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Story Publication logo June 28, 2022

A New Promised Land in the Peruvian Jungle

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Sects are occupying spaces in the Amazon forests and are even one of the main threats to a central...

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This is a summary of the original story in Spanish.

A religious group that identifies as Israelite has lived in the Amazon for at least three decades. Two years ago they started having conflicts with the State that wants to protect the area where they settled.

"The Promised Land is in the jungle,” says Albino Ramos, an Israelite pastor of Peruvian nationality who lives in the Amazon of the same country. He is one of the founders of Santa Cecilia, a hamlet located in Ucayali where some 100 people live. With a sparkle in his eyes that his sixty-odd years have not erased, Ramos said that Ezequiel Ataucusi, whom he calls his Master with a capital M, instructed him and led him there.

"He told us to leave behind poverty, abandon the bosses, and go to where the fertile land is, the land of salvation, to prepare ourselves for the great coming of God," Ramos said.

Sitting on sacks of cement from his small hardware store, the man with the bushy white beard and mustache said that he was born in Andamarca, in the Andes of Peru, but left everything to search the tangled jungle of the South American country for the same Land that the prophet Muhammad promised 1,400 years ago.

Albino Ramos sits with his elbow on his knee wearing an old cap and a long white beard.
Albino Ramos is an Israelite pastor from Santa Cecilia and Iparía. Image by Iván Brehaut for GK. Peru, 2022.

With a memory that seems fully intact, he lists the places where he lived to follow his "Master."

“First I was in Satipo for 10 years. "Then, at the invitation of Master Ezequiel Ataucusi Gamonal, we have traveled to Pasco, Huánuco and arrived in Puerto Sira. Then to Príncipe de Paz,” he recalled, listing the almost 500-kilometer journey that he began in the 1980s.

Pastor Ramos and a handful of Ataucusi's followers were the men who fulfilled the wish of their Master and the mission of the movement he founded: the Evangelical Association of the Israelite Mission of the New Universal Covenant (La Asociación Evangélica de la Misión Israelita del Nuevo Pacto Universal). 

Today, where there was once only forest, as Ramos calls the leafy trees that were cut down, Santa Cecilia remains a populated center in the middle of the Cordillera El Sira, in Ucayali, in the jungle of Peru. 

At the beginning, the town lived from hunting and the scarce food that they could bring from Príncipe de Paz, another Israelite settlement. Now it subsists on agriculture and livestock. The extensions of land to grow edible plants and raise animals have generated logging that they describe as necessary to survive, but that the authorities say is illegal.

For almost 30 years, the Peruvians who came to live there because they believed that Ataucusi had showed them a path to survive divine punishment lived in relative peace. But since 2001, when the Peruvian Ministry of Environment turned the area into the protected El Sira Communal Reserve, human settlements have been prohibited.

In the first seven years after the creation of the reserve, there were not too many changes and conflicts. During the past ten years, however, the fight for land ownership has escalated.

The Israelites do not have property titles in their Promised Land, but they assure that they arrived before this declaration of protection in the Peruvian Amazon, and affirm that they have the right to be there.

A timeline showing how the Israelites of the New Universal Covenant came to the El Sira Communal Reserve.

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