For the sun heats up again.
Motivated by the centenary of the IRM, this article is a reflection from an indigenous perspective. Indigenous Peoples' experience with mission movements is vast, complex and varied, depending on the context. The mission of God has always been in relation to the original peoples of the land, who have been part of the church even when these relations have been neither fair nor harmonious. Indigenous Peoples have been persecuted, demonized and excluded, as well as assimilated and westernized in order to survive, but now they are not only arising again as peoples but raising up the importance of indigenous spiritual perspectives and theological reflection. Dialogue with indigenous wisdom and theologies was mandated by the 2006 assembly of the WCC, but that necessitates recognizing and welcoming "otherness" and revisiting syncretism.
From Abya Yala
Human history is a vast storehouse of multiple relationships. The history of Gods reflects the history of the relationships among human populations, social sectors and their life projects. The following excerpt from a pre-Columbian Mesoamerican and Mexican myth presents the relation of the two gods represented respectively by Sun and Dog.
The Sun said: 'free the dog (Xolotl) who does not want to die. There is reason if he is happy and makes other happy. I do not want more sacrifices! I will eat stars instead. My heat will be to caress People, animals and plants (1)
According to Eleazar Lopez, the Sun represents the god of the great Aztec urban empire while the Dog is the god of the Huasteca agricultural people living under the rule of Aztecas. Xolotl, the Dog is close to the life of people and makes them happy. Their happiness makes the Sun want the blood of Xolotl as a sacrifice. Xolotl escapes from the violence of the priests of the Sun and is able to change the Sun's intent to sacrifice Xolotl. The Sun promises its heat will be a caress, rather than burning or hurting other Gods, peoples, animals or nature. The Sun changes, and so also can Gods and their priests. This strengthens believers, especially the humble, the poor and nature.
In Abya Yala (2), the "mature land, fertile and abundant," there has been a long experience of Christian missions, both Catholic and Protestant. Our continent is Christian but it is also Amerindia, an Indian/indigenous continent. It is also the place where peoples came from elsewhere, voluntarily or involuntarily, and settled permanently. It is IndoAfroMestizaAmgricaLatina' which testifies to its ability to generate life amidst suffering, exploitation and marginalization. New paradigms of civilization arise from these lands, many of them arising from the cultural matrix of the descendants of the first nations of Abya Yala.
Abya Yala was conquered by violent military forces, which were legitimized theologically. Social and religious relations between the original inhabitants of Abya Yala and the descendants of the conquistadores are very complex, but usually only analyzed from non-indigenous perspectives. Elites of the Christian churches have not made efforts to understand this reality from indigenous perspectives but instead have been allies of the continued domination of indigenous and impoverished populations. Despite a history of pain and subjugation, Abya Yala is also a continent where the grace of God can be perceived in very creative ways. The daily life of simple people, especially their ability to resist and withstand multiple conflicts and aggressions, witnesses to the wonderful strength and faith of the peoples as well as their amazing capacity to recreate their culture and religion.
The arrival of the Christian God was welcomed 520 years ago, as well as today, insofar as the gospel values inclusiveness, which is characteristic of indigenous cultures and worldviews. But this has never been reciprocal. Indigenous Gods were sentenced to death and their believers accused of idolatry. They were persecuted, murdered, discriminated against, and their labour, natural resources and economy exploited.
Latin America has experienced colonization and christianization far longer (3) than the history of the International Review of Mission (IRM). This history remains in the indigenous collective memory of Abya Yala, with a clear political dimension. From the past and the present we affirm that our cultures are committed to the search for an abundant life. We also want to examine our collective memory self-critically, knowing that idealizing cultures does not strengthen what we propose.
As Indigenous Peoples we suffer because European racism made us into "Indians" 520 years ago, and with this came impoverishment, lack of basic resources for survival, social evils expressed in violence, alcoholism, division etc. Despite this, we also celebrate the memory/history of resistance of our peoples against the conquest, colonization, and current kinds of colonialism. This inspires us to continue anticipating another possible world where many worlds have a place, and where the earth/nature/creation/ cosmos is again what it has always been for us, the Mother of life.
We cannot here reflect more on the history of the relationship between Christianity and Abya Yala peoples, but this is the basis from out of which we celebrate, assess and raise perspectives for missiology. There is much richness and many contradictions in that history; but at the risk of making some generalizations, we will attempt to draw some implications of the emerging Indigenous theologies for ecumenical missiology.
The IRM is a history of relationships
Over the past 100 years, the IRM has well reflected the history of relations between different peoples, cultures and religions, in all its complexity and contradictions. It has testified to the passionate love of those who felt the call to evangelize and christianize the world and other peoples who, without knowing the gospel, lived their deep faith in their own way. Different people came together, violated, withstood, loved, danced and transgressed the limits of their own cultures and religions. Amid setbacks, they redirected their work again and again, opening and dosing doors to new ways of understanding, affirming and reaffirming their witness to Christ in every generation.
