- Concilium 2019-4. Christianities and Indigenous Peoples
- Editorial: Why an Issue on Indigenous Peoples and Christianities?
- Table of contents
- 1. Indigenous theological, spiritual and pastoral visions
- 2. Dialogues with Christianity: Regional Perspectives
- 3. Pastoral and theological reflections
- Theological forum
Concilium 2019-4. Christianities and Indigenous Peoples
Geraldo de Mori, Michel Andraos, Bernardeth Caero Bustillos
Full translations of this edition are available in the following languages:
English: Christianities and Indigenous people, International Journal of Theology – Concilium, 2019/4.
Español: Cristianismos y pueblos indígenas, Revista internacional de teología – Concilium, 382, 2019-4.
Deutsch: Internationale Zeitschrift für Theologie – Concilium, Ausgabe 4/2019.
Italiano: Popoli indigeni e cristianesimi, Rivista internazionale di teologia – Concilium, 2019-4.
Português: Revista internacional de teologia- Concilium, 2019-4.
Editorial: Why an Issue on Indigenous Peoples and Christianities?
The colonial relationship between Christianities and Indigenous peoples, and the violent “evangelizations,” make dialogue and solidarity with them urgent for the churches today. While Indigenous peoples got some attention from the churches worldwide in the 1990s around the time of the five-hundredth anniversary commemoration of the conquest of Indigenous America, it is no longer the case today. The political, social, cultural, pastoral, and theological issues that were raised then by Indigenous peoples have not, for the most part, been adequately addressed, and they are often pushed again to the margins. One of the most urgent issues today requiring pastoral attention and commitment is the new/old colonial situation of extractivism in Indigenous lands—in service of the global market and at the expense of Mother Earth as well as the livelihood of many Indigenous communities around the world. One of the starkest examples of this happening globally is the situation in Amazonia. This fall’s upcoming synod, “Amazonia: New Paths for the Church and for an Integral Ecology,” is an overdue step in the right direction to move to pastoral action in order to build right relations with Indigenous peoples and Mother Earth. For all these reasons, a Concilium issue on “Indigenous Peoples and Christianities” is very timely.
Over the past few decades, the official teachings of the Catholic Church and the popes have expressed solidarity with Indigenous peoples’ movements for self-determination, affirmed their rights, and called for a change in the Church’s attitude towards them. Most recently, Pope Francis has apologized to the Indigenous peoples of the Americas for the Catholic Church’s participation in colonial violence (Santa Cruz, Bolivia in 2015, and San Cristobal de Las Casas, Chiapas, Mexico in 2016). Most recently, the preparatory document for the Amazonia synod takes a similar approach, and many churches have committed to begin new relationships with Indigenous peoples. However, there is still little, if any, systematic theological reflection on what decolonizing theology and pastoral ministry truly means. What such theologies and pastoral ministries with Indigenous peoples would look like? How do we imagine these new, right relations within the churches? And why have these theologies not advanced in any significant way over the past few decades?
However, Indigenous theologians and their allies in the churches have been—at least since the early1990s—speaking up, articulating their experiences, claiming their voice and place in the churches, and calling for a truly intercultural, mutual dialogue between their spiritual traditions and cultures and the imposed Western forms of Christianity. They want to belong to the churches as Indigenous peoples. They tell us that the wisdom, life experiences, spiritualties, and theologies of the Indigenous have something valuable to offer our world and the churches, particularly at the present intersection of multiple global crises: ecological, economic, security, political, spiritual, ecclesial, etc. For decades, Indigenous movements around the world have been resisting the neoliberal/ neocolonial economic and political systems. These systems, they make clear, have been bringing death to their peoples, destroying their ways of life and cultures, and devastating their lands and the rest of the earth. Indigenous theologians in the churches are calling for renewed intercultural theologies and practices of the Christian faith which take seriously their wisdoms, experiences, and movements of resurgence and resistance.
This issue of Concilium primarily gives space to Indigenous voices to articulate their theological and pastoral alternatives in dialogue with Christian practices that remain, for the most part, entrenched in colonial attitudes of domination and assimilation. The Indigenous voices in this issue call for a rethinking of the traditional biblical and fundamental theologies, ethics, ecclesiology, spirituality, church leadership, etc., and propose a variety of perspectives and experiences to renew faith and hope in the churches. It is our hope that this issue of Concilium will contribute to expanding these theological and pastoral movements in the churches.
Opening the issue is a photo of a Mayan altar in a church during the celebration of the Eucharist. Until very recently, such altars were not welcome in the churches. The photo symbolizes the new dialogue which is beginning to take place and which is a central theme in many of the articles presented here.
