Indigenous Communities and the Church


“Those who go out weeping, bearing the seed for sowing,

shall come home with shouts of joy, carrying their sheaves.”

Psalm 126:6

Indigenous people in Paraguay have largely had a difficult post-contact experience. Even the Guarani, who survived through strategic alliances with the Spanish, faced exploitation, enslavement, and expulsion. Many tribes are now located on reservations in the baking hot Chaco. Some practice agriculture, others husbandry, and still others, handicrafts. For the most part, government services do not reach these communities.

Pastor Cristóbal Mareco with a flock (of sheep).

The Comité de Iglesias para Ayudas de Emergencia (the Committee of Churches for Emergency Aid) was originally founded as a human-rights organization during the dictatorship. Under the direction of its three charter churches, the Catholic Church, the Disciples of Christ, and the Evangelical Church of the Rio de la Plata, it has gradually expanded its portfolio to include indigenous rights. As CIPAE field workers accompany indigenous leaders, they begin by listening, seeking to understand traditional practices as well as hopes for tomorrow. They affirm, and they ask questions.

Marian with CIPAE Director Victor Ayala (second from left), Pastor Mareco (right), and staff.

Gradually, as a result of years-long collaboration, indigenous groups are able to try new things and develop new strengths. Manioc is a nutritious vegetable – so CIPAE is coordinating with one group to share its Manioc cuttings with another. There are no water treatment facilities, so some women are reviving the practice of clay-jar water filters and CIPAE is expanding their market to other tribes. And, the Nivaclé community has decided to sell their agricultural products in bulk, commanding higher prices through higher volume and more precise timing.

The storage shed where Nivaclé members bring their produce until they are ready to sell in bulk.

In some areas, there has also been more traditional missionary activity. CIPAE does not weigh in one way or the other about this. Rather, CIPAE commits itself to a model of critical presence in which it walks with indigenous leaders as they navigate a better future for their communities.

The Nivaclé sanctuary.

Speaking with Graciano, a member of the community and the CIPAE liaison.

One Response to “Indigenous Communities and the Church”

  1. Hi James, this is another interesting article. I’d like to know more about the clay jar water filters. Is this product a potential export item? I would suggest exploring it’s use in other indigenous areas as well. It may be useful as a product that can be easily exported to other countries as a source of revenue for these folks. I don’t know it’s just an idea. I’ll continue to pray for the communities including you and Marion. MayGod bless your days. Always, Cleo From my Android phone on T-Mobile. 

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