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Recovering from the Pandemic

A Letter from César Carhuachín, serving in Colombia

Spring 2021

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Hello, brothers and sisters in the United States,

Greetings from Barranquilla, Colombia!

I hope that all of you are doing better at this time when vaccinations are available in the U.S. Here in Colombia, South America, the pandemic situation varies depending on where you live. In Bogotá, Distrito Capital (D.C.), the capital of Colombia, the number of cases is high. The number of positive cases reported stands at 933,953. But in other cities like Barranquilla, where I am located, the number of cases has been significantly less and stands at 170,826 positive cases since the end of May. The main reason for this reduction is that the vaccination rate in Barranquilla and other cities in the Atlantic Department (Colombia is divided geographically into Departments) has increased over the past several months. I received the first dose of the vaccination for COVID-19 on June 01, 2021. I thank God for this, and I expect to receive the second dose in 21 days!

The situation of PC(USA)’s Ecumenical partner, the Reformed University, also is changing for the better. Although classes continue to be taught virtually, the number of students has increased since February 2021. As of today, we have about 1,800 students in all our programs. This is a hopeful sign since the student population had decreased by 50% at the end of 2020. We thank God for this!

Currently, the protests in many cities in Colombia are a very serious issue. Thousands of Colombians have been protesting the current government’s policies since April 28, 2021. President Ivan Duque’s new proposal to impose new taxes that would directly affect the middle class and low incomes families “was the straw that broke the camel’s back.” The people’s disapproval of the government has increased because the police and Mobile Anti-Disturbance Squad have acted excessively and outside the law to control the protestors with weapons, beatings, and other abuses. As of May 14, 2021, the United Nations (UN) and the Organization of American States (OAS) experts received complaints of at least 26 deaths, 1,876 acts of police violence, 216 cases of injuries, 168 disappearances, 963 arbitrary detentions, 12 cases of sexual violence, and 69 attacks on human rights defenders. The protests on the roadways have halted the transportation of food to several cities and towns, leading to increased prices. Although President Duque has withdrawn his proposal to raise taxes to stem the protests, a considerable number of Colombians are tired of the current government’s policies. Many are tired of the obstacles placed by President Duque on the implementation of the Peace Agreement signed by President Santos and the FARC (Colombia Revolutionary Armed Forces) in 2016; the lack of a forceful policy to stop the increase in murders of social leaders and human rights defenders since 2017; the absence of a much-needed and evident Health Reform to address the COVID-19 pandemic; among others. According to the National Administrative Department of Statistics (Departamento Administrativo Nacional de Estadistica (Colombia-South America), 42.5% of the Colombian population is poor. The protests had begun in Cali and continue to be stronger there than in other cities. On May 17 and 18, 2021, PC(USA)’s church partner, the Presbyterian Church of Colombia, sent Rev. Gloria Ulloa and Rev. Milton Mejía to Cali and Popayán, Colombia, to be part of the Team of Accompaniment Pastoral Mission. The main purposes are to listen the protesters, accompany them, and support them.

Most Christian groups (including representatives of our church partner) have disapproved of the government’s new tax proposal. policy. Several of them met with President Duque, but after meeting with him, some of them have denounced the government because they believe that the government used them politically to claim that they are listening to all sectors of society. After a month of daily protests, the leaders of the protests are seeing some changes from the government that will benefit the people, such as the withdrawal of the tax proposal, policy, changes in public education, the health system, etc. Realistically speaking, we will have to wait to see what the final outcome will be.

During the first week of the protests, the Reformed University has instituted a policy of flexibility. Students may attend classes virtually or they can listen to the recorded classes if they want to participate peacefully in the protests. Several alumni of the Theology program of the Reformed University reflected and talked about the meaning of this societal upheaval on Saturday, May 29, 2021, with the title “The Protests in Colombia and the Mission of the Church” (see the flyer of the event). Three of the panelists are Ruling Elders in three congregations of the Colombia Presbyterian Church, Hary Cantillo (Uraba Presbytery), Mary Reyes and Ramón Barrios (Coastal Presbytery); and two are Pentecostal church leaders from Barranquilla, Adolfo Céspedes and Tania Molina. Tania is a lawyer and will graduate from the Theology program next year. Mary is a lawyer as well. Adolfo teaches at the American school of Barranquilla. Hary is a lay pastor in Uraba and also teaches at the American school of Uraba. Ramón is a former Edil (an elected representative of his local Administrative Board representing his community). I will moderate this conversation table. I am happy to see our former students reflecting on the Church’s mission in this social context.

I thank you for your prayer and financial support to God’s mission in Colombia. If you are not doing it and you want to do it, please check my PC(USA) World Mission site:
https://www.presbyterianmission.org/ministries/missionconnections/rev-c-sar-carhuach-n/. If you wish to contact me, email me at: cesar.carhuachin@pcusa.org.

Please, keep safe. God bless you in your ministry.

In Christ,


Creative_Commons-BYNCNDYou may freely reuse and distribute this article in its entirety for non-commercial purposes in any medium. Please include author attribution, photography credits, and a link to the original article. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDeratives 4.0 International License.

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