Indigenous People’s Declaration shows clear intent

Indigenous People’s Declaration shows clear intent

Congress charts a path forward for indigenous groups in Latin America

Photo: Indigenous people from Argentina, Paraguay and Chile gathered to work, discuss and celebrate together (Catherine Le Tissier/Church Mission Society)

A declaration issued by leaders on behalf of indigenous people in Latin America “shows clear intent” and charts a path forward for the indigenous peoples to work together with a new generation of leaders, says Paul Tester, Church Mission Society’s manager in Latin America.

The Declaration emanated from the ‘Indigenous Mission Congress’, the first such conference for 20 years. The Congress took place between 6 and 10 October in La Caldera near the city of Salta in northern Argentina and was structured around five key themes: Academic Education, Biblical Formation and Indigenous Leadership; Gospel and Indigenous Culture; a Theology of Creation; the Relationship between Governments and Indigenous Peoples; and Unity.

The Declaration made a number of key recommendations including putting in place a systematic and comprehensive process for training to prepare leaders for work in the local church, the promotion and use of indigenous languages to maintain cultural identity, and the creation of Biblical formation centres oriented to the next generation of leadership for the indigenous church.

The Declaration also acknowledged the role and responsibility of indigenous peoples as stewards of creation, and called for improved links between local communities and regional authorities to ensure that the rights of indigenous peoples are protected.

Timed to coincide with the ‘Day of the Meeting of Two Worlds’, a day which is celebrated in Spanish speaking countries on 12 October, the Indigenous Mission Congress was attended by over 80 delegates. The summit included representatives from the Aymara, Chorote, Enxet, Mapuche, Quechua, Toba and Wichí peoples, as well as leaders in mission from CMS and the Anglican Church in Latin America, and other observers. Organisers hoped the Congress will be important in shaping mission work in Latin America as leaders try to navigate between their own traditional indigenous cultures and the dominating wider influences of contemporary culture.

CMS’s work in the region dates back to the 19th century, when mission leaders such as Barbrooke Grubb and pioneers from the South American Mission Society [SAMS], transformed both Christian mission and wider society through the introduction of new methods in mission, Bible translation, education and healthcare.

Ahead of the Congress Paul Tester said mission had arrived at a ‘crossroads’ moment. “We have been inspired by a verse from Jeremiah [6:16] which says: ‘This is what the Lord says: “Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls.”’ As we come to our current crossroads we are charged with discerning a good way to walk in, inspired by the Holy Spirit, and by the ancient paths and those who walked in them.”

Paul continued, “The relationship between indigenous peoples and the invading cultures remains one that both we, and the indigenous peoples need to learn to navigate well. We hope to discern how to join in with what God is doing today and believe that the key to that is walking alongside the new generation of indigenous mission leaders that God is raising up.”

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