Claretians discuss the role of the Church in accompanying the Indigenous Peoples on the International Day of World’s Indigenous Peoples

Sep 15, 2021 | Apostolate, Indigenous peoples, UN Presence

New York, USA. On the International Day of World’s Indigenous Peoples, the Claretian Team at the United Nations organized an online conversation, with Claretians and lay people who work and serve the indigenous peoples, to discuss the role of the Church in the accompaniment of Indigenous Peoples. This event took place on August 8, 2021, and around fifty persons took part in the event.

The theme of the conversation was, “The Catholic Church’s Involvement in Canada’s Indigenous Peoples’ past: Present and Future Role of the Catholic Church in its Service to Indigenous Peoples.” From the two interventions which served as a context to open the dialogue, the challenges and demands of this missionary service were shared.

The first speaker was Darío Monsalve Mejía, who is the independent expert member of the Permanent Forum for Indigenous Affairs of the United Nations. He belongs to the Zenú indigenous people of San Andrés de Sotavento, a political scientist of the National University of Colombia and a member of the National Commission for the Work and Coordination of the Education of the Indigenous Peoples of Colombia (CONTCEPI).

The second speaker was Father Daniel LeBlanc OMI, an Oblate Missionary, NGO UN Representative of the OMI Congregation and one of the representatives of Vivat International to the United Nations. He is of Canadian origin, and for several years he served as a missionary in Peru among the native peoples of the Amazon. He actively participates in several NGO committees at the UN. Currently, he is the communication secretary of the NGO Committee on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Both speakers recognized that the role of the Catholic Church among the indigenous peoples cannot be seen as Black and White, it is necessary to address concrete situations and see each reality in context. Mr. Mejía expressed that it was necessary to dismantle all the colonial structures that have been imposed in the relationship with the indigenous peoples and stated that the will of the indigenous peoples is to build relationships of dialogue and collaboration to build a world where no one is left behind.

Father Daniel shared his work of coordination between religious congregations with consultative status in the UN ECOSOC and the importance of continuing to highlight all those structures and injustices suffered by indigenous peoples. He explained the recent issue of the uncovering of mass graves at the former Indigenous residential school sites in Canada and role of the religious congregation in the issue. He invited the religious to continue to serve and empower the indigenous peoples to build a better world for all to live in peace and dignity.

After the interventions of Mr. Mejia and Father Daniel, the participants expressed their points of view and shared some of the Claretian experiences of accompaniment the indigenous peoples in Indonesia, Philippines, India, Kenya, Nigeria, Guatemala, Cost Rica, and Colombia. Lord Winner CMF, the General Mission Procurator also has shared about the Claretian projects related to the indigenous people. This Dialogue was moderated by Rohan Dominic CMF, coordinator of the Claretian Team at the UN. This event counted with simultaneous translation into English and Spanish.

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