Transforming lives on four continents


Map of Peru


Region Latin America
Capital Lima
Area 1,285,220 sq km
Population 29,549,517 (est 2012)
Languages Aymara, Quechua, Spanish
Religions Roman Catholicism 81%. Evangelical 13%. other 3%. unspecified or none 3%.
Life expectancy 72.73 (est 2012)

Known as a country of stark contrasts, Peru is a nation of desert beaches, snow-covered peaks, tropical rivers and architectural wonders. Potentially a rich country, more than half the population live in poverty.



Peru was part of the highly developed Inca civilisation which stretched from northern Ecuador to central Chile. The Spanish landed in the area in 1531 and by 1535 had founded the city of Lima.

Peruvian gold and silver made the country an important contributor to Spanish wealth and power in South America. However, much of Spanish wealth was built on the backs of enforced Inca Indian labour. Peru declared its independence from Spain in 1821, but it was not until 1879 that Spain this independence.

The 20th century was marked by alternations between democracy and military dictatorships. Despite extensive development and attempts to introduce economic and social change, Peru has suffered economically, resulting in widespread poverty.


Current challenges 

About 54 per cent of Peruvians live in extreme poverty, earning less than US$1 a day, with Peru’s inland regions suffering the most.

Peru is one of the top three countries in the world that produce coca which is processed for cocaine and other alkaloids. Over 200,000 Peruvians are involved in coca’s cultivation creating a major drug trafficking problem.



The land

To the west is the Pacific Ocean, which stretches along 1,900 miles of Peru’s shoreline. The high peaks and steep canyons of the Andes Mountains separate the western coastal plains from the eastern lowland jungles of the Amazon Basin. 

Peru is rich in deposits of copper, silver, lead, zinc, oil and gold and mining represents over 45 per cent of the country’s total exports.



About 90 per cent of the Peruvian population claim to be Christians, with nearly 70 per cent Catholic. However, indigenous traditions have tended to become assimilated into Christian practice.

Despite the decline in church attendance in the Catholic Church, evangelical churches have grown dramatically even though they frequently face persecution. Today there are about 150 Baptist churches in Peru with a total membership of 12,000.


BMS workers in Peru

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