This report is a partnership between Mongabay Latam, Rutas del Conflicto and La Liga Contra el Silencio. In Colombia’s Meta department, a stretch of several miles of reddish, arable land is home to a Mennonite community. For six years, this Protestant sect has built roads and installed 41 kilometers (25 miles) of lighting across more than 29,000 hectares (71,600 acres) that they’ve acquired. Indigenous Sikuani communities living nearby say these activities have caused environmental damage on land that they claim as ancestral territory since 2017. The Mennonites live separately from the local population. They’re of European origin and speak clumsy Spanish, and live in houses that wouldn’t look out of place in the suburban United States. The main property, where the Mennonites host visitors, is Liviney, a 1,000-hectare (2,500-acre) estate. The house is surrounded by flowers and small trees, said to be the Mennonites’ way of taking care of the environment. Outsiders may only enter if accompanied by a Mennonite; visits must be brief and in the presence of the lawyer who advises the community. The community members say they don’t speak Spanish and that it’s difficult for them to communicate with the authorities and with the locals and Indigenous people who have lived here long before they arrived. But on the occasions when they need to defend themselves against accusations of land grabbing or environmental damage, their leaders speak fluent Spanish with a mix of German and Mexican accents. No one can explain how the Mennonites, who arrived from…This article was originally published on Mongabay Läs mer

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