In Chivarreto the Maldonado Hernandez family is gathered in the house of a neighbor for an Evangelical meeting. The family belongs to another church, but often visits other churches, sometimes twice a day during Easter. A truck is stationed outside the house. «Amantes de Cristo» is written in large letters, covering an image of young boys in black suits and cowboy hats who love Christ.
The Evangelical church is known to be more expressive than the Catholic church. Here, music is played and the participants sing along. Within the brick walls screaming can be heard. A woman stands in front of the band. She speaks in tongues and is shaking epilepticly with her arms up in the air. Most of the men are sitting on plastic chairs, while women are cooking outside.
«We are God's treasures», says the pastor. He shifts between talking K´iche and Spanish.
The audience murmurs in consent. Gloria Dios! Amen! A woman in a pink knit sweater is crying. She rocks rhythmically in her chair.
Guatemala is one of the most Christian countries in the world. 95 percent of the population of 15 million are Christians. The Catholic church is the most influential, but over the recent decades Evangelical churches have sprung up all over the country. Today there are 30.000 registered Evangelical priests in Guatemala. The Evangelical churches are often based in small buildings or in private houses, and are often closer to the rural population than the Catholic church. On the issue of abortion both churches are of the same opinion. They consider the inviolability of life to start at moment of conception. Induced abortion is therefore a sin.
No priests, neither Catholic or Evangelical, would be interviewed about illegal abortion. Consistently, it is difficult to get people to talk when the topic is abortion. With the exception of a Guttmacher-survey from 2006, there are few research projects on the extent of illegal abortion in Guatemala.
«Abortion is a non-issue», confirms Ludy Rodas, who heads the National Program for Reproductive Health, working on behalf of the Ministry of Health .
«It is difficult to put the spotlight on a health issue like abortion, both because it is illegal and because Guatemala is a very conservative country».
The church has great impact on the state and the laws in the country. Several members of the government are very religious. It is rumored that the Guatemalan Minister of Education was a member of the religious worldwide Roman Catholic organization Opus Dei.
When the Law on Family Planning, which has made contraceptives available and free, was adopted in 2002, it created a huge controversy. The Catholic Church strongly opposed. The Guatemalan goverment was pulled in two directions, between the Church and the people´s movement. The implementation of the law, was a result of international pressure.