AMERICA/PERU - Missionaries of the Sacred Heart: to promote the rights of indigenous communities and evangelize them in their own language

Thursday, 3 May 2018

Ucayali (Agenzia Fides) - The assassination of the 80-year-old indigenous leader of the Shipibo-Konibo population, Olivia Arévalos, which took place on April 19 in the Peruvian Amazon and is still under investigation, "was a very strong event for us, missionaries of the Sacred Heart of Jesus present here, for her family and for the entire Shipibo-Konibo people, who feel they have lost one of their wise women, a deep knowledge of the traditional values of this ethnic group, as well as active in defense of the cultural and environmental rights of her people". This is what Sister Amparo Zaragoza Castello, of the "Missionary Society of the Sacred Heart of Jesus" says to Agenzia Fides, who together with three other religious sisters announces the Gospel in the Shipibo-Konibo community, in the district of Yarinacocha, in the Peruvian department of Ucayali.
The missionaries of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, present in the Shipibo-koniba community for 41 years, communicate and celebrate the liturgies in Shipibo language. "For us, their vision of the world - even if we do not know it completely - has never been a problem when it comes to evangelizing, because from the beginning we tried to take their culture into account and respect it, says Sister Zaragoza to Fides, adding: "starting from an inculturation and keeping in mind the Shipibo man, we share and proclaim the Gospel of Jesus".
Speaking of her missionary work, the religious says that this "entailed very strong moments of rejection for us, not by the people we accompanied, but by individuals and societies that, over the years, try to take possession of the cultural riches and those natural resources of the territory".
As part of their missionary commitment, the congregation promotes the rights of the Shipobo-Konibo population, helping them to defend their territories and to know the laws that protect them. "We have always tried to keep in mind what Evangelii Nuntiandi No. 31 states: 'Between evangelization and human promotion, development and liberation, there are indeed very strong links'. Therefore for us the proclamation of the Gospel and the formation of the Christian community must always be accompanied by the help to their struggles, above all to be recognized individually and as a group in the ownership of the earth, bearing in mind that our role is to accompany and advise them, not to direct them", emphasizes Sr. Zaragoza. One of the main challenges they must face as missionaries, according to the Spanish nun, is" to know how to avoid a cultural shock, but make sure that there can be mutual enrichment and from here something new and rich is born for both cultures".
The Shipibo-Konibo population belongs to one of the 12 indigenous ethnic groups present in the Ucayali region,in the Peruvian forest. Today it has more than 30 thousand people, who live mainly on the banks of the river Ucayali. The Franciscans and Jesuits were the first Catholic missionaries to come into contact with this community in the colonial era. (RA/LG) (Agenzia Fides, 03/05/2018)