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Kogui Christians Face Stalemate Over Land and Worship Rights

ICC Note: CSW gives chronological rundown on Kogui Christian persecution

4/30/10 Colombia (CSW) – The Kogui are an indigenous group who have lived in the Sierra Nevada mountains in North-east Colombia for hundreds of years. While the majority of the Koguis adhere to the traditional belief system, about 1% of the population are Christians.

Last year the Kogui governor decided that Christianity needed to be eradicated from the Kogui population and attempted to force the Kogui Christians to reconvert to traditional beliefs. The Colombian government refused to intervene because indigenous groups in Colombia have legal autonomy. This, however, ignores the fact that the law declares that autonomy must be practiced in line with the rights guaranteed in the Colombian constitution.

In January a judge ruled that while the religious freedom of the Christians amongst the Kogui community is guaranteed under the Colombian Constitution, the Kogui governor also has the right to protect Kogui culture and to obligate all members of the Kogui community to participate in traditional rituals and ceremonies. Not surprisingly, the Kogui Christians chose to appeal this decision.

In March 2010, the Kogui Christians’ appeal was rejected by the Colombian courts, meaning they have no more legal recourse in the Colombian legal system. They now must consider taking it to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, however, this would be difficult and they would need legal support.

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