by Katie LaFond
On Monday, I attended Reparations: What is it and What is the Faith Community’s Role in the Contemporary Movement? This workshop was presented by a panel of speakers, including an African American lawyer, a white Jewish Rabbi, a Japanese American, and others. The presenters started by explaining what reparations are. From a legal perspective, they pointed to international law that stipulates five criteria: compensation, (health and mental) rehabilitation, restitution and repatriation, satisfaction (e.g., the taking down of monuments), and a guarantee that it won’t happen again (always challenging). Then they presented some historical examples of reparations, specifically in West Germany after WWII.
John Tateishi, a Japanese American panelist who shared his experience as a three-year-old in an internment camp, detailed how the Japanese American community has always thought of itself as “American,” and therefore was hesitant for a long time to acknowledge the need for, and to ask for reparations of any kind. When members of that community finally did, they received little response from government sources until the issue of money was broached, at which point some real challenges began. This, along with the testimony of other panelists (as well as some attendees’ comments) pointed to the reality that the language of legislation seems to be cash, and until it becomes the issue, communities are often ignored or put off indefinitely. Money — a shocking amount of it — is often what calls necessary attention to this issue.
The workshop concluded with a few ideas about what steps to take. The speakers suggested joining groups that support this issue, reading about it, talking to your faith communities about it, and more.
It’s clear to many of us that there needs to be some sort of conversation and addressing of this at a national level. I was slightly disappointed that a couple of the presenters seemed to come at this from such a strongly denominational perspective. Using one’s own community to drum up support for this issue is commendable. But we also need to be clear that we do not legislate based upon any one spiritual tradition’s approach. Surely at the Parliament, we can see that we need the cooperation and input of many groups to address such huge societal issues.
Maya Q’eqchi World View: Human Rights, Cosmology and Calendar
by Chris LaFond
Before the main presenter, Miguel Angel Chinquin Yat, spoke, the moderator of the session encouraged the attendees to access the intuitive parts of ourselves, and invited us to “just experience” what we were being presented, even if we didn’t understand all of it. Sr. Chinquin Yat, a Mayan priest speaking in Spanish, began with an invocation in his Mayan language, and then laid out a general model of the Mayan understanding that we are in the fifth Sun, and that this means that we should be progressing beyond a linear understanding of reality into a more circular one.
He assured the attendees that our ancestors had brought us here together this afternoon, and that nothing happens by coincidence. He explained that he was not here to “teach” us, but rather to invite us to share the seeds of corn in our hearts, and that we are our own teachers.
He then presented what he called a “cosmic base” of 20 energies (nahuales), of which each person has four, which influence who we are and what we do in our lives. He gave a brief description of each, and explained what a child who is born today would have as their four nahuales.
A notable quote from the presentation was when he was speaking about our relationship to the earth, and asked “Are we giving our good fruit?” (spiritually and materially). Another was “God isn’t about power, it’s about values.”
During the question period, I asked about how Mayan youth from his tradition learn about these things. Whether there was still a strong cultural infusion (despite the effects of colonialism), whether they learned them through some rites of passage, or whether they had to consult with specialists. He explained that these teachings were strong still throughout the culture and that there were some rites of passage involved. I did get the impression though that for more specific teachings, one would need to consult with the experts (priests and priestesses).
The presentation was fascinating, and reminded me of what many western astrologers refer to as Mayan astrology. It was clear to me though, that there is no one “Mayan astrology,” and that despite the interest and research of a number of astrologers into the topic, when we deal with spiritual systems of other cultures, unless we study with teachers from that culture, we will never fully understand (and in fact might completely misunderstand) what hat seems to be simple and clear on the surface.