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Evidence of Inca civilizations can still be traced widely in Peru, most famously in the lost mountain-top city of Machu Picchu, and Cuzco, the ancient Incan capital city.

The Inca empire was captured by Spanish conquistadors in 1533. The Spanish then ruled until the 1820's, when Peruvian independence was declared and remaining Spanish forces defeated. 

Peru in modern history has veered between military dictatorship and democracy, and has been scarred by corruption and guerrilla insurgencies.

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Gathering under the Peruvian sun

The latter brought real terror to Peru, notably in the 1980's-1990's when tens of thousands lost their lives in the country's war with communist Maoist rebels, among whom were the notorious Shining Path group.  

With a long - and extremely arid - Pacific coastline, soaring Andean mountains, the world's highest navigable lake, and tropical landscapes in the eastern borders with Brazil and Colombia, Peru has equally varied natural resources, from fisheries to minerals. Many people rely on these industries for employment. Peru's economy has grown significantly in recent years, although over-reliance on minerals leaves it vulnerable to price fluctuations on the world market.

There is also a significant divide between rich and poor, with most wealth and power in the hands of a small elite of Spanish descent, and much poverty among Peru's own peoples, the indigenous Amerindians.

The drugs trade is also a major problem in Peru. The country is a key producer of coca, from which cocaine is produced. The UN has reported many children are employed   picking coca crops in the north-east and south-east of the country.   

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Peru map

Area (size): 496,225 square miles (5 times bigger than UK) Capital city: Lima

Population: 29.5 million Languages: Spanish (official, majority); Quechua, Aymara; other indigenous Amerindian & local Amazonian tribal languages

Religion: Christianity (Roman Catholic majority, Protestant / Evangelical minority); traditional ethnic religions.

Christians in Peru

With many of Peru's indigenous Amerindian peoples still following traditional ethnic religions, and the Roman Catholic Church (which holds a special place under the Constitution) in decline, there has been significant growth in Protestant denominations and movements in Peru in recent decades.

This growth came despite opposition from the the State at times. Relationships with the Roman Catholic Church have also sometimes been difficult. Resolution of these issues is a key need for all Christians in Peru in the future.