New York, USA. The Claretian Missionaries have been accompanying different ethnic groups around the world, respecting their indigenous cultures, and journeying with them on their demands so that their rights may be respected.
In the framework of the Commemoration of the International Day of World’s Indigenous Peoples, the Solidarity and Mission (SoMi) Team of the Congregation carried out a virtual conversation on 8 August 2020, on the situation of the indigenous communities in the Philippines, Kenya, Guatemala and Colombia under the title: COVID19 AND THE RESILIENCE OF THE INDIGENOUS PEOPLES.
This Global Interactive Webinar took place around three points: The general situation of the indigenous peoples in the country, the response of the communities to the COVID19 pandemic, and the missionary accompaniment of the Claretians.
It is the first time that the Claretians organize a global event about the indigenous peoples, and this online event had the participation of over 120 persons from 24 countries, including members of the Claretian Family and students of the formation houses. This conversation with simultaneous translation into English and Spanish began with the words of Fr. Mathew Vattamattam, CMF, the Superior General. He reminded that the discrimination suffered by the indigenous peoples is a reality that should challenge all since, on the one hand, it is not a Christian attitude. On the other, he reminded that Saint Anthony Mary Claret, on different occasions and especially in Cuba, assumed a prophetic attitude in the face of the discrimination suffered by the peoples.
The moment of prayer was animated by the Mayan Q’eqchi Community of Izabal, Guatemala. The webinar was moderated by Fernando Guzmán, a Lay Claretian from the Province of San José del Sur and coordinator of the Solidarity and Mission Team (SoMi) of MICLA. Fr. Daniel LaBlanc OMI, Secretary of Communications of the NGO Committee on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples at the United Nations, New York, participated as the main discussant.
There were very intense moments of listening to the testimonies of Rebecca Tuwa. And Maygelyn Tuwa of the Tagakaulo community in the Philippines; the words of Malan Ome and Gabriella Naro Esokon of the Ngaremara (Lowangila Village) Isiolo community in Kenya; the dramatic situation of the murdered leaders in Colombia of the Voice Luis Evelis Andrade Casama, of the Embera and Luz Milena Rincon community, of the Sikuani ethnic group of the Trompillo-Kuwai community. Vichada.
The Claretian testimony was shared by Brother Joseph Roy D. Villarin, CMF, from the Province of the Philippines, Fr. John Obonyo, CMF, from Uganda who accompanies the communities in Kenya belonging to the St. Charles Lwanga Independent Delegation and Fr. Manuel Sam Cabnal, who belongs to the Mayan Qéqchi people, in the Izabal Estor in the Province of Centroamérica.
Amid the conversation, news arrived of the departure to the house of the Father of Bishop Pedro Casaldaliga. A feeling of vitality accompanied that moment since for the indigenous peoples of Brazil and of the world, the figure of this beloved missionary is emblematic and inspiring in the struggle for the defense of ancestral territories. For a moment, the sadness took hold of the participants. Still, the experience of his resurrection filled them with the courage to live with joy the missionary accompaniment of the indigenous peoples.
One of the conclusions of this encounter was the need to consolidate the international Claretians’ network of Solidarity and Mission to support the causes of the indigenous peoples and others who are suffering the destruction and loss of their territories due to the impacts of the extractive, mining, and oil industry, the systematic violation of human rights, the extinction of some ethnic groups and indigenous languages, as well as the loss of ancestral knowledge for the care of health and the land.