The relation between Indigenous Peoples and mission can be reflected upon at two levels: The first is by considering how Indigenous Peoples have been a part of the church and have participated in the ecumenical movement. The second is the theological articulation rooted in indigenous cultures and spiritualities today. Indigenous theologies have much to offer to missiological reflection in the church, as they offer different civilizational paradigms for a world in political and financial crisis.
The beginning of mission and Indigenous Peoples
The primary purpose of the Review is to further the serious study of the facts and problems of missionary work among non-Christian peoples, and to contribute to the building up of a science of missions. (4)
Looking at that original goal of the IRM through indigenous eyes, we find two loci of what then were Protestant missions. One focus is on the "non-Christian peoples" or the original inhabitants of the land where Christian missionaries went. Secondly, the people there are the destination of the mission, or the "object" of the missionary task.
The active subject in this relation is the north-Atlantic missionary, mostly from Europe, England and the United States. In the local context, the missionaries (5) and their families embodied a society which felt superior and in possession of the truth which was to spread to the rest of the world, with and for God's blessing. Edinburgh 1910 presented these subjects as being in "zeal for mission" and ready to expand the Christian gospel.
The "other" in this relationship was considered non-Christian, and thus inferior, backward and of a "weaker race." These objects of mission were stripped of the otherness of their culture, language, economics, politics and religion, in short, of what had made them subjects, had given them life and a way of being in the world. Evident in the general approach of the first decades of IRM were racist (6) considerations of the "other," the indigenous, and discourses that justified the colonial system. (7)
The relation established with original peoples was not one of equals; the exercise of power was unidirectional. Their cultural values were considered uncivilized. The result of this was that Indigenous Peoples were undervalued and north-Atlantic missionary work was exalted, despite the recognized suffering caused by colonization. Missionaries even dared to claim the victory of their civilization and the total assimilation of Original peoples into it. At the same time, there also was a genuine concern to fill the "moral emptiness" and life principles of the evangelized peoples, but these were filled with moral values and life principles of Western culture and Christianity. (8) Most Indigenous Peoples were converted to Protestant Christianity through such cultural assimilation.
There is also some evidence of awareness of the sufferings inflicted on Indigenous Peoples, but despite this sensitivity, Christian mission during this period did not oppose colonization and exploitation by north-Atlantic countries. Instead, it became an ally of colonial expansion and domination that involved exploiting the local workforce and its natural resources. At the risk of oversimplifying, we can say that the missionaries during this early period of the IRM were more concerned with saving indigenous souls from cultural and religious degradation. They lacked a serious critical analysis of the structural causes that produced this "backwardness" and suffering.
In almost all the cases, their missionary strategy was to approach local elites and/or ethnic majorities in Africa, Asia and the Pacific and the criollo and mestizos in Latin America. Thus, in Africa or Asia, ethnic majorities were converted to Christianity, while the so-called "minorities" or "tribes" were relegated and subordinated not only to their nascent states but also to the dominant ethnic groups who had been christianized already. (9)
Nevertheless, we must also acknowledge that in a context of colonial exploitation, the missionaries' faith led them to defend the human rights of these "backward" Indigenous Peoples, even at the risk of opposing their compatriots. Educational programmes and health care projects were initiated and gradually transferred to indigenous leadership. (10) Protestant mission consequently has been identified with the establishment of schools, hospitals, legal services and protection of human rights. Latin American mission schools normally taught in the colonial and missionaries' languages. (11) It necessarily implied the loss of the local indigenous languages and therefore a loss of identity in future generations of Indigenous Peoples, but it also allowed participation in the mainstream local society and its decision-making processes.
During the first decades of the IRM, there are only a few references to missionary work in Latin America. The continent was considered the monopoly of the Catholic church, which had been present there for 400 years. Early in the 19th century, Protestant missionaries tried to enter Latin American societies by invitation of liberal governments who wanted to break the conservative political and economic power of the criollo elites associated with the hierarchy of the Catholic church. (12) Since then, the Protestant and evangelical identity in Abya Yala has been built in opposition to popular Catholic faith. Yet this popular Catholicism is where indigenous spirituality has been more able to survive.
Although their first aim was to evangelize Indigenous Peoples, missionaries soon realized and learned about the extreme poverty and neglect of the people. Besides the projects in education and health, the Protestant missions helped some indigenous languages to survive by translating the first Bibles, as the Protestant foundation, into the local languages. (13) This translation work was controversial because of the danger of oversimplifying native languages, insensitivity toward the worldviews and spirituality carried by the languages, or the political interests these translations would serve. (14) Protestant missionaries operated with racial assumptions, differentiating indigenous from mestizo and criollo peoples. This helped to deepen the fractures among different sectors of the society, and legitimized the discrimination and devaluation of Indigenous Peoples. Ironically, churches still experienced major growth among the indigenous. (15)
The IRM also supported the aim of creating and strengthening indigenous churches (16) with an increasingly local leadership. It is fascinating to read of how this was occurring. Each local indigenous church took the colours of the local culture, the worship incorporated not only the local language but also cultural symbols, rites of passage, as well as local holidays.
