Spain: Evangelical leader says media puts Protestants at the back of the bus

politics | May 28, 2013 | By Martin Barillas

Pedro Tarquis, the director of the Protestant Digital website in Spain, complained about alleged mistreatment of Protestant Christians in the mostly secular but traditionally Catholic country. Likening the current situation to the treatment meted out to black Americans during the Jim Crow era in the U.S., Tarquis said "Like black Americans in the time of Martin Luther King, evangelical Christians ride at the back of the bus, socially, in Spain and without equal access to the media or the same dignity.” Tarquis, who is also the communications director for Spain’s evangelical alliance, delivered these words during a May 17 lecture at the Martin Luther lecture hall at the University of Las Palmas in the Canary Islands.
 
The mirror provided by the media reflects a debt that democracy owes to religious pluralism in general and protestants especially,” said Tarquis in his lecture. Also on hand were members of university faculty.
 
The title of his talk was “Political transition in Spain: was there a religious transition (the mirror of the media).” Tarquis praised Spain’s evolution from its majoritarian Catholic past to its current political pluralism, having left behind the years under dictator Francisco Franco and advanced towards a constitutional system that enshrines democracy and the rule of law. “But democracy is just the base, a good base, but it is not enough by itself. This is reflected in discrimination and the use of women as objects in publicity campaigns and the terrible reality of domestic violence,” he said.
 
Likewise, said Tarquis, “non-Catholic denominations are seen by the media with a view that persists in prejudice, topics and exclusions that would be unthinkable for other groupings.” He mentioned numerous examples of ill-informed use of language, in which the media refer to Protestant worship as “Evangelical mass,” which for him is as erroneous as the formulation “Catholic mosque.” He also criticized the use of the term “evangelist churches,” saying “there were four Evangelists: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, while Evanglicals are as numerous as Catholics the world over.”
 
Tarquis believes that the cause for these misunderstandings, “…in the majority of cases is simply tradition, accommodation and cultural inertia.” 
 
He recalled that the same issues existed in debates over women’s voting rights or racial equality in the time of Martin Luther King. “Like them (black Americans), we Evangelical Christians travel at the back of the bus in Spain; we don’t have access to equality in the media nor the same dignity.”
 
Adding, “Is this an exaggeration? I think not, since it is the media that speaks of ‘the Church’ as if there were no others than the Catholic Church.” He concluded that the media refers to any Christian worship service as a mass, and Evangelical pastors are called “Evanglical priests.” For Tarquis, this makes as much sense as referring to “Jewish imams.” In sum, said Tarquis, “Even our very existence is denied by the media.”


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Spero News editor Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. His first novel 'Shaken Earth', is available at Amazon.

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