Short on electricity, food and water, Venezuelans return to religion


The lights in Petare had gone dark. Again.

The people of Venezuela’s largest slum were used to the blackouts that halt the flow of water, exhaust their supplies of expensive candles and fray their already thin patience.

But this would not be like any other lightless night in the hillside barrio. Amid the darkened alleyways, a strange, joyful sound emerged between the zinc-roofed homes. Tambourines jingled, maracas rattled, drums throbbed. Voices called all who could hear to salvation.

“Cristo sana y salva . . .” 10 members of the Restoring Hearts church sang against the darkness. “Christ heals and saves. . . .”

Buffeted by political and humanitarian crises, one of Latin America’s least religious countries is turning to faith. As the political stalemate between President Nicolás Maduro and opposition leader Juan Guaidó grinds into another month, and shortages of electricity, food and water reduce life to a daily struggle to survive, leaders across religious traditions are reporting a flood of worshippers, lapsed and new, searching for comfort and answers.

“All my masses are full, which has never happened before,” said the Rev. Jesús Godoy, a Catholic priest at the Good Shepherd parish in the Chacao district of Caracas. He says he’s seeing more than 2,000 people each weekend.

“They beg for help,” Godoy said. “They want God to give them the tools to live in crisis.”

In this deeply polarized country, analysts are watching for signs that this growing faithful could emerge as a political force.

Already there are indications: Clergy members hold forth on the country’s woes in homilies and sermons. Churches, synagogues and mosques increase their services to the poor. Priests and nuns attend rallies for Guaidó in their clerical dress.

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