Every culture reflects God’s glorious creativity. God reveals himself in diversity.
We deeply regret the history of oppression and exclusion of indigenous groups and voices, and the church’s role in these processes. We reject the idea that Western culture is ‘superior’. Every culture is both brilliant and broken, beautiful and hurting.
We choose to celebrate diversity and pursue reconciliation. We commit to fight for political justice for indigenous groups, and seek to alleviate the extensive socio-economic problems faced by many. We humble ourselves, excited to discover what the West might have to learn from the indigenous peoples of the world.
“…a vast crowd, too great to count, from every nation and tribe and people and language…” (Rev 7:9) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FSeMbcx9RVk&t=1387s. The picture of the church in revelation is clear – every tribe and tongue united in a diverse church, worshipping Christ in their own unique ways. Jesus creates “one new humanity”, joining us altogether in joyful communion – we are to live it out. Sadly, history has not looked like this. Since the era of European colonialism, Christianity has been intimately connected with the oppression of indigenous groups around the world. On almost every continent, European governments and their local proxies were involved in the massacre, legal and political ostracisation, cultural oppression and economic exploitation of indigenous groups. This was all too often justified by an appeal to an allegedly God-given “manifest destiny” and shrouded in the justifying language of Christian “mission”. While many examples exist of genuinely loving and humble Christian mission work, at other times the church has been instrumental to the oppression carried out by imperial powers, such as in the case of ‘Indian Schools’ in the USA. Young children were forced into Christian-run ‘boarding schools’, and subjected to a concerted attempt to ‘assimilate’ them and remove from them their native culture and language. Many experienced physical and/or sexual abuse at the hands of the church. Histories like this must be recognised, brought to the surface, and addressed with real repentance and humility. Healing must gently be sought. From desperately high poverty, alcoholism and youth suicide rates on US and Canadian reservations to the widespread landlessness of indigenous communities in Latin America, indigenous peoples remain amongst the most deprived and marginalised in our post-colonial world. Complicated and painful struggles continue over ancestral land rights, reparations for colonial injustices and political representation. The church must patiently seek and stand up for what is right in these cases, whatever the political or economic cost. Western Christians must recognise the vitality and vibrancy of the indigenous church, and must learn from it. An effort must be made to recognise the validity of indigenous expressions of the Christian faith. Finally, Western society must humble itself and begin to learn from the cultures and philosophies we have so long ignored or actively suppressed. Where Western culture is failing to deal with pressing questions of economic inequality, governance and democracy and environmental sustainability, we can turn to indigenous cultures as a source of knowledge, hope and expertise. Convinced that God has created every culture in his image, Christians can confidently search for the wisdom and beauty in indigenous groups, preserving them not only as a nice artefact for the Western gaze, but as dynamic sources of insight on how to live a good and vibrant human life.