Holy See highlights Indigenous youth as guardians of culture

In a statement addressed to the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues at the 23rd Session in New York on April 16, Archbishop Gabriele Caccia, Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the UN, spoke of the importance of supporting indigenous people, especially young people, and cultivating dialogue.

Apr 18, 2024

Pope Francis during a meeting with indigenous peoples in Canada (archive photo)

By Sr. Francine-Marie Cooper
Archbishop Caccia, Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the UN, spoke on Tuesday at the 23rd Session of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues in New York. 

The meeting had the priority theme: “Enhancing Indigenous Peoples’ Right to Self-determination in the Context of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples: Emphasizing the Voices of Indigenous Youth”

In his statement on Tuesday, the Archbishop expressed that the Holy See acknowledged the work of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues. He continued to offer some “reflections on this year’s priority theme.”

Noting the United Nations Declaration on Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), the Archbishop described the importance of recognizing “the role of indigenous youth as present and future custodians of their culture.” 

He explained that Pope Francis has encouraged indigenous young people to preserve their cultures and roots by fighting exclusion, waste and impoverishment in order to build a more just and humane world.

Youth as safeguards and bridges
The Vatican diplomat spoke further of the contribution indigenous youth have to give in the cultural field. “They can actively engage in safeguarding and revitalizing their cultural practices and contribute to the preserving of their communities’ distinct ways of life, which are integral to their right to self-determination,” he said. 

Indigenous youth serve as “bridges between generations, fostering inter-generational dialogue, understanding, and cooperation within their communities,” the Archbishop added.

They are also at the “forefront in advocating for the protection of ancestral lands, natural resources, and ecosystems, which constitute a key component of indigenous peoples’ identity.”

Importance of dialogue
The Archbishop encouraged dialogue with indigenous people, and further explained how dialogue and identity are not “mutually exclusive.” He urged States to promote a “culture of encounter” rather than “a completely enclosed, a-historic, static ‘indigenism’ that would reject any kind of blending.”

The Vatican-Diplomat concluded with words from Pope Francis, who insists that “God, the Creator and Father of all peoples and of everything that exists, calls us today to live out and bear witness to our human call to universal fraternity, freedom, justice, dialogue, reciprocal encounter, love and peace, and to avoid fueling hatred, resentment, division, violence and war.”--Vatican News

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