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Indigenous people from 50 countries will urge the World Council of Churches to call on governments to ensure their rights to ecological justice, self-determination and participation in the economy.
A resolution to the WCC 10th Assembly is expected to call on the council to show real support towards the support of indigenous people, including those in the Pacific.
Reverend Rex Reyes Junior of the Philippines said governments around the world had tried to use the issue of common identity or one people as a way to disenfranchise indigenous persons or remove their rights to land and resources.
Rev Reyes said that while national unity was a commendable ideal, it should not be done at the expense of native landowners.
Pacific delegates from Fiji, New Zealand, Maohi (French Polynesia), Niue and West Papua attended the assembly and heard that there was a global trend towards sidelining indigenous issues by promoting the one-nation concept.
“Indigenous peoples through the generations have tried to teach us reverence to the land but somehow we have refused to learn,” he said.
Examples were drawn from Fiji, Papua New Guinea and West Papua where governments have placed national development – particularly through revenue from mining – above the interests of indigenous people.
Participants said in their working groups that governments must consult with the landowners and seriously consider the impact of mining and logging on subsistence farming, water supplies and possibilities for village expansion.
“Money must not be the main consideration,” a Colombian delegate told the group.
“No amount of money will be able to restore the environment once it has been damaged beyond repair.”
A draft resolution from the group which included indigenous people from Australia, Europe, the Americas and Asia indigenous people alone were not responsible for caring for the environment.
“For the preservation of the entire human race (protecting the land) it’s everybody’s concern,” the draft resolution said.
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