4th August 2017

Tearfund Latest Prayer Points





According to the UN there are an estimated 370 million indigenous people in the world, living across 90 countries. They make up less than five per cent of the world's population, but account for 15 per cent of the poorest. You may have seen the following story a few months ago but as International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples falls on 9 August we’d like to share it again.


For many years, the indigenous people of Colombia have been told that they are ‘nobody’. One woman is encouraging them to celebrate who they really are.


Carolina Rodriguez first met Roland Joffe at the launch of his latest film in Bogotá. Joffe had raised awareness of the indigenous peoples of Latin America through his 1986 film The Mission, which had featured the Wounaan people of Colombia in acting roles.


Carolina had been hired as interpreter for the evening and the two soon got talking. ‘He asked me, "What are you doing?" I told him I was working with the Wounaan people and he was so curious.


‘Roland asked me how they were and I told them they weren’t OK and were living in the slums,’ she recalls. Joffe immediately told Carolina ‘I want to see them’ and they set off straight away.


A life displaced

In the years since filming, the Wounaan people had been displaced from their ancestral homelands because of armed conflict. Now they were living in slums outside Bogota. Carolina was trying to support educational initiatives for them, whilst completing her degree thesis in Linguistics.


‘He was shocked. He couldn't believe what had happened to them. He decided to start funding work to help the Wounaan and doing things for them.’ Other actors from The Mission including Liam Neeson pledged their support. Carolina agreed to help administer this work.


The Wounaan hadn’t been prepared for life in the slums; ‘Imagine where you used to think you were on the top of the social structure and come to a place where you are discriminated, isolated, where people are treating you like nothing,’ she explains ‘I think it really affected their wellbeing, they were depressed.’


She worked hard, attempting to build educational opportunity for the Wounaan. However her intention to improve their lot didn’t work out as she had hoped; ‘I think one of the hard things was that it was so evident that there was money available, so our relationships became monetized.’ Some of the Wounaan leaders began to view her work with suspicion and relationships broke down.


Crisis and opportunity

The failure to make a significant difference with the Wounaan hit Carolina hard. And it coincided with the death of her husband. ‘It was like a moment when I said, "Hey, God, how is it possible that I start serving you and my life collapses? This is not fair."’


She embarked on a painful process of healing and re-evaluating her work. She had joined Tearfund’s Inspired Individuals initiative, who had supported her during this time. Inspired Individuals is a scheme which seeks out women and men doing innovative, transformative work around the world. This programme then offers them training, mentoring and, crucially, personal support.


‘I told Tom, my ‘Inspired’ mentor, "You know what? Things are not working well and I feel like I have failed. If you feel like you don't want to support me, I understand it." He told me, "We're not thinking about the initiative itself, we're thinking about the heart of the person who's behind it." That was so healing.’


Tom suggested that she travel away from home to observe how other indigenous people were finding their own voice and identity. At the same time she made an important spiritual realisation.


‘As a loved daughter of God, I felt like I had lost everything and found everything at the same time.’ What she found was that she no longer needed to prove anything to herself. And she realised she didn’t have to be the one to ‘rescue’ the Wounaan, or any other peoples from their plight.


Friendship first

From now on her first priority was building relationships and friendships listening hard to people’s stories before rushing to offer any ‘solutions’.


And it was through a friendship, with a Christian community leader, that Carolina was able to start her work with indigenous peoples again but this time on very different terms. She tentatively embarked up what she describes as a ‘friendship and a conversation’ with another group; the Wiwa.


Some of the Wiwa are still living in their ancestral homeland. Others have moved to the cities where they are struggling to find a new life. Carolina is keen to see them preserve their sense of identity in a place where they are viewed with suspicion: They are facing some huge challenges right now. However most of the time I'm just there to celebrate how brave they are, with such amazing values that’s the most valuable thing I can do, because colonialism has made them believe that they are worthless.’


She becomes particularly animated as she talks about helping the Wiwan Christians develop an authentic expression of their faith.


Becoming who you are

‘They've been told by other Christians that they need to reject their cultural values and mindset in order to embrace Christ's teachings. I think that’s why the Christian mission has been among them for 60 years and there were still only about 15 Christians.’


Slowly though, she says she is seeing a new kind of Christianity emerge from within the Wiwa. ‘What these young leaders are doing right now is saying, "Yes, we love God. We're indigenous as well and we don't think there's a tension between the two things. In fact the opposite; we need those beautiful aspects for our identity."’


However, helping the Wiwan Christians bring their faith and culture together is just part of a far bigger work. She sees a deeply divided wounded community that desperately needs healing from within before other things can change for them; ‘They have witnessed horrible violence and that affects you. They need to learn how to live in the midst of all their differences. They need to recognise their common humanity and celebrate that.’


And Carolina’s role in all this? ‘I see myself as a connector. I listen. I ask questions. They know what they want. It's not about me telling them what to do, I'm just walking alongside them.’ ‘I have become so aware that I can never impose myself or my opinion on anyone. I’m inspired to tread lightly in my dealings with the Wiwa by a poem from a Camëntsá poet (another Colombian indigenous people)';


‘If you ever walk on territories as an uninvited guest,

You violate the innocence of that land, because it is sacred.

You sink poison into the spring that washes those living there.’

Hugo Jamioy Juagibioy (2010)




Please pray



* Praise God for the abundant seeds of hope and life he has sown among the Wiwa and every other culture Carolina works alongside.


* Pray for Carolina as she seeks how to better encourage the Wiwa to share stories between each other that will contribute to reconciliation, respect and healing.


* Pray for the many indigenous people groups around the world. Pray that the wonderful diversity of culture they represent would be respected and they would find ways to overcome the challenges they face.



A note from...



'I've recently been learning the importance of listening, and patience. As Carolina has also learned, knowing the answers is not the most important thing, but being present for people and having time for them. Jesus was never too busy for anyone, and it was often the most marginalised in society with whom he spent his time.'


Margaret Chandler

Image Library Co-ordinator









Prayer Item #1


Refugees fleeing Burundi now number over 416,000 and there are reports of torture and killings. Please pray for peace for Burundi and a way forward that will give people hope and a future.



Prayer Item #2


Our teams and partners have been doing amazing work in Jordan, however, they face challenges around the registration of the work. Please pray for a way forward and that they can continue to work with those in greatest need.



Prayer Item #3


According to a US university study, climate change has led to more than 59,000 farmer suicides in India over the last three decades. Tearfund's partners work with farmers to overcome the challenges of climate change. Please pray for the success of this work.


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