Bolivian shares indigenous theology of 'sacredness with the earth'

By agency reporter
20 May 2011

Sofía Chipana Quispe is part of the first generation of her family born in the city. Her parents migrated to La Paz, Bolivia, from the Andean mountain rural areas before she was born in 1952.

Sofia Chipana has become a primary voice of an indigenous theology that values living in dignity and sacredness with the earth and respect for all forms of life.

She was able to share some of her wisdom and experience Thursday as coordinator of a workshop on this theological perspective during the second day of the International Ecumenical Peace Convocation (IEPC) in Kingston, Jamaica.

Thursday's IEPC theme was "Peace in the Community.” Along with two other representatives of the Aymara people in South America, Chipana offered a reflection on peace based on ancestral values that have accompanied their communities through generations and help them to seek peace and harmonious relations in their communities.

"Qullan suma qamaña, Taika Utasana" (Living in dignity and sacredness in the great house of Mother Earth) was the title chosen by the Aymara team to explore how one can have dignity even in today's situations marked by injustice.

The team said the concept of "ayllu" provides valuable clues for a holistic view of peace. "Ayllu" is a community where one experiences an interrelationship and interdependence between Mother Earth and human beings and all creatures. "Everything is part of everything," said Chipana.

For the Andean communities, the rites, the celebration and practice of justice are very important. “This is the way to peace restoration," she said. The rite is a way to establish peace.

"So throughout my childhood, even living in the city, my parents always took me to have contact with the grandparents in the countryside," Chipana said describing the influences in her life that countered the pressures of an urban setting.

Any prospect of peace is, for Andean people, the search for balance and harmony among all beings that live in the same space.

According to Vicenta Mamani Bernabé, one of the coordinators of the workshop, the quest for just peace takes place in three levels: the rites, the festivities and the experience of justice.

Mamani and Chipana are part of the Community of Indigenous Women Theologians of Abya Yala (COTIAY), a group supported by the World Council of Churches. Abya Yala is the indigenous name for the region of Latin America and Caribbean.

After starting work as a Roman Catholic missionary, Chipana lived for several years among the Quechua people, of the Andeans regions as well. "This experience was decisive to define my spirituality, because I rediscovered the integral relationship that each person has with God's creation," she said.

The Andean spirituality is unconditionally linked to the “Pachamama," the Mother Earth. But it is also marked by ethical standards of living these values within community and expressions of solidarity with others.

In many situations of conflict or need, the support comes from members of the community. "Asking for and receiving help is an important part in building our relationships more equally," Chipana concluded.

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Also on Ekklesia, in association with the University of Stirling: 'Interpreting Andean religion post-colonially', by Sabine Dedenbach-Salazar. http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/14315

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The IEPC opened on Wednesday 18 May and concludes on 25 May.

* IEPC resources page: www.protestantnews.eu/europe/8242

* Live web streaming: www.overcomingviolence.org/

* An Ecumenical Call to Just Peace: www.overcomingviolence.org/en/resources-dov/wcc-resources/documents/decl...

* All Ekklesia's material on IEPC: http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/ipec

* Twitter (www.twitter.com) hash-tags: #iepc #peace

Ekklesia is running stories from journalist and regular contributor Stephen Brown in Jamaica, as well as official reports from the WCC and other commentary.

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