1992 Theology of Self-Discovery Offers Hope

Paul McKenna

The movement to resist the official 1992 celebrations is much more developed and broad-based in South and Central America than it is in North America.

Much of the impetus is coming from Indigenous Peoples' organizations. There are an estimated 30 million Native People living in South and Central America.

One of the more significant organizing efforts is "the Self -Discovery of America Campaign." It is active in several countries and is attempting to link up with similar efforts in North America. The "Self-Discovery" campaign does not confine itself to the struggles of Indigenous People but addresses the concerns of all social and racial groups who have experienced social/cultural destruction under the yoke of colonialism.

The campaign thus includes the "the children of slavery and servitude, Blacks, Indians, Mestizos, Mulattos and poor Whites all of whom are treated as second class citizens because they were born in a particular part of the world."

Church involvement

The direction in which the political winds are blowing in the Catholic Church in Central and South America will have a profound effect in determining the shape of "1992." Preparations for the anniversary have already revealed the ideological conflicts so prevalent in that Church.

The official sectors of the Church are cooperating with the Vatican-inspired campaign of 500 Years of Evangelization in the Western Hemisphere. The nine years preceding the anniversary are dedicated to prayer and reflection on the theme of evangelization.

The Latin American Bishops Conference, (CELAM), which will be meeting in 1992, is emphasizing the positive side of the "discovery" and "evangelization." There appears to be little emphasis on the abuses related to colonization or the Church's role in that historical process. Such a position is probably related to the fact that the conservative element in CELAM seems to be growing.

The grassroots or popular sectors of the Church are in tension with CELAM. They argue that the themes of the celebration are Eurocentric, triumphalist and lacking in self criticism.


Theologians, Jose Ramos Regidor and Jutta Steigerwald in an article in IDOC International, (February 1989), maintain that "the theology of liberation calls the churches to real self-criticism in order to ask for forgiveness for having evangelized in domineering ways. There is a need for Churches to commit themselves to a new and liberating evangelization, which respects and recognizes the subjectivity of the populations being evangelized, the validity of their point of view, their culture and their religions."

They further argue that the theology of liberation has developed as a critical reflection on Christian faith experience in the liberation struggles of popular movements and grassroots communities. "For 500 years, the God of the Christians was always on the side of the dominating sectors, aside from a few exceptions." In contrast to those theologies which have been imported or imposed from Europe, liberation theology finds itself on the side of the dominated peoples.

Liberation theology is an indigenous theology in that it seeks to give "a voice on the cultural and religious levels, with their social and political implications- to the claims of the peoples of the south. It challenges and pushes the believers and the churches to join their side, to demand their liberation and to recognize... the full validity of their subjectivity. It is also for this reason that (liberation theology), is being impeded on a political and ecclesial level."

The Latin America Information Group (LAWG) is maintaining a “1992” information file on South And Central America (in English and Spanish). Readers can write and ask for “1992 Self-Discovery of America file”, c/o LAWG, P. O. Box 2207, Station P, Toronto, ON. M5S 2T2 Phone: (416)533-9940. LAWG also maintains files on Indigenous Peoples' struggles in several South and Central American countries.



See also:

Christopher Who? Discovering the Americas - Columbus seen as a conqueror. (CX5031).
Manifest Destiny: A Native Perspective on 1992 - 1992 will be a year of mourning for North American Indians; a mourning for the fragmentation and loss of our traditional way of life. (CX5204)
1992: A White Christian Perspective - (CX5203).


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