God expects us also beyond the frontiers

God expects us also beyond the frontiers

Indigenous Yanomami youth community members in Xapuri, Acre, Brazil. Photo Credit: Equipe Itinerante

Fernando Lopez, SJ in an interview on his encounters with indigenous cultures

Fernando López, born in 1960 in Spain, entered the Society in 1985 and is a member of the North-East Brazil Province (Região dependente Brasil Amazônia, BAM).  He is also a member of Equipe Itinerante, a group that travels along the rivers of the Amazon region to work with indigenous communities on current problems such as the demarcation of the land, alcoholism, health, indiscriminate logging, and the exploitation of mineral resources.  Fernando shared his time with Ecojesuit as our colleague T. Philipp asked him a few questions about his work.

Having lived and worked since the 1980s in the Amazon region and as a member of Equipe Itinerante, a pastoral team that travels almost all the year round in the rainforests to visit indigenous communities to support and to accompany them, you share the lives of Indigenous Peoples as well as their struggle for land, resources, and cultural self-determination, what can we as Christians – and as Jesuits – learn from indigenous cultures?

First of all, the unconditional willingness to be a friend.  To say: “You and your life are important to me, I am looking  to you as a brother or sister.”  Indigenous cultures also show us ways to understand the relational meaning of our existence: the principle of reciprocity with all creation.  They invite us to ask: What do I really need?  A sense of proportion  and solidarity with the whole creation are attitudes that I owe to my  encounter with the native peoples and that shape my “daily commitment.”

Has the encounter with the Indians and their immersion  in nature transformed your image of God?

From this practical life experience, I now understand Ignatius better when he talks about finding God in all things and all things in him.  The ‘Meditation for Acquiring Love’ – to consider how God works in all things – used to be a nice idea for me, but not anymore.  Today, due to this encounter with native peoples, it is for me a living reality, experienced every day.

In your concern about environmental conflicts and the fate of indigenous communities, do you feel sufficient support by the Society of Jesus and the Church?

We need greater awareness for the fact that God is waiting for us also “beyond the frontiers.”  When Father General Adolfo Nicolás visited us in August 2008, he encouraged us explicitly to cross that border.  And he added: then come back and tell us what God has shown you on the other side of the frontier.  I feel well accompanied by the  Society.

The soil and the culture of the indigenous are threatened in many ways, mainly by interest in the natural resources that occur in their reservations.  What do you learn about God when you experience the violence suffered by indigenous cultures?

There is no way to a renewed life, if not through the Cross.  If the aboriginals oppose  Western expansionist and exploitative cultures and defend desperately their identity, this is for me the call of the crucified Christ, to follow Him on his way towards the resurrection – with Him and with them.

Does the Church possess the appropriate liturgical forms to celebrate the relationship between humanity and the environment?

Historically, ritual forms of celebration in the Church were always the fruit of the worship experience of  several different earlier  peoples.  The fact that in the 3rd century, the liturgy was richer than it is today, is related to the fact that more and more cultures and peoples found their way into the Church, each bringing its own customs and forms of expression.  God is present in all cultures, long before the Church finds her way to them.  This receptive attitude has slightly been lost.  And here is a broad perspective, to discover this enormous wealth again and to give it space.

Fernando López. Photo Credit: Ecojesuit.com

If you are interested to know more about the work of Fernando López, please visit the project’s website Entreculturas .  You may also contact Fernando at equipeitinerante (at) yahoo.com.br.

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