It is also the case that this local empowerment occurred through the assertion of Western culture and the loss of original cultures. Many indigenous people stopped considering themselves as indigenous and embraced the new Western Christian identity. They no longer related to their cultural and spiritual roots but ignored them, even fought them as anti-Christian idolatry, in order to be part of the official Christian church. In taking up a Christian identity, they left their cultural and spiritual inheritance, considering such to be the cause, for instance, of alcoholism, superstition and poverty. In order to be part of the Christian church, indigenous churches repeated traditional Western theology, rather than developing creative new theologies (17) or different biblical hermeneutics from their members' symbiotic experiences of faith. Incorporating ecclesial hierarchical symbolism tended to break the communitarian dynamics of indigenous understandings of authority. Internal patriarchal mechanisms were now legitimized with the Bible and God. Community projects were financially dependent on the "mother church" and on uncritical defence of the capitalist model of development. Alien understandings of time, space, moral values and logic were incorporated. In many cases, indigenous churches became sad imitations of north-Atlantic missionary churches.
Indigenous cultures and their peoples were targeted as "wrong." Some sociological interpretations of traditional festive practices were exaggerated in order to legitimize the mainstream society and maintain the social and political isolation of indigenous populations. For instance, they were accused of being alcoholic and abusive. (18) Indigenous converts to evangelical Christianity rejected the use of alcohol, which can be seen as a way of denouncing the stereotypes still prevailing in mainstream society in order to pursue a new life. This is the experience of the indigenous Pentecostal communities which has not been analysed sufficiently. Not all traditional ways are bad, nor are foreign ways good per se. A total break with the past is not the way to generate life in the full sense, but this typically is associated with conversion in official church discourses. In most cases, Indigenous Peoples live out the Christian faith in creative, symbiotic ways; they synthesize or syncretize the different faiths together, for the sake of living well and Well-being in their communities.
Colonialism and christianization were two sides of the same coin. Both brought discontinuity with cultures and reinforced situations of hopelessness for indigenous communities. This also was compounded by capitalism, economic domination and a spiritual disconnection with the Earth. These all come together when analysing the situation of Indigenous Peoples. Undervaluing indigenous culture is connected with the violence that they, especially women and children, experience every day. Even dramatic ecological suffering of the Earth can be explained by people being deeply disconnected with their fundamental cultural values. Despite this cultural discontinuity, we can also witness a historical continuity with the traditional indigenous wisdom and spirituality. The ceremonies are still performed, and the rites and the oral tradition still reinforce the strength of the communities. This is the richness that indigenous faith experiences can bring to theological reflection.
Despite the danger of self-denial, Protestant Christianity also meant good news for Indigenous Peoples, who discovered in the gospel liberation from internal and external systems of domination. It enriched their vision of life, providing them tools for internal critique of their own cultures, defence of their human rights, empowerment - especially among women (19)--, capacity building, etc. This is some of what Indigenous Peoples gained, with the support of the Protestant churches and inspired by the biblical prophetic witness. Hearing the injustices suffered by Indigenous people began in the world ecumenical forum, even before it did in NGOs and the UN system. International ecumenical forums were able to create solidarity and awareness, to build capacities for action and to promote change at the local level, in both the global North and South. The local churches were and are the vehicles making this possible.
Throughout missionary history, the objects of mission became subjects of mission. They are present in the ecumenical movement, and the majority of the churches today are under their leadership. Churches became autochthonous and local, with both positive and negative nuances. Christianity is growing and dynamic in the global South, radically changing the scenario for theological and missiological reflection. Those previously "non-Christian" are now part of the church, as Christians. A history of encounter, painful yet full of grace, has borne fruit in indigenous Christianity, whose resources and reflections could contribute much to the ecumenical movement's reflections on theology and missiology. Indigenous Christianity is another locus theologicus, visible yet not recognized.
Within the WCC, the IRM and CWME have the task of enriching the church through the different theological reflections and cultural realities of Indigenous Peoples. Practically, formal representation at the level of leadership limits the possibility of indigenous theological reflection making an impact. Nevertheless, one of the major achievements was the "Gospel and Cultures" project, whose climax was the 1996 mission conference in Salvador Bahia, Brazil. Also, after the assembly in Canberra, (20) with its polemic attitude regarding the "scandal and fear of syncretism," (21) at the IRM has been open to different approaches and indigenous contributions and how these can be bridged.
