​A view of Cotopaxi, one of Ecuador's highest volcanoes, from inside Cotopaxi National Park. Photo by Sierra Ross Richer.

By Sierra Ross Richer
Wednesday, June 14, 2023

This story is the third in a three-part series that explores a vision for the Anabaptist church from Julián Guamán, an Indigenous Mennonite author in the Ecuadorian Andes. This article first appeared in Anabaptist Climate Collaborative’s The Climate Pollinator newsletter.

Read the first story.
Read the second story.



 

 

In the Kichwa language, the word ayni describes the rule and practice of interdependence. In the Kichwa worldview, community includes all of creation, not just humans.

“One does not exist unless the community exists,” said Julian Guamán.

Ayni dictates that as members of the community, humans have a responsibility to be in reciprocal relationship with every other member, including plants, animals, water and soil. Ayni has practical implications for how the Kichwa people live their lives and is an important part of Guamán’s vision for the Anabaptist church.

“The global Mennonite church can be a teacher for other churches,” Guamán said.

Many Christians talk about reconciliation in spiritual terms, but what sets Anabaptists apart in Guamán’s eyes is that, “The reconciliation sought by Mennonite Christians also applies to creation.”

Many Indigenous Peoples in Latin America are attracted to Anabaptism, Guamán said, and he believes it’s because, “Mennonite theology coincides in many ways with elements of Indigenous spirituality.”

One shared element is an emphasis on living in community.

“The Mennonite life is a cooperative life,” Guamán said. Likewise, “The life of Kichwas is about living interdependently with others.”

The second shared element is reconciliation. Mennonites are known for working toward reconciliation both within the church and throughout the world. The Kichwa people also practice reconciliation, Guamán said, by “planting harmony and equilibrium and building bridges through dialogue.”

Guamán believes that creation care is a natural consequence of living by these two values. He shared an example of this playing out in the real world.

Throughout the Andes mountains, mining for gold, lithium, copper and other metals required for technology is jeopardizing the health of the land, water and people.

With international mining companies moving into many regions, Indigenous lands are some of the most well protected. “A lot of the páramo (alpine tundra) where the Indigenous people live is still intact,” Guamán said.

Westerners might see the conservation efforts of Indigenous communities as preserving resources, like water, for the future. But Guamán said that’s not how Indigenous Peoples think about it.

“I don’t think that’s the reason why we Indigenous people care,” he said. “We need to retain relationships with the place, the páramo. There, there is life. The páramo itself, the mountains, the hills, have a sacred dimension that we are part of.”

What if the global Anabaptist church adopted the rule of ayni?

“In a world with climate change, with environmental crises, with an economic system that destroys nature and exploits people,” Guamán said, “we, as Mennonite churches, can be different, because Jesus Christ called us to love one another.”


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https://www.mennonitemission.net/blog/4916/Ayni

Sierra Ross Richer is a freelance writer for Mission Network.

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