October 4, 2019 — “Indigenous Peoples around the world have sought recognition of their identities, their ways of life and their right to traditional lands, territories and natural resources; yet throughout history, their rights have been violated. Indigenous Peoples are arguably among the most disadvantaged and vulnerable groups of people in the world today,” says the United Nations' Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues.
The Society of Jesus first recognized the appalling conditions of Indigenous Peoples in 1995 and called on "the whole Society to renew its long-standing commitment to these peoples". Promotio Iustititiae (PJ), a journal published by the Secretariat for Social Justice and Ecology of the General Curia of the Society of Jesus in Rome, published a series of perspectives on the theme of Indigenous Peoples in 2010.
The journal has just published a new issue on Indigenous Peoples' Rights and Integral Ecology, which takes into account the Synod in the Amazon. In the editorial, Xavier Jeyaraj, SJ, explains that "the Jesuits of five Conferences, who have accompanied Indigenous Peoples for many years, have reflected on their rights and on integrated ecology from the point of view of justice and reconciliation."
The authors take us from Peru to Alaska, from India to Congo, as well as to Canada.
Jesuits of Canada: Our Apostolates among Indigenous Peoples Today, by Gerald McDougall, SJ, sheds light on the context of revitalizing Indigenous culture in Canada, but also highlights the many challenges still facing Indigenous Peoples, who face them with tremendous resilience.
In response to the Calls to Action of the TRC and to assist in the formation of non-Indigenous priests and Church ministers, the Jesuits have commissioned two Indigenous culture immersion programs for Jesuits in formation: in Regina, Saskatchewan, and in Wikwemikong Unceded First Nation, Ontario. The Kateri Native Ministry of Ottawa, a work supported by the Archdiocese of Ottawa, presents an Indigenous Ministry program annually and is now developing an Indigenous cultural immersion program, also to help the formation of non-Indigenous ministers.
In the summer of 2017, another innovative work of reconciliation took place in Canada. The Canoe Pilgrimage from Midland to Montreal, led by one of the youngest Canadian Jesuit scholastics, revisited the journey made by Jesuits of old and their First Nations companions in the 17th century. For the Indigenous and non-Indigenous pilgrims, the Canoe Pilgrimage unfolded as a model of the journey of reconciliation that the Catholic Church and Indigenous Peoples are undertaking
David McCallum, SJ et Peter Bisson, SJ, acknowledge in From Reconciliation to Decolonization: A Rough Guide the complex and often deeply destructive impact of Jesuit missions to Indigenous Peoples in the Americas and share their personal and institutional experiences with reconciliation.
[...] in 2015, our Jesuit province gathered a large number of Jesuits and lay apostolic leaders for a communal discernment exercise about our priorities. The first priority to emerge, the Spiritual Exercises, came as no surprise. The second priority however was a surprise, Indigenous relations. This did not mean Indigenous ministry, which has always been important in Canada. Instead it meant that all our apostolates, no matter what they were, should develop relations with Indigenous People and that this should be part of our way of proceeding in Canada. This grace was a switch from ”helping” Indigenous Peoples to becoming partners in building the Kingdom of God. An Indigenous Elder who was part of the discernment exercise exclaimed, “Finally I feel like a friend!” And this was after 40 years of collaboration! - Peter Bisson
To read the magazine, click here.