Nov 2009 on Fr. Peter Geremia Module in Euntes Asian Center ” Indigenous Peoples and the Integrity of Creation”. Fr. Goni Samoa of Papua New Guinee reflects about this from his point of view as an indigenous man and priest.
The indigenous people are those who dwell in a certain place for a long period of time so it is this context that we need to study their way of life and to really find out about their worries and concerns. It is like saying that we must journey with them and to find out about their life patterns. We need to approach them in a certain way in their tribal setting to share in their concerns. We must appreciate and respect their culture. We must have respect for the spirits of the forest. We must know why there is global warming and the pattern of climate or weather has changed so much today. How can we sustain God’s creation? How can we protect the creation or the environment? The module on the indigenous people and integrity of creation, given to us by Father Peter Geremia, PIME, has enabled us to view the ever growing divisive gap or segregation of the tribal people of the Philippines. These people must be empowered to be able to live their lives freely according to their traditional beliefs and cultural practices. It is in this perspective that the Catholic Church stands as the advocate for their cause in promoting, facilitating, supporting and strengthening their solidarity as movement of people.
Moreover, this effort can be measured through education, organization, community action toward integral liberation and development based on genuine tribal people’s concerns in view of the Gospel values. Something is not right, man as the created creature suddenly says that he is the creator instead of God and has brought about much destruction then good. What is God’s ruling for the universe when he created the universe? This is what Wesley G Michaelson said in his paper “God’s action as creator did not consist simply of God making the world. Rather, as creator, Redeemer, and sustainer, God chose the creation. Through grace alone, God identified the world as the beloved creation”. With sadness we come to understand that our world today is in an ecological crisis and appears to be the fundamental breakdown in modern global view patterned under western culture. It is reasoned out that scientific revolution is the means that humanity has the right to dominate nature. The notion of life here is more secularized, as the world is understood apart from making any form of reference to God. So humanity looked on nature as – raw materials that existed only to be given value through exploitation. What is obvious is that greed has over taken humanity that it no longer values nature and to take necessary steps to preserve it rather then to destroying it at a rapid scale. There must be a balance on exploitation and preservation.
It is in this context that the tribal people become winners in their cause in preserving and respecting Mother Nature and would not dare to go on destroying nature in a rootless manner as it has been the experience today. Their mind set has been distorted to think that money is the answer to every thing and not the reverse. They were forced to take on a new paradigm which is rather unaccommodating and so they were literally forced to move out from their natural habitats and are often displaced and become foreigners in their own land. This action is understood as just in the name of development yet remains an unforgivable sin from the tribal people’s point of view. Can we humble ourselves to say that the “ancient teachings say that God gave us the blessings as human beings who are rational and have the ability to differentiate between right and wrong. God made human beings as his agents on the earth and has entrusted to them the responsibility to civilize the land. It means striving to spread on the earth the divine attributes such as justice, mercy, compassion, goodness and and beauty. In doing so, the human beings spread Divinity itself upon the earth. In contrast, corrupting the earth – spreading violence, hatred, vengeance, and ugliness – means failure in discharing one’s obligation to God.”(Fdl, 2005:129) The tribal people are right and nature agrees with them all the way as we lament their efforts to remain the people of the earth believing in what they think and live harmoniously with nature… preservation. This is a lesson to the global community, yet it remains arrogant and is moving towards the point of total and imminent destruction if it does not change its aggressive mind set.