The opening witness and reflection by Sherry Balcombe from Aboriginal Catholic Australia sets the tone for Part One of this issue, “Indigenous Theological and Pastoral Insights.” The author contemplates Aboriginal spiritual practices and the connection to the people, the land and all that God has created, and the importance of these practices for the church. Balcombe makes clear that this spirituality has been and continues to be a force for resistance and survival for Aboriginal people in Australia today. In the same spirit, the articles by Atilano Ceballos Loeza and Ernestina López Bac focus on the Mesoamerican Mayan Christian rituals and their communitarian, spiritual function of connecting people to God, the community, and Mother Earth. For the authors, these interreligious communal rituals are also a spiritual source of resistance, decolonization, and commitment to justice and good life. Speaking from an intercultural Andean perspective, Sofía Chipana Quispe leads us in a reflection on decolonizing the use of the Bible and the theological concepts of “evangelization” so that they, together with other sacred traditions and experiences of Indigenous peoples, contribute to their projects of life. Next comes an article from the northern end of Indigenous America by Harry Lafond, who remembers the vision of a church open to the contribution and spirituality of the Cree people which he shared more than twenty years ago with the pope and the bishops at the Vatican’s Synod for America. Lafond reflects on the necessity for deep listening and dialogue between Indigenous peoples and church leaders in order to move beyond the colonial experience, and he repeats today what he said at the synod: that Indigenous peoples have powerful gifts to offer the Church. The Church needs to recognize this but has not done so yet.
Part Two of this issue is dedicated to different regional perspectives on the historical, ethical, and theological challenges of the ongoing colonization and neocolonization. The authors offer decolonial approaches for moving into the future. Laurenti Magesa from Kenya speaks with deep insights about the wounds of evangelization in the African continent and church. Similar to the voices from Indigenous America, he argues that Christianities in Africa have rejected African cultural values, and he proposes new insights for an authentic inculturation to make Christianity “truly Christian and truly African.” From Oaxaca, Mexico, Alejandro Castillo Morga examines the multiple crises generated by colonial modernity (modernidad-colonialidad) and puts forward a decolonial ethical horizon which is rooted in a praxis of intercultural pedagogy in solidarity with the Indigenous peoples’ struggle. Paulo Suess and José A. Gomes present the Indigenous cause and proposal of “good living” (buen vivir/ bem viver) as a fundamental critique of the dictatorship of the global colonial political economy. With his long history of working with Indigenous peoples in Amazonia, Suess and Gomes, who writes from San Paolo, Brazil, demonstrate that a new logic is needed to break with the historical colonial domination and promote a change that transcends it, and that new logic comes out of social movements in solidarity with Indigenous peoples and their fundamental demands. In the Synod for Amazonia, Suess and Gomes see a possibility for such a decolonial turn. Concluding this second section is Michel Andraos offers a theological reflection on the demands for decolonization and the challenges put forth by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and Indigenous Catholic voices to the churches in Canada and theology in general.
Part Three of this issue includes a regional, pastoral perspective from the southern Philippines. Karl Gaspar writes of a local church’s solidarity with the territorial struggle of the Lumad Indigenous peoples in Mindanao who are caught in multiple systems of violence, and he also considers the challenges and limits of this church’s solidarity. In his reflection on the issue as a whole, Diego Irarrázaval points out the universal value of the Indigenous (and mestizo) wisdom, paths, struggles, resistances, and questions, despite their limitations. Although these Indigenous proposals are marginalized in today’s world, Irarrázaval claims that they still have great potential for the future of humanity in the Common Home.
As we were wrapping up the editorial work for this issue, we received a timely statement from the meeting of Indigenous pastoral workers of Latin America that took place April 1-6, 2019, in Lacatunga, Ecuador. Because of its importance and relevance to our topic, we decided to include it in the Theological Forum section of this issue and invited three theologians from different parts of the Latin American church, Bernardeth Carmen Caero Bustillos from Bolivia, José Bartolomé Gómez Martínez from Chiapas, Mexico, and Geraldo de Mori from Brazil, to share their comments and reflections.
After reading all of the contributions, especially the ones by the Indigenous authors, what emerged as a common theme was “decolonial Indigenous Christianities.” As discussed in this issue, the emergence of decolonial Indigenous Christianities over the last few decades is a global phenomenon. Indigenous peoples in the churches are no longer passive objects of “evangelization” and pastoral work. The resurgence of Indigenous peoples on the global scale is a call to the nation states, society at large, and of course, the churches to take responsibility for the violence of the past history, to engage in a new dialogue from a position of mutuality, and to relate to Indigenous peoples and nations as equals in the search for a better life and future for all, including Mother Earth. It has often been said that the Indigenous peoples are the new evangelizers of the world. This is not a romantic statement; it is a new reality in the world and the churches today. In this new evangelization, the churches and society are called to conversion and to search for “new paths,” as the Amazonia synod’s preparatory document calls the global church to do. This call is also put forth very clearly in all of this issue’s articles.
