Christian indigenous schools in Colombia suffer persecution by the indigenous authorities. Teachers are imprisoned and permits are denied. Despite this, Christian teachers move forward with the difficult task of teaching Christian values to the next generation. Open Doors is supporting them in this.
Six years ago, in the mountains of southern Colombia, a Christian school called 'La Esperanza' or 'The Hope School' was formed. It's a small school of 39 pupils aged 5 to 15, allowing children of persecuted and displaced indigenous Christians a place to live out their faith freely. Run by persecuted leaders from the Nasa tribe, their aim is to provide an education based on Christian principles that will be carried forward by the next generation.
A few months ago, the director of this school, Aaron, was approached by the authorities of the region and removed from his duties as a teacher, accused of teaching illegally in a school that has not been approved by law.
'A country within a country'
So who are these authorities? They are the traditional leaders of indigenous communities in areas that the Colombian government has designated as 'Indigenous Territorial Entities'. These are independent territorial, economic and legislative units, created for the cultural defence of indigenous communities - and they are effectively operating as a country within a country. The administration of law within these areas is defined by indigenous communities and their ancestral and shamanic vision of the world. They see Christianity and Christian education as an enemy. So, even though the Colombian constitution says that everyone has the right to profess, express and propagate their faith freely, without fear of retaliation, threats or harassment, the defence of this right is not fully realised throughout the country. In most indigenous reserves of Colombia, to be a Christian or encourage Christianity is a crimeâ€”and every crime is punished.
Christian teacher Yobani Yoino, for example, was put in prison for three years on false charges of teaching illegally in an unauthorised schoolâ€”the same legal charges that the authorities brought against Aaron. And even though, according to the United Nations, education is a fundamental right that must be defended and encouraged by governments, Christian communities that set up small schools in these areas are not well received.
Supporting Christian teachers
Though Aaron was released the same day, the charges against him still stand. The traditional authorities have gathered false evidence against him in order to attack the Christian leadership of The Hope School. So these are moments of difficult struggle for Aaron; however, he is not alone. The Nasa indigenous Christian community has mobilised prayer to support him. And the Open Doors team is currently researching and attending to his case, as well as providing him with emotional and spiritual support. Open Doors also provides training for teachers like Aaron and his team and last year led seminars at the National Nasa Youth Congress attended by 1,200 evangelical believers. In this way, Christians are supported as they seek to bring hope to their communities.