Latter-day Saints pray with Peru president, fellow clerics outside Lima temple to observe country’s bicentennial

July 28, 2021, will mark an unforgettable moment across Peru.

On Wednesday, the South American nation of over 32 million inhabitants will celebrate 200 years of independence. 

But before the fireworks, feasts and festivities, Peru’s outgoing president and many of the country’s most influential religious leaders gathered Monday, July 26, on the grounds of the Lima Peru Temple to pray for their country. 

Unity was found in prayer, traditional music and contemporary song. 

The historic evening event, dubbed “Prayers for Peru” was broadcast live and worldwide to Peruvians and their friends. It was the country’s first interfaith meeting of gratitude.

Following selections of live and recorded musical numbers from a diverse collection of Peruvian musical artists, representatives of more than a dozen religious organizations offered brief prayers on behalf of their country at a historic moment defined by both trials and opportunities.

Representatives from The Church of Jesus of Latter-day Saints combined their prayers with clerics from a variety of Christian, Jewish, Muslim faiths — and several others.

While there is much to celebrate in Peru, Monday’s messages also acknowledged the challenges many in the nation are facing during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and other economic struggles.

Following remarks from Peruvian President Francisco Sagasti, the evening’s concluding message was offered by Elder Jorge F. Zeballos, a General Authority Seventy and president of the South America Northwest Area.

President Sagasti’s last day in office is Wednesday, July 28. 

Elder Zeballos thanked the Peruvian leader for being at the Lima temple Monday to participate in the historic religious event during the final days of his presidency. 

“And thank you to all the other religious leaders here tonight … and for participating in this event here in the gardens of the temple,” he said. “This is a very sacred place for the members of our Church.”

Elder Zeballos thanked the Lord “for 200 years of independence in Peru.” 

In his prayer, he added, “that Heavenly Father continues to bless the Peruvian people in the years to come with opportunities, growth and healthy living. … May they continue to live in liberty and freedom and worship God according to the dictates of their own conscience.”

In his remarks, President Sagasti acknowledged that the past year has been difficult for many Peruvians battling the pandemic and other challenges. Monday’s gathering of unity and faith “has given us a night of tranquility, peace, solidarity and hope” during Peru’s bicentennial observations.

Each of the men and women participating in the event, he added, “have generously given us ideas and lessons to help us remember not only who we are — and what we have been — but also of our country’s potential.”

President Sagasti said the issues prompting prayers during Monday’s gathering — including calls for stewardship of the land and protecting women from violence — help promote harmony and solidarity across Peru.

The most powerful form of teaching, he added, is teaching by example. 

“The examples that all of you diverse [religious] leaders have given us is an expression of solidarity. … I am grateful for this beautiful event that has allowed me to spend my last day-and-a-half as president of Peru with my spirit uplifted and with hope for the future.”

In his prayer, the Reverend Monsignor Carlos Castillo, the Catholic Archbishop of Lima, thanked the Lord for His presence in the lives of the Peruvian people during this year of bicentennial observance.

“Help us learn to live in unity and in peace according to Thy spirit,” he said. “Help us realize in our homeland the love of solidarity which is woven within our hearts. Make our country reborn with love.”

Guillermo Estrugo, the Church’s public affairs director for the South America Northwest Area, offered a prayer of thanks for Monday’s gathering outside the Lima temple — “Thy house” — that brought together Peruvians of all faiths.

“We ask Thee to keep watch on Thy children in need and on the poor,” said Estrugo. “We ask that Peru’s new leaders might have Thy light as they serve the people of this beautiful land. Grant them wisdom, rectitude and strength as they work for the common good of the people who need it most.”

Peru, of course, is a Latter-day Saint success story. 

The first branch in the country was organized in 1956, and a mission — the Andes Mission — was organized three years later. There are now 14 missions in Peru.

Today, more than 619,000 Latter-day Saints are worshiping in over 100 stakes across the South American nation.

Peru’s first temple, the Lima Peru Temple, was dedicated in 1986. The Trujillo Peru Temple was dedicated almost three decades later. In 2019, the Arequipa Peru Temple was dedicated. The second temple in the Lima area, the future Lima Peru Los Olivos Temple, is under construction.

“Prayers for Peru” can be viewed, in Spanish, on the South America Northwest’s Facebook page.