Dynamics of “Indigenous ecological spiritualties and Christian faith” were explored in detail at a World Council of Churches (WCC) seminar in Yogyakarta, Indonesia.
The event held from 17 to 20 August at the Duta Wacana Christian University (UKDW) was organized by the WCC Continuing Ecumenical Formation programme of the Ecumenical Institute in Bossey, Switzerland and the Care for Creation and Climate Justice programme of the WCC together with the Nijmegen Institute of Mission Studies (NIM) and the faculty of theology of UKDW.
The event brought together thirty participants including church leaders, theologians, activists and staff of Christian organizations coming from different parts of Indonesia (Java, Bali, Papua), the Philippines and India and representatives from the host organizations.
The seminar participants addressed issues related to ecological destruction being caused by mining, monocultures, deforestation and other similar activities. They observed that such destruction has become a threat to the livelihoods of indigenous peoples and tribes.
Dr Guillermo Kerber, WCC programme executive for Care for Creation and Climate Justice, reported that case studies presented by the resource persons from Papua, North East India and Central Kalimantan provoked an elaborate discussion among participants at the event, bridging the gap between scholarly research and social and ecological activism.
Various sessions deepened the interaction between indigenous peoples’ spiritualities and Christianity. Frans Dokman, director of NIM, highlighted the mediation role theology can play between indigenous spiritualities and Christianity.
Work in groups at the event addressed topics such as indigenous peoples’ relationship to land, ancestors, role of the Trinity in creation, eco-pastoral theology, and youth and art education. At one session, Invani Lela Herliana, from Ketjilbergerak, a youth-based creative community in Yogyakarta, shared how arts and cultural intervention can be used to develop what they called “praxis spirituality”.
Dr Marina Ngursangzeli Behera, professor of ecumenical missiology at the WCC’s Ecumenical Institute in Bossey, said that the seminar was part of the WCC’s work on indigenous peoples responding to “pilgrimage of justice and peace” – a call from the WCC Busan Assembly in 2013.
These discussions, Behera said, have shown that “various indigenous spiritualties are rooted in awareness of the equilibrium of the natural environment, of one's role and responsibility to the community, along with sensitivity to the spiritual essence of the world.”
A statement outlining outcomes of the seminar for the wider public was issued at the end of the seminar. Frans Dokman said that “the seminar should be seen as part of a process that will continue to address and deepen dialogue on these topics in coming years.”