Kuala Lumpur (Fides Service) – Every year in May the people of Sabah in Malaysian Borneo hold their traditional Rice Feast, when they thank their ancient rice spirit for a good harvest in their customary way. The presence on this occasion of the Bishop and ten Jesuits from Malaysia, Philippines, Taiwan and Thailand made it a special moment. The Jesuits were members of the JCIM Jesuit Companions in Indigenous Ministries, committed to fostering respect for indigenous peoples’ cultures and at the same time helping them to move forward.
The JCIM network aims at working in solidarity with the native peoples as they struggle to retain natural resources and obtain justice. As part of this process the Jesuits, striving for mutually enriching dialogue, held a Seminar open to lay people and other religious on the significance of Shamanistic practices in Sabah, in view of bringing indigenous wisdom and values into the mainstream of both the Church and society at large through research, analysis and theological reflection.
To reach this goal 4 projects were undertaken: a handbook to train people to be published at the end of 2004; a symposium on indigenous spirituality in 2005, for theologians and research institutions to be organised by the Centre for Aboriginal Theology at Fujen Catholic University (Taiwan); training courses for Jesuits and their collaborators to help indigenous people secure their traditional rights to land, water forests and resources management; enhancement of conflict management measures to deal with violence affecting them through, for example, a database of relevant institutes, NGOs and local organisations.
Sabah is the northern area of Malaysian Borneo. Malaysia’s position at one of South East Asia’s maritime crossroads favoured the formation of a heterogeneous population comprising Malay and other indigenous groups, Chinese and Indian. PA (Fides Service 9/6/2003 EM lines 25 Words: 320)