The emergence of indigenousness
During the last forty years, Indigenous Peoples (particularly from the Americas) have emerged internationally, on both the political and religious scene. The major change is the new sense of identity, understood through the concept of indigenousness, with clear goals set before nation states and churches. This rise of Indigenous Peoples has important implications for theology, and for new paradigms of life.
In the 1970s the crucial situation facing Indigenous Peoples was heard internationally, and brought a critical view of evangelization, especially through the two Barbados consultations. (22) As stated in the IRM:
The Barbados report is very realistic when it associates, finally, the liberation of the Indian with the liberation of the nation and the Latin American continent. There is only one human movement towards full humanity, towards liberation, towards redemption. The movement for Indian liberation in the jungle is a part of the movement across the continent for the liberation of the proletariat of the urban areas who seek better living conditions, a greater degree of personal participation in society and more human dignity. (23)
Although Barbados I was a conversation among indigenist (24) anthropologists, Barbados II included and heard the voice of Indigenous Peoples. From then on, we have continued expressing our protests and proposals in ecumenical fora. We have protested the injustices, the continued attempts at genocide and cultural assimilation, the dispossession of lands and territories, rivers, mountains, sacred sites, natural resources etc. These protests rely on the creative use of different political and religious languages. It also implies that indigenous spiritual and theological perspectives are directed to the church, which subsequently means the affirmation of indigenous identity and different ways of being Christian. There are proposals to enrich the world and the church with traditional ancestral wisdom, values related to close relationship with Earth, and to dialogue with other Christian theologies as equals. (25)
Currently, the word Indigenous identifies those oppressed by colonialism and capitalism, who recognize themselves as inheritors and successors of the great civilizations prior to the north-Atlantic colonization and christianization, and who join with other oppressed and excluded groups in search of liberation. It is a universalized identity that looks forward to the encounter with other identities, and that "has gathered our peoples in pain, resistance and in theological reflection." (26) This process of going back to the origins takes place not only in Abya Yala but also in North America, Asia, the Pacific, Africa and Europe. It is a return to the roots of the original processes of humanizing and making each people aware, in order to find again the resources and criteria for building a future that respects creation/nature/Mother Earth.
The plural word peoples refers to their amazing diversity, and especially Latin American struggles where huge social transformations have been initiated and carried out by those bound together by land, culture, worldviews, origins and destiny, such as the Originarian Peoples in the Andes or the Peoples of Chiapas in Mexico. Usually this includes complex life experiences and collective claims and practices, "a community of life and therefore of destiny, among a stable conglomerate of men and women geographically established." (27) The experience of community and collective economic system is fundamental to express the way of being peoples and also in doing theology. The use of the word people in singular is diffuse and ambiguous since it refers to an abstract construct for the inhabitants of a given nation state.
Overcoming fear of otherness and embracing pluralism
Although always present in the history of Christian mission, indigenous otherness still needs to be welcomed and embraced in ecclesial spaces so as to become real and be lived out in just relations among human beings, worldviews, cultures, religions and ways of life in relation to nature, in order to create a new possible world and strengthen the possibilities of life for all.
Some possible paths have already been identified by the IRM, and among them the most urgent, especially in official theological and ecumenical work, is to revisit syncretism. Fearing and refusing to re-evaluate syncretism reveals how different experiences within Christianity continue to be devalued. We cannot live out the love of God in its fullness if we fear and devalue otherness. It is not possible to continue maintaining ideas about the purity of the Christian faith. Daily life of peoples shows the creative intertranscultural processes (28) through which faith and life are actualized.
The starting point of theological and missiological reflection should be a broad understanding of the incarnation of Jesus Christ. The fact that God became human in a given culture, gender and time shows God is willing to be present in all cultures, genres and times through the freedom of the Holy Spirit. The encounter between the gospel and cultures creates new symbiotic (29) religious experiences where the God of Jesus Christ is present. This has happened throughout history and is especially evident in the encounter between the gospel and Greco-Roman culture, highly marked by the Neoplatonic philosophy. It has been a valuable and creative encounter that cannot be taken as norm for other symbiotic encounters provoked by the continuous incarnation of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Syncretism, understood as a permanent symbiotic actualization of faith, will lead us to be faithful to the origins of Christianity, to the witnesses, martyrs, fathers and mothers of the church and to the faith of today's peoples who live in a world undergoing continuous transformation, multiple crises and processes of destruction.
