Latin America is an extraordinary part of the world. The beauty and diversity of geography, biodiversity, its people, and its history reveal lively, creative, and hardworking peoples that have managed to rise from various major crises.
Nevertheless, terrible acts also occur against people and their communities. Poverty and extreme poverty are high, affecting millions of people. Discrimination against race, gender, economic status, and even language create an everyday sorrowful reality.
However, our countries are changing, we rejoice in the fruit of this work over the past 25 years. People are increasingly becoming aware of the injustices around them and are willing to join efforts to speak up about what is wrong, to stand up for what is right, and to work together to build a more just world. Below are some of the key areas we focus on:
Children at Risk
We know of the high rates of sexual and physical violence, trafficking of minors, and disability discrimination affecting children and adolescents, and are compelled to respond. Certain risk factors such as weak or unavailable public institutions and services in poor communities, the bad quality of those services, and authoritative sexist cultural factors, justify the use of violence against children.
In the various contexts we are located, specific factors make certain children in poverty more vulnerable, such as not having education available their language, being deaf, or even for simply being an indigenous child.
One specifically tragic case was an 8 year old girl named Yuri, who was horrifically abused and then killed in a small town in Huanuco, Peru. In the end, the crime went unpunished. This case is one of many that demonstrate the judicial system does not deliver justice for millions of people that live in poverty. We respond in order to prevent violence against vulnerable children, to intervene for victims, and work to transform systems and culture in our communities to keep such injustices from happening in the future.
The history of people and nations throughout the Americas inflicting injustice on indigenous people groups is long and complex–and full of pain. Latin America is home to approximately 500 different ethnic groups, with much diversity and beauty among indigenous people groups, yet we continue to see many ways in which the indigenous in our countries suffer due to unchecked greed, power, and unjust laws and policies.
We see tendencies of change in both the Amazon communities and farming communities: the hoarding of land, the loss of communitarian identity, the rise of new demands among the indigenous communities, and the contamination of their territories.
The hoarding of land is a phenomenon that affects both the Amazon and farming communities of the Andes. The loss of common land directly affects migration, especially of youth towards the cities, and breakdown of the family and community. Person with fewer resources that stay inside the communities progressively become pawns. Both processes weaken traditions and common practices along with human rights.
Violence against Women
After Bangladesh and Ethiopia, Peru takes the third place in high levels of sexual assaults in the world. The Social Tolerance Index in regards to family violence to women is very high, now reaching 54.8%. (Source: Ministerio de la Mujer del Peru)
In regards to violence in the household, statistics show that 40% of women have been abused by their partner (INEI). The same happens for children who are abused mostly by the people closest to them. Abuse has an intense effect on people and can replicate from victims to then becoming abusers themselves.
It is important to consider that more women are participating economically in the household. These are the transformed entrepreneurial women that fight for a better quality of life for their children. For these women, the tolerance for abuse from the male side of a family has decreased. When they reject the abuse of masculinity, some women imitate the aggressive behavior of the male. This is an important social change in marital relationships.
When disaster strikes, often those who experience the worst are the communities we live and work in, as disaster magnifies the disparity that already exists for people, children, and communities in poverty. Because Peace and Hope was founded in Latin America, by Latin Americans, we quite naturally respond to urgent crisis such as natural disasters. These are our communities, our churches, our countries, and wherever our community is hurting, we seek to be there to respond in love.
Climate change is a global process of transformation that impacts every part of life for every town. The impact on the Andes and the Amazon is distinct, has real and harsh consequences on our communities, and we see the changes around us taking place at a rapid pace. Scientists say that two ways to face it exist: mitigation and adaptation. Mitigation happens through the improvement of the Management of Disaster Risks, which is based on the use of modern technology and ancestral knowledge that develop communities. From a mitigation perspective, areas that must be promoted are changes in social group attitudes towards the environment and the strengthening of their impact in the industrial areas.
Our society is weak in the prevention of disaster risks from the subnational governments. No investment in storm drains exists or any territory arrangements for earthquakes and river overflowing ever happens.
Local teams are actively:
* Providing free and competent legal representation as well as psychological and educational support to survivors of violence.
* Providing support for women and children who are survivors of sexual violence and abuse.
* Preventing all kinds of violence against women and children.
* Providing educational support for deaf children in Moyobamba, Peru.
*Supporting the peace process in Colombia.
*Cultivating Indigenous churches that have a strong self-identity, rooting their Christian practices in their own contexts and working as agents of change in the Creator’s work of reconciling all things.
*Responding in love to migrants and refugees due to the crisis in Venezuala.
* Equipping parents and teachers to support the healthy development of children with different abilities.
* Training indigenous leaders to be able to defend the rights of communities that have been historically relegated.
*Caring for creation through a variety of projects, including our organic farm, modeling and equipping communities for sustainable agricultural practices in the Central Highlands of the Andes as well as in the Amazon.
*Providing training, workshops, and support for churches and communities to be equipped to respond to violence in their communities.
* Empowering local communities to be prepared to respond to natural disasters, and in this current season, to respond to crisis needs stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Thanks to your partnership with us, as Peace and Hope continues to expand throughout Latin America.