Academic journal article International Review of Mission

Transformative Spirituality for a Transformed World: Contributions from the Indigenous Perspective

Academic journal article International Review of Mission

Transformative Spirituality for a Transformed World: Contributions from the Indigenous Perspective

Article excerpt


A Transformative Spirituality from the perspective of indigenous peoples should be rooted in the life experience, cultural values and spirituality of the indigenous peoples. From the identity and history of the indigenous relationship with Christianity, the article presents some experiences and voices of indigenous peoples and concludes with some suggestions to think about the theme. In this perspective Transformative Spirituality is a proposal of an alternative way of life to the current one which is marked by financial crisis and hopelessness in the face of the future. Pachamama as the Mother Earth, origin and end of life, is the main symbol of this spirituality.


Inviting me to make a presentation on Spirituality from the indigenous perspective was to challenge me to put in writing what I carry on my Aymara woman's back: my q'epi (a tapestry) of experiences, memories, voices and relationships. Feeling so far away from my geographical context has shown me what it means to be in crisis, but it has also strengthened me while rediscovering myself along the road with my awayu (a multicolor weave) full of our culture, our faith, our hopes and tremendously near my Pachamama, (1) accompanied by her in this, my passing through Switzerland which is also Helvetia.

Writing about indigenous spirituality has meant to re-link myself to the deep vital energy that it instills in the life, dignity and alternative projects of my Aymara people in particular, and with all the indigenous peoples of the world at large. I ask the permission of the diverse indigenous peoples of Abya Yala (2) because throughout my presentation I will express my interpretation of our historic road and wisdoms in the context of the theme of Transformative Spirituality.

Indigenous Peoples

This term is especially used in the international context to recognize the existence of ancestral peoples who existed prior to the formation of modern nation-states and whose way of life was, and is, historically denied, outraged and discriminated against. The United Nations Declaration on the Human Rights of Indigenous Peoples, signed in September 2007, represents a great advance in recognizing the existence of ways of life, culture and religion which are "different" to the traditional, standard, dominant and globalized occidental way. It is a generic term that puts in one bag all the plural wealth of ways of life present in the ecosystems of planet earth and which allows "the occidental logos" to confront this difference and "protect it". It is also the main achievement of the indigenous peoples' legal struggles.

We indigenous peoples recognize each other from within and according to our particular identity. Our identity has to do with our communal sense; it is about feeling part of a group that shares common cultural features, myths of origins, historic memories and feelings of solidarity, (3) that shares the same memory of the ethnic violence of which we are resilient victims and who fundamentally feel a deep link with the land of which we are a part. We identify ourselves as Quiche, Apache, Zapoteco, Tseltal, Mixteco, Raramuri, Mam, Mazateco, Osage, Lenca, Nahuatl, Embera Wayuu, Ngobes, Kunas, Sumu, Miskito, Mapuche, Toba, Guarani, Xokleng, Korebaju, Tukano, Wanana, Terena, Camentsa, Dessana, Wounaan, Aymara, Quechua, Urus, Paez-Nasa, Dessana, Pastos, Kolla, Bakairi, Baures, B'ali'm, Chortis, Moxos, Kaqchikel, (4) and from that identity we dialogue with the sisters and brothers of other indigenous peoples.

Our names express what we are and we value our own language as the greatest expression of our identity. Our indigenous languages express our sense of life, formulate our hopes and assure the objectives of our struggles. Yet indigenous languages are probably the most threatened with extinction in a world where, increasingly, dialogue can only be understood if it is in the language of the rulers: English. …

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