Today is Reformation Day, the anniversary of the day in 1517 when Martin Luther nailed his famous 95 theses to the door of the church in Wittenberg in eastern Germany and set off the Protestant Reformation. It is a public holiday in the five eastern German states, in Slovenia and — this year for the first time — in Chile.
Chile? Isn’t that traditionally a Catholic country? Even the Catholic parts of Germany don’t celebrate Reformation Day.
Yes, Chile is traditionally Catholic, but now only about 70% so. Like elsewhere in Latin America, Protestant churches — especially evangelicals and Pentecostals — have spread rapidly in recent decades. They now make up just over 15% of the Chilean population, up from 7% in 1970. It’s not a new story, but creating a holiday especially for Protestants is a symbolic step towards recognising the changes in the religious landscape in Latin America.
The holiday is not officially called Reformation Day but Día Nacional de las Iglesias Evangélicas y Protestantes — National Day of the Evangelical and Protestant Churches. President Michelle Bachelet mentioned the Luther link in a speech (here in Spanish) about the new holiday, which she stressed was a sign of equality of faiths in Chile’s secular state. She also called it a form of recognition of the contribution made by the evangelical churches to national progress in all fields, of their preaching of values that enrich our existence and strengthen the culture of tolerance and respect.”
Do you think if other Latin American countries will follow Santiago’s example? Should they?