Peruvian Protestants hope to represent one-fourth of the nation's population by the year 2003--almost tripling in number in the next eight years.

This goal, included in a document drafted by church leaders at the recent Peru for Christ congress in Lima, sounds ambitious but not far-fetched considering rapid evangelical growth in the South American nation.

"The evangelical church in Peru is growing at a rate of 17 percent per year, one of the fastest growth rates anywhere in the world," says Harold Rivas, general director of the National Evangelical Council of Peru (CONEP), a group representing nearly all Peru's Protestant denominations. Protestants now constitute 9.3 percent of the 24 million people.

According to Rivas, the increase is the result of prayers and increased unity within the evangelical church. Suffering from years of terrorist-related violence and extreme poverty also has made people more receptive, he says.

More than 1,200 church leaders from every part of Peru (roughly the size of Alaska) and most Protestant groups attended the four-day Peru for Christ congress that ended November 3. Financial assistance from the Colorado Springs-based dawn (Discipling a Whole Nation) Ministries helped cover travel costs for pastors from impoverished regions in the interior.

"We aren't trying to convert Peru into a Protestant country," Rivas says in regard to the goal. "Just because someone is Protestant doesn't mean he's a committed Christian.

"Our task is bringing about holistic growth in which the Christian is committed not only to his church, but also to making a difference in his society and country."

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