The members of the editorial team would like to thank all of the authors for their generous and insightful contributions. It was truly a pleasure and privilege to work with them over the past two years in shaping this issue. Special thanks to Diego Irarrázaval who, in addition to making a valuable contribution to this issue, has also worked as an advisor to the editorial team. Without his wise guidance, this issue would not have been the same. We offer our deep gratitude to him and to all the contributors.
Table of contents
Editorial: Why an Issue on Indigenous Peoples and Christianities?
1. Indigenous theological, spiritual and pastoral visions
2. Dialogues with Christianity: Regional Perspectives
3. Pastoral and theological reflections
CELAM – Documento: “Mensaje Final. Encuentro de Agentes de Pastoral Nativos de Puelos Originarios, Lacatunga, Ecuador, 1 al 6 de avril de 2019.” CELAM – Departamento de Cultura y Educación. Comentarios teológicos por Bernardeth Caero Bustillos, José Bartolomé Gómez Martínez, y Geraldo de Mori
Sharry Balcombe – « Aboriginal Spirituality: A Testimony from Australia ». Indigenous peoples around the world share a relational spirituality that is deeply connected to the earth and all creation, including trees, mountains, animals, and plants. This article is a reflection on this ancestral spirituality and its importance for the survival and resistance of the Aboriginal peoples in Australia today, as well as its contribution to their Catholic faith and practice.
Atilano A. Ceballos Loeza – « Resistencia espiritual de los pueblos originarios ». El artículo está enmarcado en varios ritos de distintos pueblos originarios, donde se plantea el principio y fundamento de la espiritualidad indígena, que tiene como base la alteridad. Tanto el ser humano como la naturaleza son “el otro”, quien es la expresión de la divinidad. La percepción del “otro” implica asumir la responsabilidad en la defensa de los derechos de la madre tierra y de los más vulnerables. La resistencia espiritual indígena se expresa frente a los atropellos históricos y actuales en contra de los pueblos indígenas y la casa común.
Ernestina López Bac – « “Altar maya” como experiencia teológica e inter-religiosa ». El altar maya nace de la experiencia comunitaria y de la experiencia de Dios como familia. El participar en el altar maya, conocido también como los cuatro caminos, implica trabajar por la equidad, la justicia y la comunión en armonía con los seres humanos y la creación. El altar maya, como una experiencia inter-religiosa, acoge la espiritualidad indígena y cristiana. Dicho altar juega un papel importante en los encuentros de Teología India, mediante el cual las comunidades indígenas fortifican su experiencia espiritual, teológica y práctica.
Sofía Chipana Quispe – « La Biblia, en los procesos andinos de descolonización e interculturalidad ». Como comunidad humana, atravesamos por un tiempo de interpelaciones profundas al reconectarnos con las fuentes sagradas de la vida, que nos sitúan como un hilo matizado en el tejido de la vida, en la que es preciso reconocernos en nuestra diversidad, para salir de la hegemonía cultural y religiosa, que se impuso a lo largo de la historia a partir de la colonización en Abya Yala. Por lo que será sano y sanador para el cristianismo dialógico, ubicar la Biblia no como la única y exclusiva palabra de Dios, para reconocer en toda su plenitud en otros textos, palabras, textiles, cantos, memorias, relatos y danzas los múltiples lenguajes del Misterio de vida, sentido y nombrado de diversas maneras en los pueblos vinculados a su ancestralidad, que les permite seguir siendo y estando.
Harry Lafond – « The Church and the Indigenous Peoples of Canada, A Cree Vision of the Church, and My Experience as a Cree Catholic ». In the first part of this article, a summary of Lafond’s landmark speech “The Church and Indigenous Peoples of Canada” is provided: it was delivered in the Vatican at the Synod of America on November 26, 1997. Building on this summary, the second part of this article is an edited transcript of a conversation on the same topic that Harry Lafond had with Michel Andraos, one of the editors on this issue, on November 17 -18, 2017 at the Anishinaabe Spiritual Center, Anderson Lake, Ontario, Canada.
