King's Business - 1954-06

Education : Colombia

One of the most difffcuBt spots in the

Western hemisphere for Protestan ts has long

been Colombia. Now a new phase of

the persecution there has just come to light

C olombia has again demonstrated to the world what an iron-fisted church-state thinks of civil liberties. A fortnight ago the world was learning of the Colombian government’s latest outrage against its citizens. This newest bit of authoritarian swash­ buckling had enough of the unusual in it to warrant even prominent mention in the secular press. Many evangelicals do not know that two small Colombian islands (San Andres and Providencia) are 95% Protestant and have been since they were colonized by English Puritans. Later the English population died out and today the islands are popu­ lated with descendents of African slaves. Their re­ ligion: 80% Baptist, 15% Seventh-Day Adventist, 5% Roman Catholic. The Colombians living on these two tiny islands have built one of the finest educational systems in the world. Literacy is 100%. On the Colombian mainland literacy is a pitiful 56%. The Roman Catho­ lic dominated government has long chafed over the knowledge that these Protestant areas in their domain were so far advanced. This spring the government struck. A new Inspector of Education was appointed for the islands. The new inspector: a Spanish Roman Catholic priest. His first action was to arbitrarily shut down all Protestant schools. The action is based on an agreement between the government and the Vatican that makes the islands one of 18 Colombian mission territories reserved to Catholics. This in an area that is only 5% Catholic. This week the children of San Andres and Previdencia had no classrooms available except in a few badly crowded government schools taught by Capuchin friars. END.



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