Lutheran Indigenous Group Calls for Program to Address Their Concerns Emphasis on Land Rights, Indigenous Theology
KARASJOK, Norway/GENEVA, 29 September 2006 (LWI) - Representatives of indigenous communities and churches from all over the world have urged the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) to establish a program to help address the concerns of indigenous people, a group that still does not enjoy full inclusion in church and society.
The 27 participants in the 20-24 September international consultation entitled "An Indigenous Communion" in Karasjok, northern Norway, called on the LWF to establish an advisory group in 2007 to outline guidelines for the indigenous program in accordance with a 2003 LWF Assembly action on Indigenous Peoples.
The question of land rights was strongly debated at the consultation. "Land rights and territory are crucial to the identity of indigenous people and are fundamental rights," the participants in the consultation stated in a final message.
In their message to the LWF, the group also called for "the elaboration of an indigenous theology" "involving ideological change, and changing the way of looking at traditional Christian beliefs (contextualization)," "incorporating ethical values from indigenous perspectives," and "including indigenous women's perspectives in the formulation of indigenous theologies." Promoting networking for indigenous peoples through regional and international consultations and exchange programs was also underlined.
Ruben Chacon of the Lutheran Costarican Church, said he was satisfied with the final resolution, but that "much more work will still have to be done." He said that the Latin American participants at the consultation managed to have their key points relating to the critical link between land rights and human rights included in the final message.
"We have learned a huge amount by meeting other indigenous people from everywhere in the world," said Samco Chose, an elder of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in the Republic of Namibia, who belongs to the San community at Gobabis near the Botswana border. "The Lutheran church is the biggest denomination in our country. We know now how to ask the church to work for the acceptance of the San people into Namibian society. Many of us suffer inhuman treatment in our country," he noted.
Commenting on the consultation's message, Rev. Tore Johnsen, a Church of Norway pastor from the Sami people said, "It will move the process forward as we articulated our expectations from the LWF in the message we wrote. I am quite satisfied with the outcome as the discussion brought some important contributions."
William Loh of the Basel Christian Church of Malaysia said, "The LWF should be more concrete in actions that are needed to promote the living conditions of indigenous people. We face the same struggle worldwide." He belongs to a group of Dajaks, one of 64 indigenous communities in Malaysia.
Graciela Chamorro, born in Paraguay and living in Brazil, where she is a university lecturer to a group of indigenous students, said the Karasjok consultation was useful in gaining knowledge about the situation of the Sami people in Norway, and other indigenous groups worldwide. "When I teach students it's an egalitarian situation for me, but during the consultation I have had a great empathy and increased my depth of understanding from the participants from all over the world," she remarked.
Peter Prove of the LWF Office for International Affairs and Human Rights (OIAHR) summed up his impressions of the consultation: "At the LWF's Tenth Assembly in 2003, indigenous participants demonstrated their great capacity to articulate their own vision and priorities for the LWF. At this consultation, that vision has been further developed, and the LWF as a whole presented with a very constructive challenge in terms of relating to the indigenous identity within the churches."
The participants came from 20 different countries, including Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Costa Rica, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Namibia, Nepal, New Zealand, Philippines, Sweden and the United States. The Church of Norway hosted the consultation, convened by the LWF/OIAHR. (647 words)
(A contribution from the Ecumenical News International (ENI), and LWF communication group.)
The consultation's final message can be downloaded from the LWF Web site at: http://www.lutheranworld.org/What_We_Do/OIAHR/Documentation/Karasjok_St atement-2006.pdf
The LWF communication group has created a blog for the consultation at: http://anindigenouscommunion.blogspot.com
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