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Colombia. A young church among water, forest, war and coca.

The Apostolic Vicariate of Puerto Leguízamo–Solano was established only two years ago. Msgr. Joaquín Humberto Pinzόn sent us some notes.

The Vicariate covers an immense territory of 64,912 square km inhabited by 56 thousand people,  almost all Catholics. It is located in the south of Colombia on the border with Peru and Ecuador, and is crossed by two major rivers, the Caquetá and Putumayo. These rivers with their tributaries, while constituting a huge hydrographic basin, which hosts one of the most biodiverse regions of Colombia, are the only means of communication existing in the area. The great natural, biological and social potentialities of Colombia contrast strongly with a whole set of problems which historically have limited the development of the country and therefore also that of its territory, and this region is not an exception.

col 2The absence of the State, the armed conflict, sustainable development, respect of environment, the problems of children and youth are challenges so big that they can be faced only when all the forces operating in the area, and the church is one of these, will begin to work jointly for the common good.
Diversity, in the territory of the Vicariate, is not only biological but also cultural. ln this region, in addition to the native indigenous communities (Murui, Kichwa, Coreguaja, Murui-Muinane and Nasa), we also find Afro and farm populations, who arrived from other areas of Colombia and settled down there mainly in the second half of the last century. There are also populations of Peruvian, Ecuadorian and Brazilian origin.

col 4All these peoples, who interact and live together with their different customs and traditions, are gradually building and legitimizing a new mixed race society. Some of these people live concentrated in the two major urban centers of the region (Puerto Leguízamo and Solano), while other small groups live along the banks of the Caquetá and Putumayo rivers
The living conditions of these people, scattered in a vast territory almost entirely without communication media, are a formidable challenge for us who are committed to accompany them with our pastoral work. Given the current circumstances, it is difficult to even imagine improving the quality of life of these communities and, besides, their difficult conditions also affect their daily experience of faith. In order to be more effective, the Church must find leaders willing to closely accompany each community so that the pastoral organization can be enhanced, as well as the  reception of people and the authenticity of the experience of faith. The Vicariate has five parishes. Two of them are located in the city center of Puerto Leguízamo, another two in two small towns belonging to the same municipality. The fifth parish is in Solano, the other major urban center of the Vicariate. In addition to the parishes, there is also a worship center in Puerto Alegría. The pastoral activity of the Vicariate is entrusted to 12 priests, 8 religious and a lay missionary. To characterize our presence as Church, in addition to the traditional parish pastoral plan, we have also tried to organize an indigenous, rural and urban pastoral project.

col 6
We believe that the best way to grow as Church is to enhance the training of indigenous leaders and farmers in the different communities, supporting, at the same time, women, youth and children through specific organizations. This is why we wanted to launch a campaign whose basic concept is ‘Training is loving’. The campaign was conceived as part of the Jubilee Year of Mercy,  and it is aimed at creating meaningful spaces where the spirituality of forgiveness and reconciliation can be cultivated. A spirituality attentive to creation, to communion between people and the communities of the Church and society.

(D.L.)

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