Laurenti Magesa – « From Brokenness to Wholeness: Healing a Wounded Church in a Wounded Continent and Fashioning an African Christianity of the Future ». Not unlike the Judaizing tendencies of early Christianity described in the Acts of the Apostles, 19th century missionary evangelization in Africa was embedded in European ethno-centrism. The damaging effects of this warped paradigm on African Christianity are still deeply felt. Christianity here remains rather rootless on account of the total rejection of the contribution of African cultural values in expressing the Gospel and, therefore, African Christians suffer from a loss of self-identity in living their faith. The challenge facing the Church is to recapture these values through a process of authentic inculturation to make Christianity “truly Christian and truly African.”
Alejandro Castillo Morga – « El horizonte pedagógico desde la ética indígena. El proyecto del Centro de Artes y Oficios para los pueblos originarios de México ». El contexto actual exige que las propuestas de los excluidos de la historia se hagan cargo de la crisis que enfrenta hoy la humanidad. La crisis generada por la modernidad-colonialidad exige que las voces de las demás tradiciones estén más presentes en el debate público, con tal de garantizar la permanencia de la comunidad de vida sobre el planeta. La crítica al sistema desde la ética indígena pretende ofrecer una propuesta de cómo las naciones amerindias se hacen cargo pedagógicamente de la vida de sus pueblos, comunidades de vida integradas a un ecosistema concreto, a un territorio. El proyecto del Centro de Artes y Oficios para los pueblos originarios pretender ser una plataforma para impulsar la educación con la sensibilidad y el conocimiento de los pueblos.
Paulo Suess / José A. Gomes – « A causa indígena como crítica da “razão colonial” ». Na questão indígena do Brasil não se trata de casos isolados, que podem encontrar soluções políticas segundo o respectivo turno de governantes. Trata-se antes de uma causa étnico-racial global da alteridade que, a partir de uma crítica fundamental à razão colonial persistente, exige transformações políticas profundas. Em contraste com essa razão colonial, a racionalidade do bem viver de todos aposta na ruptura do sistema econômico atual, dependente de um crescimento contínuo num planeta, geograficamente, finito. Apontando para a necessidade dessa ruptura como exigência da sobrevivência da humanidade, a Igreja Católica realiza, em outubro de 2019, um Sínodo para a Amazônia com o tema: “Novos Caminhos para a Igreja e para uma Ecologia integral”. Além de prometer sair, profeticamente, em praça pública para combater “o sistema econômico que mata”, o sínodo quer abrir “novos caminhos” para uma conversão pastoral e, em busca de seu “rosto amazônico”, lançar a pedra fundamental para uma Igreja pós-colonial.
Michel Andraos – « Long-Term Theological and Pastoral Challenges for Decolonizing the Relation with Indigenous Peoples: A Reflection from Canada ». Awareness of their violent history with Indigenous peoples is compelling the mainline Christian churches to radically rethink the future of their relationships on a global scale. The churches are acknowledging the mistakes of the past, apologizing for their violent role in colonization, and taking action for dialogue, decolonization, and reconciliation. Theology has an important role to contribute to this process. As the churches seek new paths for the future, the task of decolonization will be a long-term and challenging journey.
Karl M. Gaspar – « Indigenous People’s Landscape and Its Direct Connection to Impoverishment and Un-Peace: The Case in Bislig, Surigao in the Philippines ». The struggles of Indigenous People in the uplands of Bislig, in Surigao del Sur, a province in Mindanao in southern Philippines, continue to be a cause of concern for the Local Church. Their communities have become sites for contestation between State agencies, corporate firms and the Indigenous organization. Appropriating the State’s law providing the Indigenous peoples with legal rights over their ancestral domain, their tribal council decided to allow the entry of coal mining, a local extractive industry introduced earlier by a big business firm. At the same time, their lands were also planted to fast-growing trees known as falcatta. Concerned ecological advocates have warned the communities of the long-term ecological impact of these activities, which have made some tribal leaders worried as to how they can be engaged in income-generating activities and yet not destroy their environment. The local Base Ecclesial Communities of the parish have shown an interest to assist them in their struggles but are somehow limited in their capacity to provide solidarity. This article is a case study of how a local church gets involved in solidarity work with Indigenous communities.
Diego Irarrázaval – « Saberes autóctonos con relevancia universal ». En las Américas, los pueblos resisten y generan alternativas aparentemente pequeñas (como es el caso de comunidades indígenas). Comento logros y limitaciones en estas teologías, y modos de-coloniales de encarar categorías hegemónicas. Las resiliencias, las preguntas, los minúsculos paradigmas autóctonos y mestizos, son relevantes para la humanidad en la Casa Común. Son sabidurías que retoman ejes del Evangelio y el caminar eclesial, que conllevan exigencias en ambientes urbanos e interculturales, que impulsan reflexiones en la juventud.