From the Worldwide Faith News archives www.wfn.org
WCC NEWS - A call for an International Year of Indigenous
"WCC Media" <Media@wcc-coe.org>
Mon, 14 Jun 2004 10:36:54 +0200
World Council of Churches 7 Press Release
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE - 14/06/2004 - pr-04-08
WCC calls for an International Year of Indigenous Languages in 2006
A delegation from the World Council of Churches' (WCC) Indigenous Peoples
Programme has called for a UN-sponsored "International Year of Indigenous
Languages" in 2006.
As part of the Indigenous Caucus attending the Third UN Permanent Forum on
Indigenous Issues taking place 10-21 May in New York, the WCC delegation
stressed the value of languages to Indigenous cultures and the urgency of
pro-active strategies for their revitalization.
Dr Richard A. Grounds of the Yuchi nation in Oklahoma, USA, who is a
member of the WCC Central Committee, emphasized the urgency of saving the
world's languages at a presentation to the UN Forum.
A member of the United Methodist Church in the US, he pointed out that
over three-fourths of the world's linguistic diversity is carried by
Indigenous peoples, and reiterated the assessment of linguists that unless
something is done about it, up to 90% of the world's 6,800 languages will
fall silent by the end of this century.
According to UNESCO statistics, one language is lost every two weeks on
average. "Half of the world's languages are facing immediate loss in the
next two decades," says Ole Henrik Magga, chair of the Permanent Forum on
An International Year of Indigenous Languages would "call attention to
this largely silent issue, generating both public awareness, and greater
realization on the part of Indigenous people themselves, who often are not
clear about the extent of language loss within their own communities,"
With the help of the United Nations and its member states, an
International Year would "highlight the critical status of our languages,
providing both education about the value of our languages and effective
strategies for revitalization," the Indigenous Caucus participants
They recommended "the development of clear strategies for effective
intervention in the process of Indigenous language loss" as well as
"funding from states for language revitalization programmes". Grounds
points out that it is also important to redress the "oppression and legal
measures that continue to be used against minority and Indigenous
In a joint statement, the participants at the Indigenous Caucus made
reference to the inestimable value of Indigenous languages as "the basis
of our spirituality and ceremonial life, the source of Indigenous
knowledge, the core of our identity as Indigenous peoples, the bearer of
our unwritten histories, the source for the proper use and codification of
our medicinal knowledge, the heart of our rich heritage and as a gift from
In order to promote the call for an International Year of Indigenous
Languages, the delegation gathered signatures of support from over 60
different Indigenous organizations attending the Permanent Forum.
The International Year of Indigenous Languages will need to be proclaimed
by the UN General Assembly. Therefore, one of the member states must raise
it for consideration. If it passes through the voting process, the year
will be enacted. The New Zealand government is being approached to propose
the International Year to the UN in time for the activities to be
programmed to begin in 2006.
Visit the Indigenous Peoples' Programme pages on the WCC website:
For more information contact :
Richard Grounds, +1 918 224 6481, email@example.com
For more information contact:
Media Relations Office: tel: (+41 22) 791 64 21 / 61 53
e-mail:firstname.lastname@example.org - http://www.wcc-coe.org
The World Council of Churches is a fellowship of churches, now 342, in more
than 120 countries in all continents from virtually all Christian
traditions. The Roman Catholic Church is not a member church but works
cooperatively with the WCC. The highest governing body is the assembly,
which meets approximately every seven years. The WCC was formally
inaugurated in 1948 in Amsterdam, Netherlands. Its staff is headed by
general secretary Samuel Kobia from the Methodist church in Kenya.
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