World Council of Churches

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

AGAPE Consultation: Guatemala indigenous peoples' statement

07 October 2008

 Guatemala 6-10 October 2008

Indigenous peoples' statement


Leaders of the indigenous peoples of Latin America, in Peru, Ecuador, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Mexico and Bolivia and invited observers from the indigenous peoples of Australia, Canada and India and also representatives of Church organizations in Africa, Brazil and Europe met in Guatemala City, 6-10 October 2008 for the AGAPE consultation. We analyzed: (i) the indigenous peoples' cosmovision (ii) Christianity and church structures, (iii) the economic, political and social model and how these three aspects are related to poverty, wealth and ecology, in both a positive and negative sense.


  1. Indigenous peoples' cosmovision has an all-embracing and holistic perspective that encompasses everything. It is not possible to take only an economic perspective on spiritual and religious life because social, economic and political themes are all intimately related. Indigenous peoples believe that the fundamental centre is not human beings but Creation and that human beings form part of Creation and that everything that forms part of Creation is important and in a permanent search for harmony and balance.


  1. We need to recognize the values and principles of Christianity that are contained in its mandates and teachings. However, different generations have developed theological interpretations and reflections based on western logical reasoning and this has devalued other visions, theological interpretations and reflections on the scriptures. Currently a western vision and interpretation of Christianity exists that separates the religious and the spiritual from social, economic and political themes, forms a clear and evident dichotomy and promotes constant confrontation with the all-embracing cosmovision of the indigenous peoples.


  1. With regard to economic issues in our countries, the imposition of the neoliberal model, which gives pride of place to individualism and capital accumulation, has increased inequalities between the few who are rich and the millions who are poor. This model has looted and destroyed Creation in the search for high profits. This model has become a great machine to produce poverty and misery. The political authorities, in the form of the state, are also responsible for promoting the interests of capital and the big economic groups, to the detriment of the majority of peoples. Encouraged by the "developed" countries and transnational companies, governments have created administrative and legal structures that sustain the system, coordinate corruption and promote their interests. Civil society has created networks to struggle and break with the systems put in place by the authorities and created to defend a political and economic model made to measure for the groups that hold power.


This consultation on poverty, wealth and ecology, convened by the WCC and CLAI, has allowed us to reflect on and discuss face-to-face and with a holistic perspective the three realities that need to be taken into account. We focused on two themes: "an alternative economic model based on the cosmovision of indigenous peoples" and "the indigenous peoples taking care of creation".


During the two days of reflection, we agreed that we indigenous peoples must continue to strengthen our knowledge and practices.


With regard to theology, we have had imposed on us a form of evangelization that did not and does not value our peoples, and in which church doctrines are used to justify poverty and make us conform, dividing the earthly and the spiritual and promoting an individualist vision that encourages egoism, makes people only interested in themselves and does not take into account the community and collective vision of our indigenous peoples.


The word is valued by indigenous peoples. The church preaches equality but does not put it into practice within its structures.


Despite economic, religious and political exclusion and racism, indigenous peoples continue to resist and develop alternatives through which to achieve the objective of our cosmovision, which is the lekil K'uxlejal (Tseltal) Mexico, Sumac Causay (Kichua) Ecuador, Suma Jakaña (aimara) Bolivia, Ut a wach (Quiche) Guatemala; aoya pah laka, (miskitu) Nicaragua, life in abundance John 10:10. It is good to live here and now and not after death as we have been taught. Our indigenous peoples want not only spiritual salvation and political, economic and social development, but also a good life, life in abundance, in an all-embracing way.


Poverty and wealth do not exist among indigenous peoples. There are inequalities, which produce imbalances in Creation and therefore affect our ability to live well.


The biblical texts used for this declaration are as follows: Mathew 22:39 "You shall love your neighbour as yourself". This commandment invites us to love not only those in our own home but also to love all people in the entire world. Luke 10: 25-37. The story of the good Samaritan teaches us about the solidarity that is present among our peoples. Mathew 14:13-21 shows us that sharing what we have can strengthen the relations between all humanity. Romans 12:5 The unity in one body described by Paul should inspire all our countries to eradicate the problems that harm and separate us. Luke 4:18 talks of bringing good news to the poor, healing the broken hearted and proclaiming release to the captives, is not a text only for the poor of the earth, but also one for all in Creation who still have hope. Luke 19:8 shows how a rich man returns what he has stolen from the poor. If there were more people like Zacchaeus, the world would definitely change and poverty would be eradicated.


We are part of Creation, we are not apart from it and we therefore need to look after ourselves. We therefore propose:

  1. To strengthen the struggle and the unity of indigenous peoples with the objective of achieving life in abundance.

  2. To promote reforestation and employment for indigenous peoples from an alternative perspective.

  3. To implement a model of food sovereignty that values our science and technology, uses our own seeds and not genetically modified seeds, uses organic rather than chemical fertilizers, guarantees food for our people and creates ways of generating solidarity-based and alternative incomes.

  4. To develop a solidarity-based and inclusive alternative financial system that values and promotes life in abundance, in which surpluses are produced for the benefit of those involved rather than to make a profit.

  5. To encourage the development of a solidarity-based economy and community companies that aim to satisfy the needs of our peoples and not produce goods that create new needs and dependency while allowing the multinationals to accumulate wealth.

  6. To encourage the development of a national and international legal framework, including implementation of ILO (International Labour Organization) Convention 169, the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and national constitutions, laws and regulations that guarantee collective rights, possession of our ancestral lands, administrative systems and the customary law of our peoples and that encourage indigenous science and technology, education, traditional medicine and the care of Creation and, in this way, achieve the objective of life in abundance for our countries and peoples.

  7. To seek changes in the structure of poverty and exclusion, with the participation of leaders. We not only seek power; we are building life in abundance.

  8. We demand that the WCC, which represents more than 500 million Christians, implements practical changes and alternatives that put into practice comprehensive changes to promote life in abundance, starting with its internal structures and using itself as an example to promote global change.

  9. We propose the organization of an international conference of indigenous people's churches to plan strategies to build a fairer and solidarity-based model based on the perspective of indigenous peoples; to support those active in the struggles of our peoples.

  10. We demand the return of our cultural heritage and repayment and reparations for the indiscriminate exploitation of our natural resources and the massacres and genocides suffered by our peoples.

Indigenous Peoples do not accept the United Nations' justification for the failure of the neoliberal model and their proposals for the Millennium Development Goals, with their targets for poverty reduction and relief. The Indigenous Peoples are fighting for a change in the structure of the economic, political, religious and social system from a vision that seeks not only to provide relief and justify poverty, but to eradicate it and, in this way, recover the balance and harmony that will allow life in abundance.