Hundreds of the world’s native young people will meet from January 17-21 in the World Meeting of Indian Youth (WMIY), on the threshold of the 2019 World Youth Day (WYD) in Panama.
From the ancient richness of their cultures, the members of several native communities are responding to Pope Francis’ invitation to be grateful for the history of their peoples and courageous in face of the challenges that emerge.
The WMIY arose as an initiative of the National Commission of Indigenous Pastoral Care (CONAPI) in 2016. During an indigenous pastoral meeting in Chiapas, Mexico, the members of the Amazonian communities wondered how they could show their Indian face to the young people of the world.
The proposal had the blessing of the Bishops in charge of the Indigenous Pastoral Care of several countries, who were very much in agreement with this meeting, held for the first time among native peoples worldwide.
“It’s a meeting between cultures that will help us to be in solidarity, and will encourage us to commit ourselves more to the Church, commented Alexis Mendez Santo, young Indian (Bugle) to a Catholic media.
This meeting will be held in Soloy, Ngabe-Bugle Region, Diocese of David; this community is accessible for pilgrims living in Central America, on route to Panama City. After their meeting, the native young people will go to Panama to take part in the 2019 WYD.
Indigenous Youth Responds to Francis
Panama’s indigenous youth calls with great expectation the natives of the “Amazonian Nations,” as Francis called native peoples, in his recent visit to Chile and Peru in January 2018, when he met with Indians in the closed coliseum of Puerto Maldonado, capital of the Mother of God [“Madre de Dios”] region.
“I rely on the capacity of resilience of the peoples and their reaction in face of the difficult moments they are having to go through,” said the Supreme Pontiff, before the 3,000 Indians who arrived from the whole of Peru, and of the neighboring Vicariates of Bolivia and Brazil. Almost a year after this pastoral visit, Francis’ dream is coming alive.
According to the President of the WMIY’s Organizing Committee, Father Jose Fitzgerald, the meeting promotes the building of a possible world, strengthening young people’s hope. Father Fitzgerald, who is also Executive Secretary of the National Coordination of Indigenous Pastoral Care (CONAPI) told the press that the meeting’s motto is: “We assume the memory of our past to build hope with courage.”
Emilda Santos, a young Ngabe girl who attended the 2016 WYD in Krakow, from which the WDIY’s motto emerged, as the foundation of Pope Francis words to the young volunteers taking part in that Day. “We, young people from different parts of the world, will share different cultures, ideas, and languages, but above all with one same faith,” stressed Santos.
Peruvian Young People on the Way to Panama
Six Amazonian young people, accompanied by a priest; two representatives of the Apostolic Vicariate of Jaen, of the Apostolic Vicariate of San Jose del Amazonas and of the Vicariate of Puerto Maldonado, respectively, will take part in the Panama meeting.
“To speak of indigenous peoples is also to listen,” said the Holy Father to the Mapuche people in January 2018. And, during his visit to Peru, Francis was very clear in his message to indigenous peoples. “We need the Amazonian nations to mold culturally the local Churches so that a Church can be molded with an Amazonia face.”
In fact, Salesian missionary Diego Clavijo Illescas is accompanying the Achuar people of the Peru-Ecuador border region, to evangelize them from their own culture, especially from their own language. Father Clavijo is a disciple of Father Luis Bolla, an Italian priest who lived for over half a century with the Achuar community, to enculturate them from their own vision of faith.
Given Francis’ wise thoughts consigned in Laudato Si’, the disappearance of a culture can be more serious than that of an animal species. In fact, in the framework of the United Nations General Assembly, he announced recently the name this year’s event will have at the international level: “International Year of Indigenous Languages.” From Panama, native young people will be heard by the world.