10 October 2012
Levels of violence in a Bolivian community have been dramatically reduced following a collaborative project involving local churches and a Tearfund partner.
People in Los Lotes, Santa Cruz, used to be too scared to leave their homes due to turf wars between rival gangs and the damaging impact of widespread drug addiction.
With so many people needing money for drugs and high levels of unemployment, stealing was also common and the community was also blighted by social problems.
The violence became so bad that pastors from eight churches in the area were driven out.
However change came when new pastors arrived and adopted the approach of being unified in tackling the area’s problems.
With help from Tearfund partner Paz Y Esperanza, the churches initiated a project to promote healthy relationships within the community, providing training - particularly aimed at the local youth - to tackle domestic violence against women and child abuse.
A professional psychologist was recruited to work with victims of abuse and the perpetrators, while training on better handling of domestic situations was also given to police family protection officers.
Sarah Newnham, Tearfund’s Head of Latin America and Caribbean Region, who has visited Los Lotes, said, ‘Although the situation isn’t perfect, the churches have miraculously seen the levels of violence decrease. People aren’t afraid to go out now.
‘As a local pastor told me, the community knows that the churches are here because they desire something better for Los Lotes. It’s an amazing testimony about the impact the church can have in a dangerous situation when they start praying and come together to tackle the problems of their local community.’