Indigenous Mission Congress day by day

Indigenous Mission Congress day by day

Daily posts from the gathering of indigenous peoples reflecting on mission in South America

Photo: Delegates gathered on the first day fo the congress in La Calera, Salta, Argentina (Catherine Le Tissier/Church Mission Society)

Why is this gathering special? Bishop Nick Drayson shares a daily snapshot of what this congress means for those attending and those they represent.

Day 5 (10 Oct)

We regrouped for the final day, and already some delegates were having to travel home. Friendships had already been formed, and fellowship will be missed. Unity was both discussed and lived.

Work had begun on a declaration, and this was continued in separate working groups – indigenous and non-indigenous, with very different emphases. The image of weaving came to the fore, as different contributions emerged in the life of the communities.

Alejandro Díaz, a Chorote leader from northern Argentina talks to Bishop Nick Drayson about what he is taking away from the Indigenous Mission Congress

A circle was formed, allowing for shared offerings – a poem, a pot, a plant (see below).

And finally the declaration, which will appear later in translation: a recognition of needs and challenges, commitments and resolution between the different indigenous peoples present, as well as those committed to support.

In a final communion service, gifts were given, and the image of the road again beckoned… “as the tribes of the Lord go up.” 

multi-coloured indigenous woven crafts

Coloured weaving, united in Jesus

A poem offered on the final day of the congress by Jocabed Solano

You come out to meet the indigenous peoples
In the beautiful lands of Abya Yala*
You weave us into this coloured weaving with the good news.
You walk with the Tobas, you drink mate with the Wichí;
You offer a shout of hope with the Mapuches
You play with the Enxet children; you weave with the Chorote children.
We, women of these beautiful lands, were tender with the cry and the prayer.
Together with the Guaranís we pray for a land free of evil.
Woven in Abya Yala, together with the Gunadale people,
With grandmother sea (Muu Billi), we hear songs and sounds
But you are speaking of your love for all the peoples.
You blow in the wind, we hear you dance in the earth,
And round the fire the Spirit moves.
The Spirit dances with us, and shows us: a new song,
A new story, a new dawn,
So that, in these beautiful lands of Abya Yala, the crops produce fruit,
Rain falls and rivers flow.
So that on every table of my sisters and brothers
There is always something to eat.
May the blessed fruits feed the new generations
And the seeds sprout with their hope
In this land dreamt by the Guaraní:
A land with no evil.
We look to the Gunadales for a Baluwala for everything and for all
A new song, a new story, a new dawn
We become part of the weaving of the good news
We weave with the good story, into this new weaving
Designed for all the indigenous peoples.
The weaving of his love.

* The term indigenous peoples use for the American continent
† The author is from this people group
‡ Good life

Day 4 (9 Oct)

Day 4 was Sunday, so it was a day of resting and worshipping together.

Nick did record a few thoughts from CVS local partner and fellow bishop in northern Argentina, Mateo Alto.

Bishop Mateo Alto talks to Bishop Nick Drayson about his reflections on the Indigenous Mission Congress so far

Day 3 (8 Oct)

Two major themes occupied our thoughts and words today: the environment and the government. By which we don’t just mean “out there” but also in our lives and communities.

A sixties quote for each:

“I’ve stepped in the middle of seven sad forests
I’ve been out in front of a dozen dead oceans…”

Bob Dylan, ‘A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall’

The indigenous people face a huge challenge as the environment is degraded, and their wisdom is disregarded, even by their own communities, in the face of loss of biodiversity, contamination and climate change. We meditated on our place in Creation, made for and by Christ. We lamented the rubbish and the extractive industries. What can be done?

“The love of Jesus makes no distinctions.” Wichí delegate Claudia Gutierrez shares her reflections on the congress so far with Priscilla Breekveldt

“I’m on the pavement thinking about the government…”

Bob Dylan, ‘Subterranean Homesick Blues’

As we looked at the power and responsibility of governments, we remembered how many states have been created by settlers taking land from indigenous peoples in order to settle their own conflicts.

Many of these issues about church and politics are not often discussed in our churches, so it was helpful and challenging to listen and share these important themes.

And to finish off the day a talent show!

Day 2 (7 Oct)

The evening meal got cold as the session extended but hearts were warmed by the lengthy time given to the presentation of each region and its participants. Each person, whether indigenous or observer, had the time to tell their story, or that of their community. This often led spontaneously to singing or praying together, in several languages! 

Sandra Aillal of the Mapuche people in Chile, talks to Catherine Le Tissier about what the congress has meant to her so far.

A few last stragglers arrived and we are ready to dive into the main themes of the congress: this morning the whole question of education, and the reality faced by indigenous communities, taught in their own language or not, and the challenges faced by children and parents. One participant states: “I want my children to have a better life than me”, and this will depend a lot on whether the education received prepares them for a world largely hostile to non Spanish speakers.

Gonzalo Escobar from Bolivia talks to Bishop Brian Williams about his highlights from the second day of the Indigenous Mission Congress

Other themes relate to Gospel and Culture. Do we allow the Gospel to challenge our culture? Indigenous culture? Does it affirm it? After a thoughtful anthropological study, groups are ready to discuss and stimulate discussion referencing their own culture as it meets the Gospel.

Day 1 (6 Oct)

“For the past few days indigenous delegates have been arriving in La Caldera, by all sorts of public and private transport, and into the early hours of this morning. Around 80 men and women from different people groups across South America now under one roof, thinking about the challenge from Jeremiah (6.16) to consider which road to take for the future.

Ramón González, from the Toba people of northern Argentina, shares his thoughts with Rt Rev Brian Williams, Bishop of Argentina

Mapuches from Chile, Enxet from Paraguay, Wichi, Toba and Chorote from Argentina – very different cultures, but very aware of a shared identity. Greetings were expressed in these languages, as well as Guarani, Quechua and Aymara. We were reminded that the gospel was brought by ordinary men and women who shared the lives and language of these groups, and looking round the room some of them are here today.

Presentations have still to be made, but the tone was set by a simple service of Holy Communion, combining elements from each culture, with heartfelt prayer and worship, broken bread and poured wine.

We learnt that this is the 5th Indigenous Congress, the first also being held in La Caldera in 1990, the others in Chile and Paraguay. The difference this time? It is an indigenous “mission” congress – the baton has been grasped by a new generation.”

Get our email newsletter: