World Council of Churches

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

You are here: Home / Resources / Documents / WCC programmes / Unity, mission, evangelism and spirituality / Just and inclusive communities / Indigenous people / Statement from Pacific Indigenous People's workshop

Statement from Pacific Indigenous People's workshop

14 September 2000

Suva, 11 - 14 September 2000

PREAMBLE

During the workshop we have been focussing on the following issues:

  • Safeguarding land, culture identity, land and property, land and globalization, land and Indigenous Peoples and the role of the Churches and the land.
  • To us as Pacific Indigenous Peoples, we say that the land as our mother, known as vanua, fenua, enua, hanua, fonua, whenua, te aba, etc., is life, our soul and our identity: land is people, resources, cultures, beliefs, spirituality, languages, chiefly system and sea. Because of this the sovereignty of our land is important and as Pacific Indigenous Peoples, we will strongly defend to the end our ownership and sovereignty of our land. With this understanding the issue at stake that raises questions to us are:
    • How should the Church receive and care for other ethnic groups?
    • What is the position of the Church and what should it be regarding human rights when the crisis of land and indigenisation come to the fore?
    • How can we live effectively as Christians in two worlds as contemporary Christians and Indigenous?
  • Our theological understanding of the land in the water is one of ‘God's garden'. God is speaking to us in this garden. God is always working in the garden. We are all co-workers in the garden and we are to take care of it because we have been all asked to work with God. There is a place for everyone in the garden and for every tool to be used. The purpose of the garden is to grow, to bloom, flower and to give fruit. There is continuous change in the garden to accommodate the new members and the old and new tools that have come. Yet these changes are received and accepted with responsibilities as we are stewards of the garden to plant and tend as the owner plans.

In receiving the presentations from the speakers, who are actually experiencing the struggle of land and identity, we have been called, those of us who are present, to be midwives; midwives to participate in the birthing and ushering in of the new Pacific. The challenge that comes is one of remembering and articulating our history. So the issue of land, history and identity is the main burning issue of the region. The group that does not know and remember its history does not know its future, and does not know where it is going, like a coconut floating on the sea.

In order for midwives to prepare for the birthing of the new Pacific, we need to articulate the theology of the land to determine the birthing of tomorrow. The theology of the land needs to be articulated as soon as possible.

STATEMENTS

1. We, the people and the Church in the Pacific, of many origins as we are, make a commitment on behalf of the Churches to move together recognizing the gifts of one another.

2. We value the unique status of the Pacific Indigenous Peoples as the original owners and stewards of land and waters.

3. We recognize continuing customary laws, beliefs and traditions that respect human values, and through the land and its first people we may taste this spirituality and rejoice in its grandeur.

4. We acknowledge most Pacific lands were colonized without the consent of our people.

5. As Pacific Indigenous Peoples we express our sorrow and profoundly regret the injustices of the past.

6. Our nations must have the courage to own the truth, and to heal the wounds of our past so that we can walk together at peace with ourselves.

7. As Indigenous Peoples we desire a future where we encourage the continuing building of Pacific communities of caring, sharing and belonging where everyone enjoys equal rights and share opportunities and responsibilities according to our aspirations.

8. We pledge ourselves to promote justice, address disadvantages, work for reconciliation and to respect the rights of the Indigenous Peoples to determine their destiny.

RECOMMENDATIONS

1. That the PCC Executive Committee be requested to include the issue of gospel and culture, indigenization and evangelism at the 2002 PCC General Assembly. The NCC's representatives to the PCC Executive Committee to be responsible to bring it to the agenda of the October meeting.

2. That SPATS and MATS, and in particular the Pacific Theological College, be asked to include the study of sharing and understanding Pacific culture and the gospel in depth as a subject of it's own in their curriculum and that it be one of the required ‘core' subjects in all Pacific theological schools.

3.

a) That the National Councils of Churches facilitate the implementation of an awareness-raising programme combining both leaders and members on the topic of Indigenous People's struggle for land and identity.
b) That this be followed up with sub-regional and regional consultations.
c) That WCC and PCC be asked to co-sponsor and to finance the sub-regional and regional events.
d) That some of the aspects to be looked at in the awareness programme include spirituality and empowerment, questions of land tenure, self-determination and collective approaches.
e) It is proposed that the respective Pacific National Councils of Churches agree that this awareness-raising programme be adopted by the Regional Ecumenical Animator Team (REAT) for it to thus become a programme of PCC.

4.
a) That the following national, sub-regional and regional consultations be carried out on the following issues:

i) theology of the land;
ii) relationship of the gospel and cultures, and the root causes of culture of exclusion;
iii) leadership in Pacific Churches;
iv) women and youth participation in enabling the solving o problems and issues in the leadership of the church and society, in promoting justice and reconciliation;
v) What is the church and what it is its mission, what is the gospel for the rich and the poor, and how they can effectively be carried out?

b) PCC be requested to follow up on the Winds of Change regarding the mushrooming of religious sects and the challenges they pose in relation to the indigenous identity.c) That the WCC assist the National Councils of Churches to facilitate the implementation of theses workshops at national levels.d) That WCC and PCC be asked to co-sponsor and to finance the sub-regional and regional level consultations.

5. West Papua
a) That the churches in the Pacific and PCC be requested to continue to support the struggle of the People of West Papua, and to lobby their respective Governments for support for their call for self-determination, and to include West Papua on the list of the Committee of 24 on De-Colonization.
b) That the Churches in the Pacific and PCC request WCC to liaise with the UN Commission on Human Rights to appoint a Special Rapporteur to investigate human rights abuses in West Papua, including the mass killing of almost 1 million people over the last 37 years.
c) That PCC be requested to take the Programme of West Papua as a priority in its annual programme.