Border vote poses challenge to evangelicals

Border vote poses challenge

Communion between Guatemalan and Belizean evangelicals at the border.

PRAYER ALERT on border vote poses challenge. The thorniest foreign issue for both Belize and Guatemala will come to a head on April 18. On that date Guatemala will vote on whether to take its claim to own the entire land of Belize to the International Court of Justice (ICJ). Belize will vote on a later date. Evangelicals from both nations are seeking better understanding on this issue in order to avert fresh hostilities as the border referendum approaches.

NEAB first met formally with Guatemalan evangelicals on May 28, 2016 at the border station near Melchor, Guatemala. Our border dispute had recently flared up again. An exchange of gunfire between Guatemalan trespassers and Belize Defense Force soldiers at night had killed a 13-year-old Guatemalan boy. The newly-elected President Jimmy Morales was reviving Guatemala’s claim on Belize. He rushed 1000 troops to the border. The conflict had reached a fever pitch. Consequently Belize Prime Minister Barrow warned Belizean civilians to stay away from the border.

But he gladly granted access to NEAB for the purpose of prayer at the border. There a line of Belizean evangelicals faced a line of Guatemalan evangelicals. We took communion and embraced. We worshiped God in both English and Spanish together. And we prayed for mutual understanding, respect, harmony and peace. Then God quickly answered our prayers. He defused the crisis and calmed tensions.

Border vote poses challenge

Evangelicals celebrate moves toward reconciliation.

In fact, the Guatemalans invited us to join them seven weeks later for a conference in Santa Elena, Peten. In response, five of us went. They welcomed us gladly with wide and open arms. They brought us onstage. And they interrupted their program to engage in repentance for the sins of Guatemala against Belize. In turn we repented for Belize’s sins against Guatemala. There was hugging, weeping and forgiveness. Then we blessed each other. We celebrated what the Lord had done. At the end, we found it hard to tear ourselves away.

But the upcoming border referendum threatens to strain our newfound friendships. We could not avoid that issue when six of us attended another big evangelical conference in Guatemala City on January 25. Again they welcomed us enthusiastically. Again they honored us and exchanged blessings with us. But before we left, we felt compelled to seek better understanding on the border issue.

President Otilio Lopez of the Association of Guatemalan Evangelical Ministries.

So we spoke with Otilio Lopez, President of the Association of Guatemalan Evangelical Ministries. Our president, Lance Lewis, stated the basic case for Belize’s sovereignty and asked President Lopez to help us convey our case to other Guatemalans of influence. Accordingly, President Lopez received this well. He said he would not only help us on this sensitive topic. He would also seek to visit Belize soon and learn more.

In the meantime, we are seeking another prayer encounter between evangelicals from both nations near the very touchy southern border. There Guatemalan forces have tried to block Belizean patriotic groups from asserting their rights to visit the uninhabited Sarstoon Island. That island is claimed by both nations. In order to understand these competing claims, we must go back in history.

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DailyInsight. There’s a difference between fighting words and winning words. Fighting words intensify conflicts. Winning words end them (See Eph. 4:30).

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