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Indigenous Peoples Forum at the United Nation

Learning from information shared at the U.N. is one of hundreds of ways in which Medical Mission Sisters and our Associates around the world try to be a healing presence to others today.

Sister Celine Paramundayil, our representative to the United Nations, attended the Indigenous Peoples Forum in May, 2012. “Indigenous people from around the world came in colorful costumes,” she says. “The theme for the year was Doctrine of Discovery, which provided that by law and divine intention European Christian countries gained power and legal rights over indigenous non-Christian peoples immediately upon their ‘discovery’ by Europeans.”

A group of indigenous students from Salamanca High School in New York spoke of their situation as victims of the Doctrine. For years, their forbears were not permitted to live their own ethnicity. Instead of giving up their native language, now the students are encouraged to speak it, and treasure the culture of their ancestors. They stressed the importance of studying the Doctrine of Discovery to learn more about history that still influences our world.

Sister Katherine Baltazar, who attended the Forum for a day, said the importance of preserving native languages was also stressed at the presentation she attended on Central and Eastern Europe, the Russian Federation, Central Asia and Transcaucasia. Other themes included the intrusions by mineral companies on the land, the lack of employment, non-inclusion in government policies affecting the indigenous communities, the desire for self-determination, and violence against indigenous women and girls.

“My new learning was about Non-Communicable Diseases (NCD) which is a term I was not familiar with–but is now a focus for addressing cardiac disease, diabetes, chronic lung diseases and other conditions that often are related to inadequate diets and decreased exercise now plaguing many of the world’s communities,” Sister Katherine explains.

Sister Katherine also enjoyed a presentation on the contributions of Indigenous Peoples in providing nutritious food for all. A woman from the Micronesian Islands spoke about helping people to return to their traditional diets, which are much healthier than the fast foods being imported on the islands.

July 1, 2012