Seven hours’ drive south of Chile’s capital, Santiago, in the Araucanía region, 27 churches have been burnt down in the past couple of years by a radical indigenous group, Weichan Auka Mapu.
The attackers leave behind messages spelling out the demands of the Mapuches, an ancestral tribe whose land was taken from them during Chile’s colonisation by Spanish Catholics. A high percentage of Mapuches now identify as Christian: 55% Catholic, 32% Protestant. But for some others, Christians are still seen as invaders.
Of the 20 churches burnt down between 2015 and 2016, 12 were Catholic, eight Protestant. In 2017, a further seven have been torched. These churches also served as schools, meeting places and shelters for those fleeing natural disasters. Many belonged to the poorest sectors of the poorest region in Chile, and were attended by Mapuches themselves.