El Pastor del No
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In Cartagena, Colombia, Miguel Arrázola, the pastor of the church called Rios de Vida, campaigned to vote against the peace agreement in the plebiscite that was held on 2nd of October 2016. This political activity interests me, because the Colombian conflict was not fought along religious lines. In this thesis I will therefore try to answer the question: What political role has pastor Miguel Arrázola played in the campaign on the plebiscite about the peace agreement in Cartagena, Colombia? Research shows that religious leaders have resources available to them, that are unavailable to other actors: religious resources and religious space. Arrázola used these resources, in combination with non-religious resources to create resonance for his campaign. The arguments the pastor used in his campaign were partly religiously justified. The most important arguments were that the FARC did not face enough punishment, Colombia would face economic disaster, that Santos – the president that negotiated the agreement – was unfit to bring peace and that the agreement promoted unbiblical family values. This argument build on existing sentiments in society because before the plebiscite similar protests had been held against manuals in high schools about gender identity, but can less convincingly be linked to the pastor. All these arguments were also used by Centro Democrático, the political party of ex-president Uribe. The pastor used his religious space: the church, to promote his ideas, but he performed publicly as well. The organization of Rios de Vida is hierarchical, giving Arrázola much credibility as a speaker in the eyes of his parishioners. The marches Arrázola attended were organized by Centro Democrático, and confronted him with audiences that did not solely consist of parishioners. Some interpreted his public affiliation with Uribe – the ex-president and national leader of the 'No' campaign - positively, but Arrázola was also criticized for mixing religion and politics. The pastor has not engaged in interviews with mass media but prefers to use social media as his outlet, extending his religious space to places where he can speech but does not have to respond. The impact of the campaign can be evaluated on different levels. In numbers, No won on national level, but 'Yes' won in Cartagena. The pastor has been able to influence negotiation by forming alliances with other conservative pastors that got a seat at the table to renegotiate the peace agreement. Arrázola’s name has become more famous, but this may attract as well as repel parishioners. Conservative politicians have successfully mobilized religious leaders to support their cause, which probably will have effects on the presidential elections in 2018. In Cartagena interest in politics remains low, despite the polarizing discourse caused by the plebiscite. Recognizing that in Latin America religion has been an important factor in politics historically, and that Evangelical religion is growing I suggest that future research focuses on the links between mega-churches and politics.