by Johnny Almond
March 14, 2011
Rev. Dr. Gustavo Parajón, a leading voice for peace and justice ministry in Nicaragua for more than 40 years, died Sunday, March 13, at his home there. His passing was sudden and unexpected.
Parajón served as pastor of the First Baptist Church of Managua, Nicaragua, and in 1967 founded PROVADENIC (Nicaragua Vaccination and community Development Program) in partnership with the First Baptist Church of Cleveland, Ohio, the Nicaraguan Baptist Convention and the First Baptist Church of Managua. It is a primary health care program that serves 25 rural communities by training local health promoters to treat and prevent common illnesses. He was also the founder of CEPAD
(Nicaraguan Council of Evangelical Churches), the ecumenical relief and development agency in Nicaragua.
In the early 1980s, Parajón was a key mediator in ending Nicaragua's civil war and part of the reconciliation process that followed. Michael Westmoreland-White, a Baptist blogger
and member of Jeff Street Baptist Community at Liberty (a BPFNA Partner Congregation in Louisville, Ky.), said, "I remember his pleading with Baptists in the U.S. to stop the Reagan administration policies of support for the Contra terrorists."
Westmoreland-White recalled that many Baptists chose to support the government position "rather than the testimony of a brother in Christ. It was disgusting."
Many in the BPFNA network and the broader Baptist family worldwide had worked with him over the years. Rev. Richard Myers, a retired American Baptist pastor from Rochester, N.Y. who has been involved recently in health care ministry in Nicaragua, said, "Over 40 years, Gus's personal courage and Christian heart confronted both natural disasters and the exploitation of the people and resources of his country. He knit together communities across theological lines to form strong networks of compassion. He leaves a lasting legacy. We loved him and he us."
Doug Donley, pastor of University Baptist Church (a BPFNA Partner Congregation in Minneapolis, Minn.), said, "This is a devastating loss for the world peacemaking community. Many of us were lucky enough to call him a close friend. He was and continues to be a source of inspiration and grounding for my life and ministry."
Parajón received many honors for his work, including the 1980 Dahlberg Peace Award from the American Baptist Churches USA and the 2006 Baptist World Alliance Human Rights Award. He was awarded a Doctor of Humane Letters degree by Denison University in 1981 and the Sesquicentennial Medallion as an Outstanding Citizen of Managua during the city's 150th anniversary in 2002.
Funeral services were scheduled for Tuesday, March 15, in Managua.
—Johnny Almond is BPFNA's Communications & Technology Manager. Photo courtesy of CEPAD.