Children at risk in Peru’s oil vs. tribal unrest

By June 17, 2009

Peru (MNN) — Unrest between Peru's tribal people and the government continues, but it appears the country's indigenous tribes are gaining the upper hand — at least politically. The unrest began when the government announced they would allow oil exploration in ancient lands in northern Peru.

In the fights that followed, nine police officers and at least 50 Indians were killed, with hundreds more wounded or arrested. The indigenous rights group Survival International described it as "Peru's Tiananmen Square."

Compassion International has programs in the area, says Kathy Redmond. "We still have about seven child development centers that remain closed. One of our LDP (leadership development program) students [who's] in the child development center, his house was hit by bullets. Thankfully nobody's been hurt in our centers."

The government has since declared a state of emergency, and Redmond says, "Congress has stopped the advancement of this law that has become the real instigator of the problem. And now we're seeing that different labor unions have decided to [join] with the native tribes. It's really putting some pressure on the government, and the situation has become a lot more tense."

Because of the unrest, Compassion staff hasn't been allowed into the region. But since they work through local churches, their work continues. "We think food is very scarce," says Redmond, "so,we're trying to get something together where we can start sending food into these projects."

Redmond is thankful that unrest like this doesn't affect child sponsorship. "A lot of our sponsors gravitate to where the need is and where the stability is more needed. So this really doesn't usually affect them. The only thing that something like this would affect is the correspondence. It's difficult to get child letters in there right now."

A child can be sponsored for $38 dollars a month. This provides an education and teaches income-generation skills for the children. In addition, Redmond says, "They're taught about the Gospel. A lot of times a child that's in our Compassion program ends up teaching the Gospel to their families and they become Christians."

$350 a month helps a former sponsored child with leadership potential, get a college education. The goal is to give them the tools they need to become a leader in their country, with a Christian worldview.

Pray that God would ease the tensions in Peru and that many more children will not only get sponsors, but come to know Christ.

Click here to sponsor a child or sponsor a LDP student.

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