Cultural Survival Quarterly Magazine


Introduction - 7.3

This issue of the Quarterly documents and analyzes cases in which current changes and conflicts are affecting the belief systems of indigenous peoples. Around the world, increased competition for natural resources has exacerbated religious and ethnic differences and strained religious tolerance. Violence between competing ethnic or religious groups has frequently been the result.

Update on East Timor

East Timor, an island in the Indonesian archipelago emerging from 464 years of Portuguese colonization, has, in the last 10 years, experienced decolonization, civil war, a military invasion and forced annexation by the Indonesian government. War and associated famine and disease have led to the deaths of more than 150,000 East Timorese since December 1975.

The SIL in Papua New Guinea

Papua New Guinea is a country of a little more than three million inhabitants in which 750 languages are spoken - one-firth of all the world's languages. The languages are from two sources. Austronesian languages reached the region about 10,000 years ago from Southeast Asia. Non-Austronesian languages are estimated to have been in Papua New Guinea for as long as 50,000 years.

The Plight of Ethiopian Jews

Jews have lived in Ethiopia for over 2000 years. According to Ethiopian tradition, one-half of the population was Jewish before Christianity was proclaimed the official religion in the 4th century. The Jews maintained their independence for over 1000 years in spite of continuous massacres, religious persecution, enslavement, and forced conversions.

The Baha'is of Iran

On the night of June 18th, 1983, the Islamic revolutionary authorities in Shiraz, Iran, hanged ten women and teenage girls for refusal to deny their belief in the Baha'i Faith.

Sherpas: Religion and the Printed Word

The Sherpa, who inhabit the regions surrounding Mount Everest, are well-known in the West as a rugged mountain population, adhering to the religious traditions of Tibetan Buddhism.

Missions and Indians in Brazil

From the earliest contacts between Portuguese explorers and the coastal Tupi populations in the 1500s, Catholic missionaries have provided a buffer between Brazil's Amerindian tribes and European-based nation-states. Primarily oriented to the goals of the nation-state, these missionaries saw their objective as "saving souls" through conversion of the Indians to Catholicism.

Inupiat Ritual and Identity

Every society has rituals that serve important functions for its members. Rituals dramatically communicate cultural values and ideals, such as the difference between right and wrong, and good and bad. Rituals may mark such significant events during the life cycle as birth, marriage, and death. They may emphasize the importance of adult maturity through rites of passage.

India's Untouchables

Untouchable. Most of the world assumes that something - Mahatma Gandhi, modernization, progressive legislation - has solved this ancient Indian problem or reduced it to marginal significance. There has been some progress, but for each of the past several years, official figures on violent attacks against Untouchables have routinely exceeded 10,000 cases.

Funding Tribal People

It is time to evaluate the effect of external funding on indigenous people. Based on information from North America, Oceania, Australia, and Scandinavia, we can conclude that throwing money at the problems of indigenous people does not improve their situation; it merely increases their dependency on the funding source.

Ethnic and Religious Conflicts in India

India is characterized by more ethnic and religious groups than most other countries of the world. Aside from the much noted 2000-odd castes, there are eight "major" religions, 15-odd languages spoken in various dialects in 22 states and nine union territories, and a substantial number of tribes and sects.

Death by Anesthesia

Missionary activity aimed at "civilizing" and settling indigenous populations in order to educate them deserves some reflection. "Educate" in this case does not imply an improvement in the Native American's life; quite the contrary. This educational process leads to a total dependence on values and products manufactured in industrialized societies.

A Change of Faith for Hmong Refugees

Vang Ger is a practicing Presbyterian. A Hmong woman made refugee by the political events in Laos, she lives in Philadelphia with her husband and children. Her mother, likewise a refugee, lives upstairs. She does not attend church with her daughter. Neither does she perform the animist rituals she was brought up to believe in.

"And left nothing in its place"

For sixty years the story of Protestant missionary activity in Adamawa Province in the upper Benue River Valley of Nigeria is a story of multi-faceted change, mostly negative. Bachama have experienced government administration - both British colonial and national - commercial exploitation, and recently, industrial development.