Accepting religious and theological synthesis would have several implications for mission and evangelism. For instance, it would mean stopping proselytizing and starting to recognize the presence of God and Jesus in the different indigenous communities. (30) Then we can initiate dialogue of worldviews in a pluralistic religious context. We also will need to develop hermeneutical criteria (31) for the dialogue. Indigenous theologies are engaged in deconstructing (32) a Christianity based on the Neoplatonic Hellenic philosophy, and in building new ways of incarnating and living out faith in Jesus Christ. By Hellenic Christianity and theology we refer to the fruit of the first inculturation of the gospel into the Greco-Roman culture and worldview. Concepts such as person, transcendence, essence, nature, creation ex nihilo were shaped by platonic Hellenism and thereafter monopolized theological reflection and comprehensions of reality and God. Something similar occurred later with Aristotelian concepts in the European Middle Ages.
This first inculturation allowed Christian communities to recreate their faith in new cultural contexts. The problem is not in the process of encountering cultures but in considering inculturation as the rule for further theological reflection. After the intertranscultural process occurred in the Greco-Roman cultural context, no other process of new inculturation or contextualization was recognized. Other understandings of human beings, divine reality, nature etc. were considered pagan, and therefore were excluded from the official hegemonic theology and church.
The first challenge of Indigenous theology is to overcome the dualistic logic of exclusion which identified us as "uncivilized," "indios," "weak," "animists," and endorsed the oppression of our peoples and the exploitation of the Mother Earth, as well as condemning our cultural, religious interpretations and questioning how we express the Christian faith. This needs to be the self-critical task of all theologies.
We can also find creative points of encounter between indigenous and other theologies. For instance, reflection on the names of God interacts with the plural names for God in the Bible and in church history. The continual references to the ancestors in indigenous theologies relates to the communion of the saints. Indigenous wisdom and our inter-relation with nature correspond to the wisdom tradition in the Bible where God is present in the creation. The protests of Indigenous Peoples are rooted not only in the ancestral vindications but also in the prophetic biblical tradition. The collective indigenous model resonates with the perichoretic (mutually co-inhering) relation of the Trinity. Considering the other as sent by God is a call to understand missio Dei as a relation among those who are different.
Opening some doors
Indigenous Peoples call for the unity of all the communities of life in order to save the planet and to rebuild human relations. The planet is not considered as an object but as living, as Mother Earth, origin of life. (33) Since unity and mission are at the heart of the church, this unity and mission should be seen in relation to the salvation of creation. Theology of mission and theology in general must overcome its anthropocentric paradigm and creation should no longer be understood as an object to be exploited. The goal of mission is the renewal of the creation/earth and its salvation.
Salvation of the planet can be understood as healing (34) humankind. Salvation as healing is very close to Indigenous Peoples, and invites dialogue with other humanizing traditions as world religions are. Indigenous spirituality is rooted in healing, understood as the restoration of health, a re-balance in the relation of human beings with themselves and with the creation. Humanity is deeply infected with consumerism and in need of rebalancing its system of relationships.
Linked to salvation is contestation as it is witnessed by the protest and claims of Indigenous Peoples. Mission needs also to be understood as contestation of the powers which take out the dignity of life. IRM is witness and companion to the prophetic processes which seek justice and tights. Although there is the necessity to select and prioritize those which are more urgent (35), the criteria must not reflect the play of interests, language hegemony or economic influences. The perspectives from below and the excluded are not always present. Indeed, that perspective needs to be ensured so the subaltern voices can be heard and redirect the global thinking and action. Other dimensions that Indigenous theologies can bring include a panentheistic view of God (36) that is more consistent with the Bible and the worldview of indigenous cultures.
For instance, Andean cultures do not consider God as absolute and transcendent but as part of the cosmos, as the system of relations itself. Creation is understood as a web of life in a delicate balance, not hierarchically ordered with human beings at the apex. God cares for and guarantees the balance of life. For mission, this means strengthening reflections on creation in view of the ecological crisis. Also, mission can move from proselytizing to recognizing and celebrating God as experienced by indigenous Christians. (37)
Another aspect would be the need to deepen the ecumenical character of mission. Indigenous theology understands itself as one, but it is nurtured by a diversity of indigenous theologies. It necessarily is ecumenical and interreligious because its starting point is the concern for the oikoumene, as the cosmos, planet, the common house of humanity. Thus, we call for an ecumenical mission in practice, rather than denominationally based missions that have brought so much damage to indigenous communities.
The oral character of Indigenous Peoples must be reaffirmed. This is intended to privilege another way of perceiving the divine mystery, through symbolic language, rituals and ceremonies, in the silence, in the songs and in the rhythms of nature, as ways of expressing faith in God and for formulating an Indigenous Christian "theosymbology." Although we have embraced the written word of God in the Bible, God also speaks beyond the Bible, through the creation and daily life.
Finally, it is important to recover the sexual, independent and complementary character of all dimensions of life. Patriarchal hierarchy and its correlated a-sexual assumptions permeated much Christian theology, (38) even indigenous theology, and is one of the origins of violence. In the Andean worldview and its theology, the emphasis is on the complementary character of everything what exists in the cosmos. In the cosmos, each sexual polarity finds its complement. For mission, this implies contesting and deconstructing patriarchy inside the church and in its many local manifestations, such as the predominance of men in ecumenical gatherings, and referring to God only in male language. This is a scandal that indigenous theologies can help re-balance.
