Academic journal article International Review of Mission

For the Sun Heats Up Again

Academic journal article International Review of Mission

For the Sun Heats Up Again

Article excerpt


Motivated by the centenary of the IRM, this article is a reflection from an indigenous perspective. Indigenous Peoples' experience with mission movements is vast, complex and varied, depending on the context. The mission of God has always been in relation to the original peoples of the land, who have been part of the church even when these relations have been neither fair nor harmonious. Indigenous Peoples have been persecuted, demonized and excluded, as well as assimilated and westernized in order to survive, but now they are not only arising again as peoples but raising up the importance of indigenous spiritual perspectives and theological reflection. Dialogue with indigenous wisdom and theologies was mandated by the 2006 assembly of the WCC, but that necessitates recognizing and welcoming "otherness" and revisiting syncretism.

From Abya Yala

Human history is a vast storehouse of multiple relationships. The history of Gods reflects the history of the relationships among human populations, social sectors and their life projects. The following excerpt from a pre-Columbian Mesoamerican and Mexican myth presents the relation of the two gods represented respectively by Sun and Dog.

   The Sun said: 'free the dog (Xolotl) who does not want to die.

   There is reason if he is happy and makes other happy.

   I do not want more sacrifices!

   I will eat stars instead.

   My heat will be to caress

   People, animals and plants (1)

According to Eleazar Lopez, the Sun represents the god of the great Aztec urban empire while the Dog is the god of the Huasteca agricultural people living under the rule of Aztecas. Xolotl, the Dog is close to the life of people and makes them happy. Their happiness makes the Sun want the blood of Xolotl as a sacrifice. Xolotl escapes from the violence of the priests of the Sun and is able to change the Sun's intent to sacrifice Xolotl. The Sun promises its heat will be a caress, rather than burning or hurting other Gods, peoples, animals or nature. The Sun changes, and so also can Gods and their priests. This strengthens believers, especially the humble, the poor and nature.

In Abya Yala (2), the "mature land, fertile and abundant," there has been a long experience of Christian missions, both Catholic and Protestant. Our continent is Christian but it is also Amerindia, an Indian/indigenous continent. It is also the place where peoples came from elsewhere, voluntarily or involuntarily, and settled permanently. It is IndoAfroMestizaAmgricaLatina' which testifies to its ability to generate life amidst suffering, exploitation and marginalization. New paradigms of civilization arise from these lands, many of them arising from the cultural matrix of the descendants of the first nations of Abya Yala.

Abya Yala was conquered by violent military forces, which were legitimized theologically. Social and religious relations between the original inhabitants of Abya Yala and the descendants of the conquistadores are very complex, but usually only analyzed from non-indigenous perspectives. Elites of the Christian churches have not made efforts to understand this reality from indigenous perspectives but instead have been allies of the continued domination of indigenous and impoverished populations. Despite a history of pain and subjugation, Abya Yala is also a continent where the grace of God can be perceived in very creative ways. The daily life of simple people, especially their ability to resist and withstand multiple conflicts and aggressions, witnesses to the wonderful strength and faith of the peoples as well as their amazing capacity to recreate their culture and religion.

The arrival of the Christian God was welcomed 520 years ago, as well as today, insofar as the gospel values inclusiveness, which is characteristic of indigenous cultures and worldviews. But this has never been reciprocal. Indigenous Gods were sentenced to death and their believers accused of idolatry. …

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