Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Dismantling the History and Idea of Discovery

Today, December 3rd, and next Wednesday, December 10th , International Human Rights Day, the radio station of the Lutheran Church of Colombia, Punto4Radio, will be airing a two part series about building right relationships between Indigenous Peoples and the church.

The difficult history that exists between them is built on a foundation known as the Doctrine of Discovery, a series of historical documents such as Papal Bulls, Royal Charters and court rulings which call for non-Christian peoples to be “invaded, captured, vanquished, subdued, reduced to perpetual slavery and to have their possessions and property seized” by Christian Monarchs. Collectively, these documents and other concepts form a standard or pattern of domination that is still being used against Indigenous Peoples today.

This image shows how the world was divided by the Vatican during the European exploration
Rejecting this doctrine, and working towards building a relationship based on human rights, equality, peace, integrity, community, and stewardship is an important task for the Church everywhere, in fact many have issued statements repudiating the doctrine (World Council of Churches, Anglican Church of Canada, Friends General Conference, United Church of ChristEpiscopal Church, Unitarian Universalist Church, United Methodist Church).

Wrestling with the history that comes out of this doctrine, these radio programs will look to discuss: the challenges to the construction of right relationships between churches and Indigenous Peoples; effective models of Indigenous syncretism or the blending of Christianity into their own history, knowledge and culture and how the church can accompany them in this process; examples of respectful and right relationships; and ways to build solidarity with Indigenous Peoples and organizations in their many struggles.

These exciting radio programs are a small step in dismantling the doctrine and changing relations between the church and Indigenous Peoples to a model of accompaniment and solidarity. This small step, however, is important and needed to initiate difficult conversations.

About ten minutes before the show today, I abruptly found out that I was going to be participating in the conversation over the radio.  A chair was pulled up to the table and I was told to check my microphone. With much surprise and anxiety I was able to stumble through the program (completely in Spanish). Also, due to some guest cancellations, I learned that I will be helping lead the program next week, which will more heavily focus on the Doctrine of Discovery, its impacts on Indigenous Peoples today, and challenges in promoting and protecting the rights of Indigenous Peoples. Below is the link to listen to the radio program (in Spanish) from today: