World Council of Churches

A worldwide fellowship of churches seeking unity, a common witness and Christian service

Appeal from Indigenous Peoples

01 January 2003

"We are still waiting....for true partnership, for full recognition of our rights".

By the grace of the Creator and guided by our ancestors, we, the Indigenous Peoples, celebrate our survival. We have survived in spite of the racism of genocide, colonisation, assimilation and development. The earth is our Mother and is therefore sacred. We affirm our identities, cultures, languages, philosophies of life, spiritualities and the sacredness of our lands. These are linked to the balanced relationship with all of creation. Historically and still today, the churches have compelled us to engage in ecclesial and theological journey culminating in assimilation, uniformity and assent. The churches have not known or understood Indigenous Peoples to the impoverishment of everyone.

Our lives, our spiritualities, our languages and our cultures as distinct peoples, are constantly under threat. We are threatened by mining, wildlife conservation, deforestation, commercial long-line fishing, hydro-electric dams, militarisation, nuclear dumping and testing, eco-tourism and other projects. Modern state boundaries are colonial constructions that fragment and interfere with the way of life of our peoples. Our sacred sites have been and are still being desecrated. These threats came with the colonizer and are perpetuated today by models of development that seek to exploit our natural resources without regard for future generations.

We acknowledge that the WCC and some of its member churches have made efforts toward understanding and working with Indigenous Peoples in our struggles, but much more needs to be done. The enrichment of the churches and the healing of Indigenous communities must begin with a viable and meaningful on-going commitment to collaboration and partnership.This partnership requires a radical change of heart in the churches. There must be an acknowledgment that the churches have benefited from unjust political and economic structures that they have helped to create. Change must come not just because the churches have to but because they want to- as a response to Gospel imperative. We would urge that the member churches hear our stories again and experience from within them the churches' historic role in aggression.

We therefore challenge the WCC and its member churches:

  • To reaffirm the Canberra Statement on Indigenous Peoples and Land Rights in Move Beyond Words.
  • To include the Indigenous Peoples Programme in the core programmes of the WCC.
  • To promote and enable equal participation of Indigenous Peoples at every level of decision making within the structures of the churches.
  • To continue to draw the concerns and issues of the Indigenous Peoples to the attention of the WCC and its member churches for action and reflection.
  • To continue the process of Gospel and Culture dialogue at a local and global level.
  • To respect and promote Indigenous Peoples right to self-determination including land rights, spiritualities, culture, languages and intellectual property rights.
  • to support the adoption of the United Nations Draft Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and other international instruments and standards related to the promotion of Indigenous Peoples rights.

We celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the WCC, but we remind our sisters and brothers of the member churches of the need for the restoration of the land and the liberation of the oppressed.

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