The indigenous peoples of the Amazon and the "listening world"
Being called to the mission of the Society of Jesus we partake in a living process, as it requires an on-going encounter with the inner person, from the spirit and the desire, to serve our personal concerns to be called and to be part of a new process, of pathways and of life.
Being called to work with the indigenous Awajún-Wampís people has helped me recognise the complexity of these processes. It involves asking questions about the meaning of life: Do I really try to understand the indigenous world? Is my way of building relationships really rightly-balanced? What are my prejudices and reservations about the indigenous world? What is their experience of faith, their experience of the transcendental being? What is their worldview? Do I value it? These are the questions which touch the lives and desires of those who come into contact with this reality.
All this involves breaking with one's old schemas in order to open up the possibility of a real coming together between man, environment and culture. We learn that life is only lived through listening and about learning how to listen. This requires disposition, as the mission is not only about the necessity of being. It requires disposition to know we are worlds of encounter and complementarities; brothers, who can act with very good intentions in our service, but continue to be this distant "other". With regard to this other, make no mistake, I have reservations about my way of being, those which categorise me as an outsider, the mestizo.
Within the dynamics of this encounter, our alumni from the Fe y Alegría College, Valentín Salegui, (on the banks of River Marañón in Amazonia) come with very complex experiences of community life, with emotional, as well as material needs. They come with conflicts in a world which makes new demands on them so they can "be". The young Awaruna-Wambisa also are affected by these new codes and necessities, where their aspirations take their dreams far from the land, where formal education sometimes breaks their sense of belonging.
The 'world of listening' appears as a duty of encounter, as education involves the accompaniment of human beings whose identities are being formed, being constituted, a way of valuing their way of "being" in the world. The reference points should clearly be rooted in the value of their identity, their worldview and traditions: these are their strengths, the set of values from which they will relate to the world of "those from outside".
But have we unveiled the questions which come to us during this encounter? The responses only take form when we recognise that in parity of circumstances we are getting to know worlds which must necessarily learn to engage in dialogue in order to understand each other and from there see each other as inseparable parts of the same identity.
Dialogue begins inside each one of us; our world of certainties must give way to the desire to learn other ways of thinking, other worlds of feeling, meaning and life. These are steps towards a mission which will allow us take on this challenge, to be better brothers.
Jorge Cabeza SJ
Jorge, a Peruvian Jesuit and coordinator of the Indigenous Apostolate, lives in Yamakai-éntsa, the indigenous area of Bagua province in Amazonas. He is the deputy director of the Fe y Alegría College, Valentín Salegui, and a member of the Social Commission of the province.