Churches Play Key Role for Indigenous Peoples, Norway's Sami Leader Says "An Indigenous Communion" - LWF Consultation Brings Worldwide Representativ es Together
KARASJOK, Norway/GENEVA, 26 September 2006 (LWI) - The president of Norway's Sami Parliament has emphasized the important role of the church, and religious communities, in promoting indigenous issues in her own country, and internationally.
"The Sami parliament is deeply indebted for the work that religious communities perform locally, nationally, and at the international level to promote indigenous issues," Aili Keskitalo said at the 20 September opening of a Lutheran World Federation (LWF) consultation in Karasjok, northern Norway, the seat of the Sami parliament.
The Sami are a group of indigenous people, most of whom inhabit the northern part of Norway, but who also stretch across Finland, Sweden and the Russian Federation. Some 40,000 of them live in Norway, most inhabiting the Finmark region.
The 20-24 September consultation titled, "An Indigenous Communion" was organized by the LWF Office for International Affairs and Human Rights. It brought together representatives of indigenous communities within, or related to, LWF member churches from a wide geographic spectrum. "The goal of this consultation is that participants, living in similar situations, meet and share their experiences to improve their conditions of life, each in their own communities," said Peter Prove, Assistant to the LWF General Secretary for International Affairs and Human Rights.
Participants in the consultation also included the European region members of the LWF international training program for young adults, "Towards a Communicating Communion - A Youth Vision." The program is a joint undertaking of the LWF Department for Mission and Development and Office for Communication Services. A communication workshop for the group was held 24-26 September, also in Karasjok.
Keskitalo spoke of the importance to the Sami people of the 1997 apology by the Church of Norway for the discrimination suffered by her people.
"While such an apology implies acknowledgment of historical relationships, it also engenders expectations that the church's activities will show respect for the communities in which they operate," she said.
Compared with the situation of indigenous people in other parts of the world, the Sami were a "privileged indigenous nation," she said. "We live in a society and a part of world where we are not susceptible to persecutio n or tortured because of our affiliations."
Keskitalo, 38, is the youngest person and first woman president of the Sami. She was elected in 2005 for four years. She holds a master's degree in public information and has authored two books. (417 words)
The LWF communication group has created a blog for the consultation at: http://anindigenouscommunion.blogspot.com
(Edited from an Ecumenical News International (ENI) article by Svetlana Vojnic Feldy, a member of the LWF communication training program for young adults.)
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