A choral group of women perform at an event celebrating 30 years of Anabaptist presence in Ecuador. The event was attended by Mennonites from the two Mennonite denominations in Ecuador, and representatives from Mission Network, Central Plains conference and the Colombia Mennonite Church. It was held at Camino de Salvación (Way of Salvation), a member church of Iglesia Cristiana Menonita de Ecuador in Quito. Photo by Linda Shelly.
By Sierra Ross Richer
Wednesday, June 7, 2023

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


 

 

Julián Guamán is an Indigenous Kichwa man from the mountains of Ecuador. But his lifestyle might not be what you expect.

Guamán lives in Quito, Ecuador’s capital. His wife, Elsa, is an official for the Ecuadorian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and Guamán, an author and secretary for Iglesia Cristiana Menonita de Ecuador (ICME, Ecuador Mennonite Christian Church), is a Latin American studies Ph.D. student at Universidad Andina Simón Bolívar, sede Ecuador.

Globalization has brought many changes to the lives of Kichwa people over the past few decades. But adapting to modernization doesn’t mean they have to give up their language, culture and worldviews, Guamán said.

The Kichwa people can provide an example for other groups, including Mennonites of other ethnicities, who want to live differently in a globalized world.

Most of the members of ICME, a predominately Indigenous Kichwa Mennonite conference, live in the metropolitan centers of Quito and Riobamba. The Kichwa people have also migrated to different parts of Ecuador, the United States and other countries.

Wherever Kichwa people are in the world, they form their own communities, often centered around a church. There, they speak and worship in the Kichwa language, foster community ties and practice interdependence.

“Whether we are Indigenous scholars, businessmen or scientists now living in cities,” Guamán said, “we transfer the community-oriented practices from the rural setting to the city. We have learned that this vision of maintaining harmony and interdependence can still be lived out, even in a cement jungle.”

Like many Christians, Guamán said, the Kichwa people give tithes and offerings to the church. But it doesn’t stop there. Through the tradition of ayni (reciprocity), they work together on communal projects and make sure everyone’s needs are met.

“Today, I might have a need,” Guamán explained, “so I’ll ask you for help, knowing that tomorrow you will need something from me. That is reciprocity.”

Reconciliation and living in community are two values of the Kichwa people that fit closely with Mennonite theology and practices, Guamán said. Kichwa communities offer an example of what it can look like to live out these values, while embracing modernization.

Most Indigenous communities in Ecuador, Guamán said, have had access to western schooling for at least a couple of decades, and many Indigenous people are savvy with technology. Their lifestyles are different from those of their ancestors.

“The folkloric Indigenous person,” Guamán said, “who doesn’t change, who isn’t influenced by other cultures, who doesn’t have access to a cell phone — that is a person from history. Indigenous people of today have been influenced by the world, and we have the power to influence others.”

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Sierra Ross Richer is a freelance writer for Mission Network.

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