Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Reawakening of indigenous theologies and implications for Christian theology – by Jean-François Roussel

translated by D. Millar from the group blog rapdakar.blogspot.com ;">8 Feb 2011.

We attended an FMTL workshop given by Aboriginal people across the Americas who are participating in the World Forum on Theology and Liberation. They are from a Christian position but of primarily Aboriginal origins: Eleazar López Hernández (Zapotec, Mexico); Marcus Briggs-Cloud (Muskogee, Oklahoma); Maria Chávez (Bolivia), Mario Perez Perez (Nahuatl, Mexico) and Abraham Colque (Bolivia). With them, Roberto Bosch, who is a Brazilian non-indigenous member of WFTL, a defender of the rights of the Guarani of Paraguay.

To account fully for a workshop is not as rich. Here are the points that have most interested me. Lopez initially called for going beyond compassion for injustices suffered by indigenous people, to recognizing that indigenous voices are emerging globally, and that indigenous voices, collectively, are ready to make their contribution to the whole of humanity, to the prospect of a "fair globalization". This is based on various comments by the participants, with questions and potential for Christian theology as a whole -- as long as it welcomes these openings!

In this sense, said Maria Chavez, if crisis is inescapable in indigenous theology, it also expresses celebration. Indigenous theology is lived in the fiesta. In addition to assuming all the connotations of  community, joy, dance, party, or celebration, it also has a one of risk (riesgo). The unexpected can occur there. But the risk is to recover and restore the balance of things. Is it possible to live our crises in a spirit of celebration, hope, and commonality? To seek in fiesta a rebalancing of community?


The indigenous struggle, like worldviews to which it relates, is currently characterized by its internationalization. Abraham Colque pointed to the link between our visit to [the historic slave fort on] Goree Island and the issues that mobilize natives. What began at Goree shows how globalization began, with the theft of resources from the South.

Colque's comment is relevant for Quebec and for Canada as a whole, among other regions. From the 17th century, indigenous economies were deconstructed along with entire nations, starting when the European market for fur turned to the huge reservoir that was the American Northeast. From then on, the indigenous subsistence economy was integrated into the European market economy, leading the Iroquois "to deplete the resource," as they say in Quebec, and thrusting north for more in the Canadian Shield at the expense of the Anishinabeh and Huron-Wendat. But they did not escape economic integration, and lost themselves in the exchange. Aboriginal people and products were underpaid, often treated as objects of low value.

It's the same drama as that facing Africa. And according to the United Nations Programme for Development, the Human Development Index of all Aboriginal communities in Canada is exactly comparable to that of many African countries.

Chavez worked in the World Council of Churches, in the indigenous program. This program is international and everyone relates to indigenous peoples, whether of America, Africa, Asia, Oceania and Europe. And here we touch a very current native condition: linkages between indigenes, relatively isolated from each other until recently. There is a growing alliance of indigenous peoples around the world to fight an unjust globalization.

And churches? And theology? How does this relate to native globalization? Several ways.

"In the worst cases, churches have murdered our souls. In the best case, we were treated in a paternalistic way. "The place of indigenous traditions in the churches is still generally limited to the pageantry of traditional costumes. An example of this is the fact that we considered the native peoples as receiving Christianity, but never as producers of theologies. Even today, we do not take seriously the capacity of indigenous theologians.

The divine mystery is understood differently in the Aboriginal world, which does not mention God in the sense of the personal divinity, transcendent and purely masculine, that colors Christian theology. I acknowledge here the "Great Mystery" of the Lakota, the "Great Power" of Anishinaabeh, the Oki Huron-Wendat: immanent mystery, diffuse, non-localizable Because as encompassing as the air we breathe.

What is an indigenous theology like? Impossible to relate here all the ideas that were presented here in abundance. According to Mario Perez Perez, it proceeds by looking for a full understanding of reality. The holistic approach mentioned here is to find a multiplicity of perspectives on reality, which requires the balance of the four dimensions of life (physical, spiritual, mental and emotional), and by encountering opportunities in a community: it can not be accomplished individually.

In addition, it extends far beyond writing, and actually begins at a deeper, even symbolic level. It is grounded in the vision, colors, smells, tastes, perceptions of reality of the body.

An indigenous feminist theology

Maria Chavez calls on churches, and indigenous theologians themselves, to develop indigenous feminist theology, a double critique of churches and native male-patriarchal theology. This patriarchal view was reinforced by colonialism and liberalism. While indigenous theology is communal, it must take more seriously the female half of the community. For example, developing a consistent position on the roles of women in the community. This does not mean for her, abandonment of the male-female complementarity that characterizes indigenous worldviews, but the rejection of conflict-causing dualism: we never say "this" or "that." This goes beyond heterosexual dualism, which is the foundation of patriarchy. Marcus Briggs-Cloud, in a presentation of Muskogee language, developed a more positive view of homosexuality.

Lopez began the workshop by mentioning the contribution that indigenous theology is willing to make to Christian theology in general. After the workshop, we asked ourselves, can the dominant culture open itself to that insight now?


Luis said...

As indigenous peoples we have being allienated from our own spirituality for so long that we do not even know what to say when we read articles like this. Liberating is the only word that comes to mind now. If indigenous peoples are to flourish again, it will be when we bring our input to the family table of humanity.

Luis Marcos

fdmillar said...

For updates, you may be interested in the indigenous Declarations at Rio+20 in the Ecojustice blog http://justeco.blogspot.com/2012/06/declaration-of-kari-oka-by-indigenous.html and http://justeco.blogspot.com/2012/06/indigenous-peoples-key-messages-for.html