“Indigenous peoples, in spite of their debilitating experiences of discrimination, displacement and disempowerment, have sustainable alternatives to many of the world’s problems,” said Dr Pusin Tali.
These alternatives, he declared, are “drawn from their rich traditions of wisdom, based on their deep interactive engagement with the earth.”
Tali is moderator of the Presbyterian Church in Taiwan and president of Yu-Shan Theological College and Seminary. He spoke at a conference organised by the Just and Inclusive Communities programme of the World Council of Churches (WCC), held last month in Hualien, Taiwan.
He commented: “The Presbyterian Church in Taiwan feels privileged to be associated with this gathering of indigenous theologians as they reflect on how churches discern their ecumenical vocation in a world faced with manifold threats to life. We feel this is our contribution to the ecumenical movement.”
The conference took place in Yu-Shan Theological College and Seminary. Founded in 1946 mainly to train indigenous pastors in Taiwan, it has been a place of interaction between Christian theology and indigenous traditions.
Dr John Chungche-Wu, vice-president of the seminary and host of the conference said that it was their first international conference, which they hope will strengthen efforts of the indigenous communities for peace and justice in Taiwan.
More than 30 theologians from around the world participated in the conference to discern what their theologies could contribute to ecumenical endeavours besides strengthening their own communities and struggles for justice.
The participants reflected on the theme of the WCC’s upcoming 10th Assembly, “God of life, lead us to justice and peace”. The assembly is to be held in Busan, Republic of Korea next year.
The participants insisted that justice and peace are “neither concepts for intellectualisation nor mere ideal states to be led to, but are possibilities that can happen through struggle and collective effort”. They affirmed that “we must pray to God to lead us in the struggles for justice and peace.”
“This implies that both partnership and struggle are necessary for an honest pursuit of justice and peace,” said Dr Wati Longchar, an indigenous theologian from India who facilitated the discussions.
Reflecting on the WCC assembly theme, the conference statement said that “life in the traditions of many Indigenous Peoples is wholistic, and is always seen as an indivisible, interconnected web of life. So is their concept of God who is present in all that has and gives life and is constantly at work to uphold its sanctity and integrity.”
“The reality of life itself is God. Earth includes all aspects of life. When we ask for life, justice and peace, we are asking for an earth that enhances and protects life,” reads the statement.
The conference discussed plans for the WCC pre-assembly event involving Indigenous Peoples next year. The Rev Dr Deenabandhu Manchala, the WCC programme executive for Just and Inclusive Communities, said that the “pre-assembly event in Busan will bring together nearly 60 representatives of indigenous communities from around the world. The event will focus on exploring the meaning and various dimensions of life and will attempt to re-imagine God.”