For Xolotl need not escape
From a sentence of death, Indigenous Peoples are arising with specific political and theological proposals. Although there is scepticism from both churches and indigenous theologians, we believe that the time has come to present our theological richness to the church. It is the time for indigenous theologians to share with each other and articulate a common theological voice. For the next 100 years, we would hope that the IRM and CWME will continue to be the space where this can occur in coordinated, creative and effective ways.
The God brought by the Catholic and Protestant missionaries to Abya Yala, who also brought violence, injustices, imbalances, and racism, has changed for us. The Christian God has taken our face and shows her/his solidarity throughout our survival. It is no longer necessary to escape but we can rely on God, as Mother and Father, and begin speaking aloud our theological reflections. We seek the christianizing Sun who does not burn anymore but tenderly heats us so that we can enjoy life in abundance. It is an abundant life that our ancestors dreamt for us, and that is offered also by Jesus, the Christ of God and of the peoples.
(1) Oral narration of the Myth of Xdotl from the peoples of Huejutla, Hidalgo, Mexico. Compiled by Jose Baron Larios and quoted by Lopez, Eleazar, Espiritualidad y teologia de los pueblos amerindios; in Lopez, Eleazar Teologia India, Antolagia. Verbo Divino, La Paz (2000). pp. 46.
(2) Abya Yala is the indigenous name for Latin America and the Caribbean. Although each indigenous group uses a different name according to their languages, the name Abya Yah, of Kuna origin, became very popular after 1992, the 500 years commemoration of the arrival of Spaniard conquistadores, On the one hand, the name is used mostly in political demands for self-determination, but on the other hand, it helps to re-affirm the cultural identity of the new indigenous generations.
(3) Tesfai, Yacob, "Invasion and Evangelization: Reflections on a Quincentenary," IRM 81:324 (Oct. 1992), pp. 524--541. Melia, Bartolomeu, "Indigenous Cultures and Evangelization: Challenges for a Liberating Mission," IRM 81:324 (Oct. 1992), pp. 557-567. Gallardo, Helio, 500 anos: Fenomenologia del mestizo (violencia y Resistencia), DEI, San Jose (1993).
(4) "The Editor's Note," IRM1 (1912), p. 1.
(5) It is estimated that 55 percent of the missionaries at that stage (1910) were women. It seems that no change in the patriarchal perspective of mission happened despite that significant presence. See Dbamaraj, Glory. Lay Women, Mission Practices and Theological Thought, Queen's Foundation, England (2009).
(6) Note that the category "race" comes from very one sided racist anthropological studies. It is no longer used in the fields of anthropology and theology. The category ethnic expresses better and more respectfully refers to the diversifies that make the human species.
(7) "No traveler of an observant eye and impartial mind, who passes among those uncivilized, non-Christian races in which missionaries are now at work, can fail to be struck by the immense improvement which they have wrought in the condition of the people, and which often is quite irrespective of the number of actual converts who have been formed into Christian congregations.... They did wish to spread the faith. They overthrew the idols, and stopped or tried to stop human sacrifices and many other horrors.... Everywhere the native has suffered; everywhere the white adventurer or trader has attempted to treat him as if he had no rights, or has him as a mere instrument by the use of which he can profit. To some extent it is inevitable that the weaker race should suffer by this contact, but there has also been much willful and needless wrong-doing on the part of the white men who have gone among the aborigines". Bryce, James, "The impressions of a traveler among non-Christian races" IRM 1 (1912), pp. 16--17.
(8) "In another fifty years that which we call our civilization will have overspread the earth and extinguished the native customs and organizations of the savage and semi-civilized peoples.... Unless the backward races receive some new moral bases of life, some beliefs and precepts by which they can live, something to control their bad impulses and help them to form worthy conceptions of life and work, their last state will be worse than the first." Bryce, pp. 18-19.
(9) According to conversions of indigenous Batwa, Ogoni and Masai, this experience is general in Africa, adding the expropriation of their lands by missionary denominations who focused on larger ethnic groups. Those groups considered as "minorities" today claim to be considered "Indigenous Peoples" or "First Nations." Churches in Africa hardly recognize the presence of Indigenous Peoples. The same is the case in much of the Pacific.
