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Promotio Iustitiae
At the service of Faith that does Justice   

Some comments from Malaysia

Joseph Fung SJ

Factors rendering indigenous people the "most exploited and marginalised in the world"1

There is no doubt that economic and cultural globalization has led to the government to push for the economic "development" of what are called "designated state lands." These are the ancestral lands of the indigenous peoples (IPs) and have Native Customary Land (NCL) status. There is a tussle between the IPs who lay claim to their ancestral land and the government which "annexes" it land for constructing dams, roads, cash-crop plantations, even national parks.

What is happening to their culture?

       At the same time, development calls for "mainstreaming" the IPs so that they are "modernized." The forces of globalization have commodified their land and cultures and monetized their way of life. It is not only the current model of "development" that has eroded their culture; the education system, and a monetized economy and way of life have contributed to further erosion of their cultures. The educated younger generation are made to feel ashamed of their culture, which is categorized as "uncivilized" "backward" or "primitive." Not unnaturally, they prefer to be mainstreamed and integrated rather than return to their ancestral homeland.

Which new socio-political and economic initiatives are strengthening them?

        Seminars conducted by the NGOs in collaboration with the Church have certainly strengthened them, not to mention the life-giving gospels that sustain their faith in their struggle. Their methods of resistance to encroachment of their land include going through the judicial process, road blockades, and prayer services. I believe the NGOs, civil society and ecclesial leaders should express a sense of solidarity with the IPs so that such initiatives can empower them.

 Is the Society "increasing its commitment? What would you say about the "work groups" that need to be formed in every Conference?

        At JCEAO, we have a peer group known as JCIM (Jesuit Companions in Indigenous Ministry) which was initiated in 1999 and named thus in Chiangmai in 2001. JCIM intends to meet this year in September 2010 (see attachment) with delegates from other Jesuit IP networks around the world. We plan to discuss the possibility of an international meeting of Jesuit IP networks in the course of the next three to five years.

1When the request to write this article was sent to the author, he sent us this reply: "As my dad was taken ill with pneumonia and was in the ICU in Sabah before coming back to the medical ward with viral infection, I was not able to attend to any email as there is no access in my parents' house. I managed to get registered at the Good Shepherd Convent. Given my current predicament, allow me to send you my less-than-satisfactory responses" (Editor's note).


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