Indigenous Peoples and the Economy of Life: Spirituality, Land, and Self-Determination

As part of the New International Financial and Economic Architecture (NIFEA) initiative, the World Council of Churches together with the World Communion of Reformed Churches, Lutheran World Federation, World Methodist Council and Council for World Mission will be hosting a webinar highlighting the voices of Indigenous Peoples and their understandings of the Economy of Life.  

indigenous peoples march during a UN climate change event in Morocco 2016

Date: 22 April 2021
11h00 - 12h30 New York time or 15:00 - 16:30 GMT

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This virtual event will be held in conjunction with the Twentieth Session of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII), to be held between 19-30 April 2021. The theme of the 2021 UNPFII is “Peace, justice and strong institutions: the role of Indigenous peoples in implementing Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 16.”  

SDG 16 aims to establish more peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development by the year 2030.  It calls upon member states to include in any sustainable growth movement the input and consideration of Indigenous Peoples.  Goal 16 also recognizes the need for a peaceful society based on justice that includes the input and guidance of all the inhabitants of any given territory.  A society that has this goal in mind must seek to include Indigenous Peoples in the development of all components of society.  This can be accomplished by giving “access to non-discriminatory and inclusive justice, recognition of indigenous institutions, the principle of free, prior and informed consent, and the right to lands, territories and resources."

Responding to the societal ills that became evident during the COVID-19 pandemic, the faith-based organisations behind the NIFEA initiative recognized “the crises of the COVID-19 pandemic are rooted in human and systemic sickness. They stem from oppressive and exploitative economic systems that are based on the logic of profit-making, socio-economic inequalities, ecological indifference, political self-interest, and colonial legacies.” Indigenous Peoples in many parts of the world have experienced the brunt of these systems and must be part of the urgent process of defining justice and wellbeing and promoting socio-economic transformation.

The webinar will reflect on how the confluence of the three “Cs” of capitalism, colonialism and Christianity has deepened the experience of exploitation, marginalisation, and displacement for many Indigenous communities.  Panelists will be asked to share their community understanding of wealth, equality, land, and spirituality while also addressing the importance of Free, Prior, and Informed Consent (FPIC). In addition, panelists will explore their Indigenous perspectives on and contributions to building an Economy of Life, focusing on concepts of reparation and restoration, land as life, as well as alternative and holistic visions of prosperity and development that embrace all creation and what this could look like in current society.  

Opening blessing by:

The Most Rev. Mark MacDonald is an archbishop of the Anglican Church of Canada and serves as the World Council of Churches’ president for North America. He became the first National Indigenous Anglican Bishop in 2007.


Rev Chebon Kernell directs the Native American Comprehensive Plan of the United Methodist Church in the USA. He has actively engaged in the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues and is a cultural practitioner and member of the Helvpe Ceremonial grounds.


Marcus Briggs-Cloud is co-director of Ekvn-Yefolecv, an Indigenous ecovillage community in Weogufka, Alabama comprised of Maskoke persons who have returned to their ancestral lands. He is a graduate of Harvard Divinity School and a doctoral candidate in interdisciplinary ecology at the University of Florida.

Elvira Rumkabu is an Indigenous Papuan woman who has been working with Dewan Adat Papua (Papuan Customary Council/DAP), an Indigenous Peoples organization with a vision to represent and advocate for indigenous Papuan issues. She is also actively involved in the  Peaceful Papua Lobbying team and the Academics Forum for Papua Peace.

Jocabed Solanois an Indigenous woman from the Gunadale nation in Panama, a theologian and activist. She directs Memoria Indígena (Indigenous Memory) and serves with the United World Mission.

Rev Mari Valjakka is a sámi priest in the Evangelical-Lutheran Church of Finland. She is currently the Moderator of the World Council of Churches' Ecumenical Indigenous Peoples Reference Group.  

Naomi Wolfe is an Aboriginal woman who grew up in Tasmania in Australia. She currently lectures at the Australian Catholic University, serves as the Indigenous Theologies Project Officer at the University of Divinity and is a board member of NAIITS, an Indigenous Learning community.

Rev Dr Ferdinand Anno is an indigenous person (Bago-Igorot) from the Philippines. He is an ordained pastor of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines and teaches theology and worship at Union Theological Seminary-Philippines.  

Inatoli Aye is an Indigenous woman from Nagaland in India, belonging to the Sumi tribe. She has degrees from Princeton Theological Seminary in the USA and Protestant Theological Seminary in the Netherlands and her work attempts to engage indigenous liberation with women’s emancipation.

Evariste Ndikumana is a leader of the Batwa community from Burundi, in central Africa. Evariste represented in 2006, the Batwa in a fellowship training program for French-speaking indigenous peoples organized by the UN Human Rights office in Geneva. Mr. Ndikumana Evariste advocates for Batwa indigenous rights. He is also a member of the WCC EIPN RG.

Jenne Pieter is a pastor and assistant director of research and development at the Protestant Church in Maluku in Indonesia. She works with indigenous communities and is passionate about ecological justice.

Leonardo Tello Imaina is the son of an Achuar mother and a Kukama father. He studied agronomy at the Instituto de Educación Superior Tecnológico Público “Joaquín Reátegui Medina.” Since 2010, he has been the director of Radio Ucamara in Nauta, where he and his colleagues have launched various projects that seek and demand respect for the rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Closing remarks:

The Rt Rev. Rex Reyes is an Anglican bishop of the Episcopal Church in the Philippines, an Igorot, and a human rights advocate. He holds the distinction of being the first Indigenous Person to be elected as the general secretary of the National Council of Churches in the Philippines, a position he held till 2018.


Click here to register for this webinar

speakers of a webinar on indigenous peoples