Strengthening the Kin-dom in Perú

By Milushka Rojas | Coordinator, Red Uniendo Manos Perú

Those affected by mining contamination request a Public Health Care Plan from the Minister of Economy of Perú. Photo courtesy of Red Uniendo Manos Perú.

Perú is a country blessed by its natural riches in which we continue to learn to value cultural, geographic, economic, and political diversity. I remember my parents were always questioning and reflecting on the problems of Perú. In 2000, when our country was experiencing the end of Alberto Fujimori’s dictatorship and the installation of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission (CVR), I chose to study communication for development. It was clear to me that I wanted to serve my country through this career.

The CVR sought to give a voice to the more than 60,000 victims of the dictatorship and recommend political reforms to strengthen democracy and social cohesion. Shocked by the testimonies of the victims, I became a volunteer for the CVR and a defender of the universality of human rights along with thousands of other young people from all over the country.

Looking at the recent past of our history led me to dream of the present. I worked for several years in a development NGO strengthening the capacities of the populations of Lima. We traveled from Magdalena (a central district) to the margins to learn about the realities there and advise authorities and officials on public management issues. We trained leaders to participate in public affairs and self-management of their districts (basic services, trails and paths, prevention of violence against women, etc.). Many of these leaders were also internally displaced persons (IDPs) due to political violence.

In Perú there are more than 20 thousand disappeared during 1980 – 2000. Every year on August 30 the families of disappeared persons gather to demand the search for the disappeared. Photo by Milushka Rojas.

Later, for 8 years, I had the opportunity to know social realities and agents of change from all over Perú. At the Bartolomé de las Casas Institute and the National Executive Secretary of the Citizen Movement, I met with victims of human rights violations, pastoral agents, youth groups, academics, institutions, and citizens committed to publicizing and enforcing the recommendations of the CVR Report. Although the task was not easy, we were encouraged by the preaching of Father Gustavo Gutiérrez, founder of both Liberation Theology and my work centers. “Hope doesn’t parachute from the sky, it’s something we have to build,” he told us.

“Hope doesn’t parachute from the sky,

it’s something we have to build.”

We have made progress in legitimizing human rights, although inequalities remain. In recent years, concern for the care of nature has grown in Perú. The Conference of the Parties (COP) and Pope Francis have helped make visible this agenda that affects indigenous communities and those with less access to public services. Since its creation, the Red Uniendo Manos Perú, the Joining Hands Perú network, has made visible the struggle of the communities affected by mining contamination. The partnership with the Presbyterian Church (USA) and other local actors has helped bring international visibility to the case of La Oroya. The abuses of the environment and human health by the American mining company Doe Run were stopped. Solidarity with children with lead in their blood and the memories of the missionary Hunter Farrell remain in the community. Knowing about this work encouraged me to join the Network as its Executive Director in 2021.

Milushka Rojas is the new Executive Director of Red Uniendo Manos Perú. Photo courtesy of Milushka Rojas.

Currently, Perú needs to strengthen the legitimacy of the right to environmental and human health and significantly attend to those who are made invisible in society: women, indigenous communities, children, migrants. The Network continues to be a space with great potential to speak to Peruvian society, and in particular to evangelical church communities. There are multiple problems that society and churches need to take on to contribute to the installation of the kin-dom on earth. The Network is rethinking what to do and where to direct its efforts.

There are many challenges, and many human and environmental relationships to restore. It is important for Peru to continue learning to live with diversity and strengthen democracy. As a young adult woman, I realize that we need to continue strengthening equality. Today racism, machismo, homophobia, poverty, violence against women, low self-esteem, environmental damage, exist, but they are not openly acceptable.

In a globalized world our interactions with others can lead to distorted truths and generate discrimination and violence. Hearing the witness of Presbyterian Churches and their practices in their own contexts to confront such violence and discrimination can be of tremendous value for our partnerships. Many times we have asked ourselves if the Church can do more: How do we practice being the church as citizens of one world? I believe the experiences of the PCUSA can help us shape our response to this question.

The work of the Presbyterian Hunger Program is possible thanks to your gifts to One Great Hour of Sharing.


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