Revival of Native American religions

Issue 

By Hans Norebrink

LA PAZ — The so-called cosmic religions of America are undergoing a resurgence, encouraged by the campaign, "500 years of native, black and popular resistance". American natives are rediscovering national and cultural roots partly lost during centuries of Western domination.

But this has nothing to do with nostalgic romanticism, says Tomas Apasa, who has taken up the 500 years campaign and religious questions within the national peasants union of Bolivia, the CSUTCB.

He says that European and North American individualism, with its egoism, environmental destruction and materialism, is at the base of the present world crisis. Against the consumerism and lack of spirituality of the North, he puts the native religions, with their stress on solidarity and the unity of humanity and the cosmos.

Capitalism and Stalinism failed, he says, partly because of their spiritual "emptiness". "The revolution we want has to be both social and spiritual if we are to construct a lasting just society."

In the Andean New Year, in the ruins of Tiwanaku near the lake of Titicaca, representatives of the CSUTCB proclaimed that the time had come for native peoples to organise themselves to spread ancestral religious rites, reconstruct ruined temples and collect cosmic knowledge.

In the old ruins of Tiwanaku, the Aymara and Quechua priests organised the ceremony to greet the new year assisted by local peasant women in Inca clothing. Tourists, townspeople and peasants, freezing through the night in the high plateau air, waited for the time to raise the palms of their hands towards the first life-giving rays of the rising sun.

According to Bolivian natives, this new year marked the beginning of Pachakuti, a new era for humanity.

All the world's continents, and many of its religions, were represented at the ceremony. Many had just come from the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro.

Mingled together were brightly clothed Guatemalan priests, black representatives of the religions of African-inspired religions in the Caribbean and Brazil, a rabbi from Israel, a Shinto priest from Japan dressed in white, Hindus and Muslims from India wearing saris, a representative of the World Council of Churches, a Negro Muslim from South Africa (a member of the ANC) and Buddhist monks in yellow from Sri Lanka and Tibet.

In discussions the next day, the Latin American delegates condemned capitalism and imperialism, which they saw as most responsible for on, poverty and war.

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