South Park – North Park – Golden Hill

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Have you heard this creation story?

The creation stories you probably haven't heard
It's time for the church to listen to indigenous people.

For Shantha Ready Alonso, the fight for environmental justice goes back to the 15th century, to the doctrine of discovery, a series of papal bulls that started with Pope Nicholas V. These documents, for which the Vatican has yet to apologize or repudiate, gave European nations the pope's blessing to colonize non-Christian lands and kill native peoples.

"These were the documents that Christopher Columbus and others used to justify their actions," Alonso says. "It's a really horrible part of church history." Americans can still see the legacy of the doctrine of discovery in manifest destiny, Native American reservations that forced indigenous people off their land and took away their rights to ownership, and the Christian boarding schools that many Native Americans were forced to attend. 

Today Protestant denominations have started to examine the legacy of the doctrine of discovery in their own traditions. One organization that is trying to foster such dialogue is Creation Justice Ministries, where Alonso is executive director.

Creation Justice Ministries started in 1983 when the National Council of Churches USA came together and created an eco-justice program. Today Creation Justice Ministries is an independent organization, but its faith-based work, Alonso says, has not changed. "We are all connected through the global church to people all over the world. That makes us intimately connected to places that are fighting for their existential reality because of climate change."

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