By Theresa Ducharme
Theresa Ducharme from the Native Women’s Association of Canada recently participated in the Lutheran World Federation consultations for Indigenous issues during the UN Indigenous Permanent Forum in New York City held May 21-26, 2009. Theresa works with the Sisters in Spirit initiative, a group whose goal is to raise awareness and address the issue of violence perpetrated against Aboriginal women because of their gender and Aboriginal identity. Kairos Canada, an organization uniting church communities across Canada to foster positive social change and goodwill, recommended Theresa as a representative this year.
The first consultation took place in Winnipeg, Manitoba in 2003, where the assembly asked the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) to initiate a specific program for Indigenous Peoples to facilitate networking through regional and international programs. The assembly also recommended encouraging theological studies relevant to Indigenous spiritualities, as far as possible in cooperation with the World Council of Churches and other groups. The LWF and its members were also asked to support a process at the national, regional, and international levels to protect the human rights of Indigenous peoples, who are among the most marginalized and most discriminated against across the world.
During the second consultations held in Karasjok, Norway in 2006, it was determined that within three years the Lutheran World Federation would establish an advisory group consisting of one Indigenous representative from each of the following regions: Africa, Asia, Pacific, Latin America, North America and Europe concerning the indigenous program. This advisory group would focus on three primary issues: human rights and land claims, theological and ethical study and Indigenous spirituality, and facilitating networking for indigenous people through exchange programs and consultations at regional and international levels.
This year, Theresa Ducharme represented Canada in New York, where she spoke about the disturbing facts and trends of sexual and racial violence against Aboriginal women. She spoke about how the nation of Canada is all too silent about the horrendous crimes being perpetrated, reminding the assembly that this is not just a Canadian issue but also a global human rights issue. The world needs to know, and the government and the media should no longer remain silent. To date, there are approximately 520 Aboriginal women and girls from all across Canada who have been confirmed missing or murdered. Theresa feels that this estimation is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the true number of Aboriginal women victimized by social violence.
The number may seem small, even insignificant compared to the population of our nation, but each of those women represents a human being: a mother, a daughter, a sister, a friend whose voice has been violently silenced. Their absence is felt by many, and to keep silent or forget does nothing to empower social justice or positive change.
To learn more about issues affecting Aboriginal women, visit the NWAC website (www.nwac‑hq.org) or contact Sisters In Spirit by phone (1.866.796.6053) toll-free.