(10) Among many examples, one can quote the experience in Java, where the educational process was initiated by a local woman Raden Adjen Kartini with the help of missionaries. This was in 1917 and in Dutch: "... through the education already received the desire for development has spread, first among single individuals whose eyes have been opened to the backward condition of their nation which contrasts so painfully with the welfare and riches of strangers" Adriani, N., "Spiritual Currents among the Javanese," IRM 6:21 (Jan. 1917), pp. 112-125. In Africa, the major concern was for the health situation which was not improving with education and was overseen by the local government. See J.H. Oldham, "The Christian Mission in Africa. As seen at the International Conference at Le Zoute," IRM 16 (1927), pp. 24-35. There is also much interest in the mission experiences in China, Japan and Asia, generally due the relation of Christianity and the major monotheistic religions of Islam, Hinduism and Buddhism.
(11) In Bolivia, the Methodist American School used to teach in English while the population increasingly spoke Spanish.
(12) Guillermo Cook, "Introduction: Brief history of the Maya Peoples" in Guillermo Cook (ed). Crosscurrents in Indigenous Spirituality. Interface of Maya, Catholic & Protestant Worldviews. EJ Brill, Leiden (1997), pp. 1-31.
(13) This is the case for Miskito peoples in Nicaragua, who, thanks to the support of Moravian missionaries, were able to keep their language despite the assimilation efforts of their government.
(14) In the book he edited, Guillermo Cook reflects more in the role of the evangelical Sumer Institute of Linguistics, which translated the Bible and helped put the oral indigenous languages into writing. However, they were accused many times of cooperating with the assimilationist policy of local, national governments in alliance with the USA.
(15) In Bolivia, during the first half of the 19th century, Methodist missionary efforts were directed to the mestizo population and to political elites. To their surprise, the Methodist church was growing more, and almost autonomously, among the indigenous communities in the Altiplano.
(16) Among other articles: Kenneth S. Latourette, "History and Indigenous Church," IRM 17 (1928), pp. 101-118. Idem, "Indigenous Christianity in the Light of History," IRM 29 (1940), pp. 429-440; L.P. Larsen, "Life of the Indigenous Church. II Theological Training," IRM 27 (1938), pp. 377-385; Walter Freytag, "Critical Period in the Development of an Indigenous Church" IRM 29 (1940), pp. 204-215.
(17) A significant analysis of the development of theological studies was submitted by the Ecumenical Theological Education, WCC to the Edinburgh Study Process, in "Study Paper on Theme 6: Challenges and Opportunities in Theological Education in the 21st Century: Pointers for a New International Debate on Theological Education," IRM 99.1:390 (Apr. 2010), pp. 124-150. See specially point I.l.c. Training of indigenous leaders, goal aimed by Edinburgh 1910 but not achieved by the later ecumenical movement due to the changes in the landscape of the international missionary work.
(18) Tiffs is the case of the intervention in the Northern territories of Australia where aboriginals are accused of being alcoholics and abusers of children. The final goal of that policy was to take the aboriginal land. See the WCC's Statement regarding this case in http://www.oikoumene.org/?id=8374 issued in 22.02.2011 and the Living Letters Report in http://www.overcomingviolence.org/?id=8006.
(19) In Nagaland, India, tribal women use the Bible and Christianity as means for women's liberation. See Atola Longkumer, "Not All is Well in My Ancestor's Home: An Indigenous Theology of Internal Critique" in The Ecumenical Review 62/4 (Dec. 2010), pp. 399-410.
(20) Mission Impulses from Canberra, IRM 80:319/320 (July/Oct.1991). See specially the controversy on the presentation of Dr Prof. Chung Hyun Kyung and the strong presence of Aboriginal peoples from Australia with their traditions and spiritualities.
(21) Jacques Matthey proposes the need to revisit syncretism and the dialogue of world views as a follow-up to the discontinued CWME's project on Gospel and Cultures. J. Matthey, "Serving God's Mission Together in Christ's Way: Reflections on the Way to Edinburgh 2010," IRM 99:390 (Apr. 2010), pp. 21-38. See a presentation of CWME's conferences in Metropolitan Coorilos, Geevarghese, "Towards and Beyond Edinburgh 2010: A Historical Survey of Ecumenical Missiological Developments since 1910," IRM 99:390 (Apr. 2010), pp. 6-20.
(22) The Barbados I Declaration signed by indigenist anthropologists, states: "Evangelization, the work of the religious missions in Latin America, also reflects and complements the reigning colonial situation with the values of which it is imbued. The missionary presence has always implied the imposition of criteria and patterns of thought and behavior alien to the colonized Indian societies. A religious pretext has too often justified the economic and human exploitation of the aboriginal population. The inherent ethnocentric aspect of the evangelization process is also a component of the colonialist ideology and is based on the following characteristics:..." and also asks to help indigenous through a moratorium of evangelization so the indigenous can self-organize and recover their culture; give back what the missionaries took out from the indigenous lands; stop removing indigenous children from their families in order to educate them; stop the division and competition of Christian confessions "for indigenous souls", and "end the criminal practice of serving as intermediaries for the exploitation of Indian labor" ... "That Indians organize and lead their own liberation movement is essential, or it ceases to be liberating ... we can perceive the beginnings of a pan-Latin American movement and some cases too, of explicit solidarity with still other oppressed social groups," IRM 62:247 (July 1973), pp. 268-274, particularly 270-273.
