As the jet lag sets in and the community of Baptist Peacemakers gets a little tired, we are exploring the roots and consequences of colonization in the Americas. I say "the Americas" because "America" truly refers to North AND South America and Central America. Our friends from Puerto Rico, Mexico, Colombia, Argentina and Panama are continuing to remind those of us from the United States of America and Canada of this. So when we talk about "American," we are talking about many more people than consider the United States our home. That is important. I often say USAmerican when I refer to people who live in this country as recognition that Americans are far more expansive than what we commonly think.
It was appropriate that the theme of yesterday (July 4th) was "Decolonizing the Americas." My friend Eleazar Encino, an indigenous Mayan eco-justice activist, farmer and seminarian from Chiapas, Mexico, led the morning Bible study. He shared about his experience of the racism in Mexico, the discrimination against indigenous peoples that becomes internalized and replicated within the indigenous community. He said, “They called us savages even though we already had a great culture. They Christianized us and destroyed our future. They destroyed the natural world. This should worry us all...The scripture from Peter should remind us God made all people and we don’t need to generalize other people and be the rock that crushes others. The Rock of Jesus can become a weapon. Rocks can be used in good and bad ways. Jesus said ‘if you remain silent the stones will cry out.'...It’s not a Hollywood movie where the good guys always win, but the Indigenous continue to fight. The Peter scripture is the history of the people who struggle to proclaim who they are. They give hope to all the people who want a better world. They help us decolonize our minds.”
There were workshops presented about Hurricane Maria and the lasting effects of colonization in Puerto Rico, where the colonial status of this island directly impacted the deaths of 5,000 people; indigenous struggles in British Columbia; the status of women's empowerment in Colombia and across Latin America; and "Beyond Good Intentions: Embodying Our Faith Statements By Unmasking Our Hidden Patterns of Privilege." Throughout the day, we kept calling out ways that white supremacy is perpetuated and USAmerican supremacy dominates the world stage.
We are having the great privilege this week of learning from Dr. Robyn Henderson-Espinoza (they/them/theirs) and Ree_Belle (she/her/hers), practitioners of the Activist Theology Project. I can't share too much about what they are talking about because there is a book forthcoming (which we will surely get copies of for SFBC!) but here are a couple quotes from Thursday morning's discussion. "White supremacy invades every institution in this country, even institutions of color." Ree_Belle. "We must look for leadership at the grassroots level in growing leaders from our communities because when we expect leadership from the denominations it will always be rooted in supremacy culture." Dr. Robyn Henderson-Espinoza. The speakers are also sharing videos of the Ferguson Uprising, in which Ree_Belle participated, which share a window into how several black women activists think about the interconnectedness of white supremacy, police violence, the importance of white allies' following black leadership, and the spiritual aspect of activism.
The photos are of a Peace flag from the last Global Baptist Peace Conference in Rome in 2012, and an invitation to the next Global Baptist Peace Conference in Cali, Colombia which will be next year, July 15-20, 2019.
Peace be with you.