Delegates from 40 indigenous nations were welcomed to the Indigenous Peoples Pre-Assembly on 28-30 August in Karlsruhe, Germany, held prior to the 11th Assembly of the World Council of Churches (WCC) in the same location. Welcomed to this land in song, scripture and ceremony, the indigenous community reflected on their theme “Reconciliation: Restoring Wholeness in Creation”.

In a joint message, the members shared that a complete reconciliation includes restoring humanity’s broken relationship with God’s earth, and the road to reconciliation is one that involves truth-telling, repentance, restoring justice, and forgiveness, calling for costly discipleship among God’s people. Reconciliation can be lasting only through the radical love of Christ, which empowers the disempowered, and rejects discriminating and dehumanising systems and cultures. Such love, reconciliation and unity necessitate political engagement pursued in humility and justice to dismantle oppressive, unjust systems and even theologies.

Rev. Mari Valjakka, an indigenous Sami and reverend in the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland speaks during an opening gathering for the Indigenous peoples’ pre-assembly to the World Council of Churches 11th Assembly. (Photo: Albin Hillert/WCC)

The church, the participants said, had been complicit in genocides that destroyed indigenous spiritualities, claiming that these genocides are God’s will. Hence, indigenous spirituality prompts them to decolonise faith traditions to rediscover the life-nurturing and rehumanising potential of the gospel. Indigenous Christians affirmed the need for Christian theologies to be liberated, and for them to be able to exercise their rights and self-determination to construct authentic, Christian Indigenous theologies.

In addition, the participants called on their brothers and sisters in the Global North to protect God’s sacred creation and gift of land by urging their governments to curtail exploitative projects for unbridled economic growth. Joining in wider efforts to address climate change, the participants called on the church to advocate for and commit themselves to seeking climate justice for victims, many of whom are marginalised indigenous communities around the world.

Finally, the indigenous community expressed that the dominant discourse on reconciliation and Christian unity has often meant dissolution of their indigenous land-centred identity and conforming to the colonial way of life. Yet, the day of Pentecost illustrates that the Church’s unity does not require all of God’s children speak the same language, but of each person being honoured in their own mother tongue.

Banner image caption: Opening gathering for the Indigenous peoples’ pre-assembly to the WCC Assembly. (Albin Hillert/WCC)