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Contribution to Book
Violence and Pastoral Care in Putumayo, Colombia
Religious Responses to Violence: Human Rights in Latin America in Latin America Past and Present (2015)
  • Winifred L. Tate
The southern Colombian state of Putumayo, a region of frontier colonization along the
Ecuadoran border, has been the scene of entrenched violence and illegal drug production for
more than three decades. During domination by the country’s largest and oldest guerrilla group,
the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), peasant farmers in the area came to
supply more than fifty per cent of the coca used in the world cocaine trade. Beginning in the late
1990s, violence spiked as right-wing paramilitary groups steadily gained control of small towns.
At the same time, the United States orchestrated a major military counter narcotics intervention
in the region, funding training and equipment for army battalions as well as aerial fumigation
with chemical herbicides. Through these distinct phases of the conflict, local priests developed
multiple forms of pastoral care in their efforts to both comply with their sacramental duties and
respond to the violence besieging the communities in which they worked. Priests in Putumayo
organized workshops, set up peasant and women’s organizations and trained local leaders. They
met with guerrilla leaders to advocate on behalf of communities. As violence escalated in the
region, priests registered abuses and killings, collected commemorative objects, interceded with
paramilitary commanders, and assisted families with the retrieval of the dead. Throughout, they
worked with transnational groups to secure resources.

This chapter examines Catholic pastoral care as a series of practices that have emerged in
dialogue with secular projects for development, popular education, and human rights.
  • drug trade,
  • human rights,
  • catholic studies,
  • latin america
Publication Date
Alexander Wilde
Notre Dame Press
Kellogg Institute Series on Democracy and Development
Citation Information
Winifred L. Tate. "Violence and Pastoral Care in Putumayo, Colombia" Notre Dame, INReligious Responses to Violence: Human Rights in Latin America in Latin America Past and Present (2015) p. 426 - 444
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