young men outside. Two soldiers stayed in the church and demanded that the congregation sing. The church members heard bursts of machine gun fire but thought the soldiers outside only wanted to scare them. Later, the horrified church members found the six men who had been dragged outside murdered within 25 feet of the church’s door.

Vicente Saico Tinco, a church elder from a neighboring city, said Christians in Callqui-Nisperocniyocc suspected that an enemy had denounced them as terrorists. On occasion, individuals falsely accuse personal enemies in order to get rid of them.

In a signed declaration, Saico, pastor Saturnino Gavilan, and church council president Victor Contreras asked the National Evangelical Council of Peru (CONEP) and Presbyterian Church leadership to report the incident to government authorities. The men wrote: “We must declare that the [murdered] … brothers were faithful believers in the Lord, and so it is even more painful to us that their lives have been taken without asking who was who, without any investigation whatsoever.”

Evangelicals have become targets of terrorist violence for a number of reasons. They generally oppose Shining Path’s violence and refuse to join the movement. They also get into trouble when they are interrogated. If they have talked to the police, they admit it when questioned by the rebels. They have the same problem if they tell the police they have talked to the guerrillas.

While guerrillas terrorize the population, police and armed forces personnel apparently have committed atrocities while trying to crack down on terrorism. Complicating the situation are peasant vigilante groups and the powerful and violent cocaine traffickers, who stand to benefit if anarchy reigns. Investigators suspect links between the guerrillas and the cocaine traffickers.

In August, evangelicals in Lima began to collect food, clothing, and money for Ayacucho residents who have been left destitute by the violence.

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Charles V. Morton, 48, has been named executive director of World Concern, an international relief and development organization based in Seattle. From 1972 through 1981, Morton served as vice-president of Far East operations for Pepsi Cola International. He negotiated Pepsi Cola’s first contract with the People’s Republic of China. He replaces Arthur L. Beals, executive director of World Concern since 1975.

Guy S. Sanders, Jr., has been elected president of The Gideons International. A building contractor from Bamberg, South Carolina, Sanders has served as the Gideons’ international vice-president for the past three years.

Vernon Grounds, president emeritus of Denver Conservative Baptist Seminary, has been named president of Evangelicals for Social Action (ESA). He will stay in Denver, where he directs a counseling center at the seminary. Grounds will attend major evangelical events as ESA’s chief spokesman. Ronald Sider, former president of the ESA board of directors, has become chairman of the board.

William L. Baumgaertner has been named associate director of the Association of Theological Schools in the United States and Canada. He will replace Marvin J. Taylor, who has held the post since 1970. Baumgaertner previously served as executive director of the seminary department of the National Catholic Education Association.

Joseph McFarland will be inaugurated this month as president of Geneva College in Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania. He assumed the presidency in July. McFarland previously served as director of academic affairs for the Kansas Board of Regents.

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