Indigenous Peoples in Colombia: Possibilities of Intercultural Dialogue in Times of Socio-Ecological Transformation - Alumni Seminar in Colombia

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The Alumni Seminar („Pueblos Indígenas en Colombia: Las oportunidades de un diálogo intercultural en tiempos de transformación socio-ecológica), which took place from 13 to 15 October at the Pontificia Universidad Javeriana, dealt with different approaches and perspectives on socio-ecological transformation, including the views ofrepresentatives of indigenous peoples.


Twenty alumni, the head of the Latin America Department, Dr Thomas Krüggeler and the former Secretary General of KAAD, Dr Hermann Weber as well as numerous guests from the Pontificia Universidad Javeriana (PUJ) came together in Bogota for this event. In addition, numerous friends of KAAD from all over Latin America participated in the seminar via livestream.

In her opening lecture, Dr Maria Adelaida Farah Quijano, Vice-Rector for International Affairs at PUJ, outlined the current state of social science on the topic of the seminar and worked in the concept of Integral Ecology introduced by Pope Francis. Hermann Weber then dealt with theoretical aspects of identity formation and interculturality; the other contributions by sociologist Dr Alexandra Martínez and historian Dr Amada Carolina Pérez (both PUJ) followed on directly from this.

The aim of the event was to combine the scientific approach to the topic with aspects of pastoral work and to include representatives of indigenous peoples in the seminar. Fr Alfredo Ferro SJ, Secretary of the Ecclesial Conference of the Amazon (CEAMA), explained the Church's mission to deal with the instruments of intercultural dialogue and the obligation to stand by indigenous peoples. The Director of the Instituto Misionero de Antropología and Director of the Sección de Etnias de la Conferencia Episcopal de Colombia, Fr. Ómer Girardo MXY, outlined the need to think about and demand socio-ecological change also from the perspective of indigenous peoples.

When Anitalia Pijachi, who had participated in the Amazon Synod 2019 as a representative of her indigenous Okaina people, reported on the current situation of her people in the south of Colombia, one could have heard a pin drop in the lecture hall, so intently did the fifty or so listeners follow the remarks. Anitalia Pijachi emphasised the role of the Church in defending indigenous rights and stressed that the Amazon Synod had impressively demonstrated this. Never before had she been able to report so openly and in such detail about the needs of her people, and never before had she felt that she had actually been listened to. Mr. Oscar Bastidas of the Ynga people stressed that science was indispensable in the struggle for indigenous rights and that indigenous people should increasingly demand access to universities.

The alumni seminar at the Pontificia Universidad Javeriana once again demonstrated the close cooperation between PUJ and KAAD, as the academic vice-rector, Dr Luis David Prieto Martínez, also emphasised. In addition, relationships between the alumni and representatives of the local church could be strengthened. This strengthening of networks was deepened by the contributions of alumni from Peru and Guatemala, who brought a comparative perspective to the event. At the closing dinner of the seminar in the evening, the alumni presented Hermann Weber with a gift and bid him a solemn farewell.

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Members of our group at the Latin American Episcopal Council (CELAM)

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Cooperating since 15 years: Dr Thomas Krüggeler and PUJ's academic vice rector, Dr Luis David Prieto

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Anitalia Pijachi, representative of the indigenous Okaina people, with Fr. Alfredo Ferro SJ