by Marie-Danielle Samuel, Yachay Wasi
Copyright © 2000 Samuel
The Millennium World Peace Summit of Religious and Spiritual Leaders,
Monday, August 28, 2000 thru Thursday, August 31, 2000
Representatives of Yachay Wasi (NGO based in NYC and in Cusco, Peru), registered for the UN/DPI/NGO conference on August 28-30, had the opportunity to attend some of the events of the Millennium World Peace Summit of Religious and Spiritual Leaders at the United Nations. Their main interest was to meet the Q’ero delegation from Peru. Luis Delgado Hurtado, President of Yachay Wasi, spent 2 days with the six amautas or teachers from this remote community high in the Andes, as he assisted them with Quechua translations at some of the sessions.
A few Indigenous nations were represented at this Summit, mostly from the Americas. However, the majority of them were really not involved in the mainstream of speeches and discussions and certainly not in the fancy luncheons and receptions. This did not go unnoticed by these representatives.
At an impromptu meeting organized by Oren Lyons of the Onondaga nation at the Interfaith Center on Thursday, August 31 attended by some 30 Indigenous delegates, the last speaker from Canada voiced the general misunderstanding of what the meeting was all about: thanking the United Nations for their travel and lodging arrangements, he commented on the fact that Indigenous attendees were still a token participation and that no full explanation of purpose of event was provided to them prior to their trip.
Marie-Danielle Samuel, Yachay Wasi Main Representative to UN and executive member of the NGO Committee on the International Decade of the World’s Indigenous Peoples, attempted to comment, but was refrained by staff member as this meeting was for Indigenous Peoples only. She voiced her dismay to this staff member and was told that the matter of United Nations’ part in Summit would be explained during bus trip back to the hotel. It was indeed mentioned that this was not a UN meeting.
With the exception of a few Indigenous participants well aware of the UN ongoing partnership with Indigenous Peoples, these friends were not informed and this Summit gave a warped and unfavorable view of UN intentions.
This Summit was suggested and organized by Mr. Bawa Jain, Vice President of the Interfaith Center. Ted Turner’s financial backing allowed Summit “Secretary-General” Bawa Jain to stage this enormous display of hundreds of “religious and spiritual leaders” housed at the Waldorf-Astoria…(majority of Indigenous representatives were housed at the Drake and the Swiss Hotels).
This Summit was not an official United Nations event. But it was welcomed in the General Assembly Hall as were the UN/DPI/NGO Conference and the Millenium NGO Forum in May 2000. Secretary-General Kofi Annan addressed these three meetings. As the Millenium NGO Forum is presenting a paper to the United Nation Millennium Summit this week, so this Millennium World Peace Summit drafted a statement toward the same purpose. But Indigenous leaders voiced that “they want us to sign a paper toward which we did not contribute…”.
Looking back at the program on Monday, August 28 and Tuesday, August 29 in General Assembly Hall, this was the extent of Indigenous presentations:(Prayers were said on Monday and most religions returned to present speeches on Tuesday)
1) The Q’ero Inca delegation performed a blessing on Monday, but did not return on Tuesday.
2) Onondaga Clan Mother Audrey Shenandoah said a prayer on Monday and Oren Lyons, Faith Keeper of Onondaga nation, spoke on Tuesday. Note: Oren Lyons was on advisory board of Summit.
3) Gatjil Djerrkura, Australian Aboriginal leader, said a prayer on Monday, but did not return on Tuesday.
4) William Commanda, Algonquin nation, scheduled to say a prayer on Tuesday, managed to add a few words.
In the afternoon of Wednesday, August 30 at Waldorf-Astoria, many workshops were planned. One called “Environment: Trustees of the Earth - Responses of Indigenous Peoples” took place in the Basildon Room.Panel: (from program)
Don Andres Apaza Jap, Inca, Q’ero, Peru
Arvol Looking horse, Lakota, USA
Gatjil Djerrkura, Aboriginal, Australia (not there)
Benjamin Waparia, Amazon, Brazil
Chief Winifred Awosika, Nigeria
Tonia Moya-Carlsson, Saami, Sweden
Chairs: Vickie Downey, Navajo (Dineh)
Angaangaq Lyberth, Eskimo (Inuit)
Many more delegations asked to be recognized and they were, but impromptu meeting was announced for the following day at the Interfaith Center to continue discussions.
A Statement of Millenium World Peace Summit is printed as advertisement in New York Times 9/5/2000.
On a separate note, the Interfaith Center was formed in 1997. At that time, the Bahá’í Faith was well known by the Center organizers but the nine pointed star, symbol of the Bahá’í Faith, was not included in Center logo.
The Summit logo had to include it, as the Bahá’í International Community (NGO/ECOSOC) was at the leadership of the Millennium NGO Forum and had to be invited to this religious Summit.
This report was written September 5, 2000, by Marie-Danielle Samuel, YACHAY WASI Vice-President & UN Main Representative. E-mail: email@example.com