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Photo by Shelby Murphy Figueroa on Unsplash
Photo by Shelby Murphy Figueroa on Unsplash
World News

‘I like that God has freed me’: Bible stories used to tackle gang culture in Guatemala

by Lydia Davies

Some public schools in Guatemala have opted to use Bible stories to help pupils read better and resist gang culture. 

Mixco school administrators recently implemented the “Open the Book" programme, a curriculum developed by the UK Bible Society. 

This initiative aims to foster both literacy and moral grounding among students by dramatising biblical stories. 

Cesar Sanchez, the Open the Book project manager, began as a volunteer.  

He told the Religion News Service: “I met them through the work they do with vulnerable children and communities, and that’s what attracted me to the work they do,” he said. “I’ve seen it make a difference.” 

Many children in the Guatemala City metropolitan area leave school at aged 14; in rural areas it can be as young as eight. For those who do attend, there is often a shortage of teaching materials, including textbooks and modern reading devices. In Mixco, 650 pupils share just twelve computers. 

The Bible Society aims to bring Bible-based educational resources to schools across Guatemala, in order to improve the education and future prospects of the pupils.  

Christian actors visited a school in Tierra Nueva to tell Bible stories. They acted out stories like “Free at last,” which is based on the exodus story of the Israelites fleeing Egypt. After the stories, they talked about what they learned and said a prayer together. 

The children reportedly have positive responses after the sessions. 

“I like that God has freed me,” said Justin, aged eleven, who played an Israelite.  

“Bible stories help me to be smarter and to learn about God.” 

 Annalise Palma of the Bible Society of Guatemala said: “The gangs try to get young boys to join. 

“Because they know children won’t be sent to jail, the gangs give them cell phones and teach them how to extort money by phone. But at the school there, they're trying to teach kids good values through the Bible programme.”  

The faith-based education is not confined to schools alone. It has extended to detention centres, where young people learn the art of forgiveness and the importance of making positive choices for a brighter future. 

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