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PRESS RELEASE NO. 34
Participants in LWF Assembly Amplify Global Concerns
Join in Common Journey on the Path of Healing
WINNIPEG, Canada, 31 July 2003 – For
the first time in the history of the Lutheran World Federation (LWF)
meetings of Indigenous Peoples were held during the Tenth Assembly
in Winnipeg. Led by Bishop Medardo E. Gomez Soto of the Salvadoran
Lutheran Synod, representatives of Indigenous Peoples from
Bangladesh, Bolivia, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Greenland, Honduras,
India, Papua New Guinea, Sweden and Norway formulated the issues
that confront them in a Message Concerning Indigenous Peoples that
was presented to the Assembly.
"We believe that our peoples had a history with
the Creator prior to the coming of the missionaries," Johannes
Marainen from Church of Sweden told Assembly participants on July
29. "The Fourth Commandment tells us to honor our fathers and
mothers, and we believe that we do so by honoring our cultural
heritage and not by rejecting it," he said in his presentation
of the Indigenous Peoples’ message.
The indigenous participants honored the fact that
they had been gathered at the traditional lands of the Cree, Ojibway
and Assiniboine, and expressed their solidarity as they did with all
the First Nations and the Inuit peoples of Canada. They also
acknowledged that many of the basic human rights of Canada’s
Indigenous Peoples, like in other parts of the world, were still not
implemented into the national policy.
The Assembly in its Message on July 30 acknowledged
that the Indigenous Peoples feel "powerless and voiceless
regarding self-determination, access to education, health care and
job opportunities." It declared land rights as
"fundamental to the survival of Indigenous Peoples and their
cultures," and called on LWF member churches to "continue
to recognize and support the basic human rights of Indigenous
Peoples" all over the world.
Lutheran churches were also urged to
"acknowledge and seek the presence of Indigenous Peoples"
within their churches, "affirm Indigenous Peoples as equal
partners" and "challenge paternalistic patterns"
which keep Indigenous Peoples out of participation in life and
There are about 370 million Indigenous Peoples in
more than 70 countries worldwide who seek recognition of their
identities, ways of life and right to traditional lands and
resources, according to the Assembly of First Nations, an
organization representing 700,000 indigenous Canadians living in 633
communities in rural and urban areas.
According to a 1996 Royal Commission on Aboriginal
Peoples, "the physical and spiritual decline of Aboriginal
communities in Canada is the result of a federal Aboriginal policy
that denies Aboriginal rights" and which "deprives
Aboriginal Peoples of their traditional lands."
The solution to many of the problems faced by
Aboriginal Peoples requires compromises from non-Aboriginal members
of society that would return land and resources to them. (456
Assembly of the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) is taking place
21-31 July 2003 in Winnipeg, Canada, under the theme "For the
Healing of the World." It is being hosted by the Evangelical
Lutheran Church in Canada (ELCIC).
There are around 820 men, women and youth participants in the Tenth
Assembly including 380 delegates from the
133 churches with full membership and three associate members. The Assembly is the highest
decision-making body of the LWF, and meets normally every six years.
Between Assemblies, the LWF is governed by its Council that meets
annually, and by its Executive Committee.
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