In Peru’s Amazon, evangelical cult awaits Inca second coming

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In the heart of the Amazon, where Peru, Brazil and Colombia meet, members of a quirky religious mashup of evangelical Protestantism and Incan rites await the end times in their remote “Promised Land.”

Members of the Israelites of the New Universal Pact — a religion that has nothing to do with Judaism — farm and sell their wares to townsfolk and occasional tourists while they await a post-Judgment Day return of the Inca empire and a new world order.

Considered a sect by some, the Israelites have their own bible and commandments and of course a prophet in the form of Ezequiel Ataucusi Gamonal, who died in 2000 and was replaced by his son Jonas.

“God commands us to grow our beards and hair,” sixty-something Israelite Gustavo, who sells vegetables and sweets in the Peruvian town of Islandia, told AFP.

Members of the community greet each other with a fraternal: “Peace of God, brother” and are loathe to give their full names.

“All those who bind themselves to God must conform to his principles,” including renouncing alcohol, said Gustavo, waving the bible he carries with him everywhere.

Gamonal — a former Catholic and later Seventh-day Adventist — created the Israelite religion in the 1970s among inhabitants of the Peruvian Andes.

The movement later moved to the Amazon rainforest which adherents view as the “Promised Land” and the only place that will survive the end of the world, according to Lionel Rossini, a cinematographer who specializes in the tri-border region.

The movement recruited followers mainly among Indigenous landless people, but also former guerrillas of the now defunct Shining Path insurgency, and in poor neighborhoods of Amazonian cities.

By 2000, the Israelite religion counted nearly 200,000 members — though many left that same year after self-proclaimed prophet Gamonal’s promised resurrection three days after his death never happened.

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