(23) Editorial, IRM 62:247 (July 1973), p. 266.
(24) Indigenist perspective refers to the work and perspective of non indigenous persons about the indigenous reality. Indigenous perspective refers to the position of indigenous persons when talking about their reality.
(25) See the Reports of the theological events held by the WCC in the last years: Baguio Consultation on The Social and Ecclesial Visions o Indigenous Peoples in http://www.oikoumene.org/?id=6893; Geneva Consultation on The Sources and Resources of Indigenous Theologies in http://www.oikoumene.org/?id=8109; La Paz Consultation on Affirming Spiritualities of Life, Theological Conversation with Faith and Order and CWME representatives in http://www.oikoumene.org/?id=8506; http://www.oikoumene.org/?id=8507; http://www.oikoumene.org/?id=8508
(26) Eleazar Lopez, "Espiritualidad y teologia de los pueblos amerindios," in Lopez, Teologia India, Antologia. Verbo Divino, La Paz (2000), p. 31.
(27) Aguilar Gutierrez and Raquel Bolivia, "'Reflexiones sobre, para y desde el porvenir. 21.10.2005," in http://www.lahaine.org/ index.php?p=10314&more=l&c=l [Accessed 9.04.2009] She states: "From this perspective, a nation can be seen as an articulation, more or less stable, of multiple "peoples"'. A similar statement can be made for the church: a church can be seen as an articulation of multiple and different churches, one in and from a diversity of experiences.
(28) The "term 'inter-transcultural' intends to resume not only the relation (synchronic) among different cultures but also the historic dynamism (diachronic) in the process of intercultural reinterpretation". Josef Estermann, "Religion como chakana: El inclusivismo religioso andino," in Chakana 1 (2003), pp. 69-83.
(29) From the Greek syn 'with' and biosis 'living'. See Estermann, ibid.
(30) Section IV of the Conference of Salvador Bahia (Brazil, 1996) presents the reflections on syncretism. Christopher Duraisingh (ed.), Called to One Hope: The Gospel in Diverse Cultures. WCC, Geneva (1998). See also the approach of J. Matthey, pp. 26-30.
(31) Konrad Raiser, "Beyond Tradition and Context. In search of an Ecumenical Framework of Hermeneutics," IRM 80:319/320 (July/Oct. 1991), pp. 347-354.
(32) Tinker, Tink, "Towards an American Indian Indigenous Theology," in The Ecumenical Review 62:4 (Dec. 2010), pp. 340-351.
(33) Although important, we are not here entering the discussion regarding the implications for Christian theology of the concept of Mother Earth or the Pachamama of the Andean cultures.
(34) Metropolitan Coorilos, Geevarghese, in IRM 99:390 (Apr. 2010). He presents and examines the three major loci of CWME: Ecclesiology and Mission, Mission as Healing and Mission as Contestation.
(35) For instance, the celebration of the centenary anniversary of the first Missionary Conference in Edinburgh 1910 and its study process focused on the case of the First Nations in Canada. Theme Four focused on Mission and Power and brought in the situation of the 150,000 indigenous children at Residential Schools and its consequences for indigenous identity and life, as 'Canadian contribution to Edinburgh 2010'. Twelve answers were given to the key study but not all of them from indigenous persons and even less from organizations of Indigenous Peoples. Balia, Daryl and Kirsteen Kim, Edinburgh 2010, Volume II, Witnessing to Christ Today. Oxford, Regnum, 2010. pp. 86-115.
(36) For further reflection see Estermann, Josef, La 'Teologia Andina' como realidad y proyecto. Una deconstruccion intercultural; in ISEAT, Teologia Andina. El tejido diverso de la fe indigena. ISEAT/PLURAL, La Paz (2006). pp, 137-162.
(37) The relation between indigenous cultures and the gospel cannot be understood in terms of purity. Neither indigenous nor gospel are free of cultural interpretation and mutual influences. Both are part of the inter-transcultural processes where the encounters between and among different realities happen. Mutual challenges of indigenous religions and Cristian religion lead to creative ways of living out an Indigenous Christianity which is as valid as all the former contextualizations of Christian faith.
(38) Althaus Reid, Marcella, La teologia indecente. Perversiones teologicas en sexo, genero y politica. Bellaterra, Barcelona (2005).
Maria Chavez Quispe is an Aymara theologian from La Page Bolivia. Currently she serves in the WCC as Consultant for the Indigenous Peoples' Programme.
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|Author:||Quispe, Maria Chavez|
|Publication:||International Review of Mission|
|Date:||Nov 1, 2011|
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