By Yuna Kang
On March 26th, 2018, RP joined the live webcast briefing on the Interfaith Rainforest Initiative: A New Alliance to protect Rainforests and Their Guardians in New York. This briefing was apart of The 17th Session of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII).
There were a variety of participants from all over the world including Brazil, Colombia, Indonesia, Peru and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. They shared their opinions based on the following guiding questions:
- Where can this initiative have the greatest impact on indigenous peoples and forest communities?
- What kinds of actions, interventions, and advocacy are most needed, and what comparative strength and value can faith leaders bring?
- What are the most urgent threats to forests and indigenous peoples in Brazil, Colombia, DRC, Indonesia and Peru that the initiative should focus on?
- What successful approaches can we learn from to ensure indigenous peoples and forest communities are fully engaged and have a strong voice in this initiative?
The UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII), the organizations working on behalf of the indigenous communities, and the groups of indigenous people have conducted conference and initiative for the rights of indigenous peoples over their lands, territories, and resources several times. According to Rev. Fletcher Harper, Executive Director of Green Faith, Religions are extraordinarily new to this indigenous issue. Since this conference dealt with indigenous issues in a new way that had not been approached before, the Interfaith Rainforest Initiative was able to garner a lot of attention during this session. Due to this initiative focusing on religions, participants and international societies had the opportunity to discover a different way to view indigenous issues.
Joseph Itongwa Mukumo, an indigenous Walikale from the North Kivu province in the Democratic Republic of Congo, believes that religions have a strong moral force. The Catholic church, Protestant church and Church in Congo have exchanged their point of views on how to identify the main stakeholder that could help them with their struggle of religious issue. In addition, Mukumo believes that this coalition will strengthen the work that they have already been doing as an indigenous people, of protecting and securing the rainforest.
Nathan Phillips of the Native Youth Alliance, from the Omaha tribe in northeastern Nebraska, said that their religion has been denied by many policy makers. People have claimed it is not a religion, but spirituality. He asked the people in the conference and international societies for respect of their religion and faith in their life.
At the end of the conference, Vicky Tauli-corpuz, the present UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, suggested opening up a new dialogue to talk about how to deal with the issue of religious fundamentalism. The fundamentalism group has led a lot of the destruction of indigenous culture and its people in the past and continues to do so today. As a result, this is a source of destruction that many indigenous people are currently facing.
Rainforest Partnership’s work focuses on empowering indigenous people and creating projects that foster the conservation and proliferation of their culture. By donating to Rainforest Partnership, you can support indigenous people in their efforts to protect their lifestyle and their territory.