Decolonizing Filipino Christian Faith

The rich history of Catholicism and the influential role of American evangelicalism have left an indelible mark on Filipino Christians. However, in the face of globalization and the need to assert cultural identity, Filipino Christians today find themselves grappling with the complex task of decolonization.

While we understand that our Christian faith itself is a foreign form of spirituality, this does not mean that we should wave our Filipino identity to practice this spirituality. The truth that we are seeing in our prevailing culture is, that our spirituality is becoming foreign and our identity is being taken away. So we are in this quest to decolonize our faith from its foreign forebears so that we may able to assert in the community of believers our uniqueness as part of God’s creation.

Decolonization involves disentangling our faith from the Hispanic and American influences that have shaped it for centuries. This process requires a critical examination of theological interpretations and practices to distinguish what is authentically Filipino while remaining faithful to the core tenets of Christianity.

How to Decolonize our Filipino Christian Faith?

Decolonizing our Filipino Christian faith is a complex and sensitive process that involves acknowledging historical injustices and working towards a more inclusive and respectful worldview. While we acknowledge the complexities that lie onward our effort to decolonize, we should persist to triumph over these 12 challenges as follows;

1. Let us Educate Ourselves

We are challenged to educate ourselves to see what is in the past that can help our way toward decolonization. Start by learning about the history of colonization and its impact on indigenous cultures and faith systems. Understanding this history is crucial for informed decolonization efforts.

2. Listen and Amplify Indigenous Voices

Foreign education is deafening. While we are learning their theologies, let us also strive to give a platform to indigenous and marginalized voices. Listen to their stories, experiences, and perspectives. This helps in understanding their worldviews and concerns.

3. Question Your Beliefs

We have rich religiosity. But what we we taught by the foreign is that it is animistic. Maybe it’s time for us to reflect on our faith and cultural beliefs. Let us start by asking ourselves whether they have been influenced by colonial ideologies. It’s time to be open to reevaluating and adapting our beliefs as needed in relevance to what the Bible is really teaching about.

4. Cultural Exchange, Not Appropriation

We are facing the challenge of engaging in cultural exchange. What is ours is theirs to learn and what is their is for us to also learn. However, what we do is not learning but appropriating what are about to learn. We respect the traditions and practices of other cultures and learn from them but we should not appropriate or alter our culture, which is indigenous to us, by assimilating theirs in our very own.

5. Challenge Stereotypes

We should be aware of and challenge stereotypes and biases that may be present in our faith. There is no second class in the sight of God. All are treated the same way. Promote accurate and respectful representations.

6. Support Indigenous Communities

We must start actively supporting initiatives and organizations that work towards the well-being and empowerment of indigenous communities. We must not rely on foreign aid that is compromising. Ours is to work hand-in-hand with our people to keep our faith traditions in their original yet enriched forms and styles.

7. Advocate for Change

While change is necessary, this does not mean abandoning the old forms of spirituality but rather enriching it to keep its relevance. On the other hand, to advocate for policies and practices that address historical injustices and promote equity for indigenous peoples.

8. Engage in Interfaith Dialogue

We should also encourage respectful dialogue between faith traditions. This can foster understanding and cooperation while we strive to decolonize our Filipino Christian beliefs. Dialogues will allow us to express what we are and what we should be while learning who they are and who they should be.

9. Reclaim and Preserve Traditions

This is the real challenge in the 21st century. We are now operating in globalized faith forms and traditions. Many communities have abandoned their faith tradition by embracing foreign forms and styles. We must encourage the revival and preservation of indigenous faith traditions and determine their Christian value rather than letting them perish.

10. Self-reflection and Humility

Understand that decolonization is an ongoing process. Patience is a must. It might not happen in our time. But surely it will if we are persistent in inculcating its value to the next generation. Let us be open to self-reflection and acknowledge that we may make mistakes along the way. Humility is key to growth.

11. Stop Conforming

We should refrain from conforming to foreign forms and styles of faith exercises. We have our own context to enrich. Adapting a foreign style of Christian expression will only endanger our cultural heritage as Filipinos.

12. Teach Future Generations

Pass down the lessons of decolonization to future generations, so they can continue the work of fostering respectful and inclusive faith and culture.

Now, you know…

Decolonization is not a quick or linear process; it is a profound journey that demands patience, empathy, and unwavering commitment. To embark on this journey, we must first acknowledge the deep-rooted historical injustices and systemic inequalities that colonization has perpetuated for centuries. It is essential to confront the uncomfortable truths of our collective history and the lasting impacts of colonization on indigenous peoples, their cultures, and their lands. This acknowledgment is not about assigning blame but rather about understanding the complex web of power dynamics that have shaped our world. Only by recognizing the injustices of the past can we begin to move forward.

The path of decolonization requires us to actively work towards a more equitable and inclusive future. This means listening to and learning from indigenous voices, respecting their rights and sovereignty, and dismantling oppressive systems and structures that perpetuate discrimination and inequality. It involves redistributing resources, amplifying marginalized voices, and ensuring that all individuals have the opportunity to thrive in a world that values diversity and inclusivity. Decolonization is a commitment to a future where every person, regardless of their background, has the chance to participate fully in shaping the world they live in. It is a journey that may be long and challenging, but it is a path that leads us towards a more just and equitable world for all.

By Roge Sison

An ordained clergy of The United Methodist Church.

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