The Mayan Intercultural Seminary (SIM) is a non-denominational theological school located in San Cristóbal de las Casas, Chiapas, Mexico. The Seminary contributes to the construction of peace from an intercultural perspective and promotes the values of equity, justice, inclusiveness, dialogue, human integrity, reciprocity, and a sense of vocation. SIM focuses on creating solidarity networks through initiatives in particular for women and youth, to build a more inclusive world. Click here to find out more about SIM. Dallita (Dalia) Juárez is the director of SIM, and she is also in charge of academic programs. Eleazar Pérez focuses on ecological projects with the Seminary, and Aurelia Jiménez works in youth outreach and promotion.
BPFNA: What are some focuses in your roles at the Seminary?
Eleazar Pérez (EP): My area is everything ecological. I incorporate what the Bible says and we apply it into real life. That’s something I feel passion for. In the Indigenous community, if you speak about the Gospel, it doesn't make sense until it is related to their reality. This is why I do my work this way. I really love that.
Dallita Juárez (DJ): I am in theological education for the Indigenous communities. One of the challenges for this area is that, because the Seminary is ecumenical, we end up with all the attendees coming from different churches and from different perspectives. We don’t only focus on the Baptist point of view. This is where my passion is because we cannot work into this alone. I also work with gender studies. No one in the community can walk alone; and we have to go together. By organizing how we’re going to work together even though we’re from different backgrounds, it’s a passion for me. The passion came because it’s the way we start building peace.
Aurelia Jiménez (AJ): My job is outreach for young people. I started as a student and then took this role of coordinating the youth. At the beginning it was a challenge for me because I am Presbyterian and I’m working in the Baptist Seminary. When I started with young people who were Baptist, it was difficult, but I recovered quickly because I like working with young people. I started looking at what they need individually and as part of a community. And I started preparing worship for them based on these needs. Using theological point of views, and not only focusing on the Bible but the Bible as it fits into their realities to embrace the conscience of what the Gospel means and how that applies to the needs of Indigenous communities.
I focus on Indigenous cultures, nonviolence, and the injustices that they face in their daily lives. I look at the Bible and compare what is there in their environments and make reflections from there. The young people see hope when they do that. Each year at the Seminary we do a youth camp, and this year we started working with the children. We also saw the need to prepare the children as well as the youth. Our worries are that there are many children in the community. We consider that we must work with the children since they will grow fast, and if we don’t plant the seed of hope early, then they will end up doing other things. That’s why one of the topics we are teaching is on taking care of our bodies. And speaking about bullying as they are experiencing this in our community. We’re making them conscious of their environments, not waiting until they are adults.
BPFNA: What have been your expectations and hopes for the week? Why did you decide to come?
DJ: We came for a lot of reasons with lots of expectations and challenges. Speaking about peace is speaking about our truth. Sometimes it’s really hard to be able to deeply express our way of living as a community of Indigenous people but also as our experience as a Seminary. The theme for this conference - Clothing Each Other With Hope - how will that become true? Our way of thinking as Indigenous people is that peace and hope goes along with faith. That can only become truth when we commit together.
EP: I am really happy to have the opportunity to be part of this conference because we were coming here to share our work, experience, and perspective of life as Indigenous people.
DJ: I see that this conference is a blessing. We wake up with a joyful heart and have hope for the whole entire day.
AJ: I am very thankful to be part of this conference and also this is the first time that BPFNA has been to Mexico, which makes it easier for us to attend. We’re also thankful for the scholarships that also help us to be here. We knew there were a lot of people supporting the Seminary who are at this conference, but since this is my first time, I wasn’t sure who they were. It gives me hope and joy to see the many people and faces who I know are in support.
BPFNA: How can BPFNA ~ Bautistas por la Paz members and others be supportive of SIM’s work?
DJ: We have a platform that was created specifically for our projects, and our work can be shared by BPFNA ~ Bautistas por la Paz so people can see what’s being done in the communities. BPFNA ~ Bautistas por la Paz resources are mostly in English, and I know it will be a lot of work, but it would be helpful to have these in Spanish. Being able to use these resources alongside the work we are doing will nourish SIM and the Indigenous communities. We don’t expect that all the resources will align exactly with the needs of each community because there are different needs with different people, but it will be something to use with the work.
BPFNA: And if there are resources needed around issues we don’t have things for currently, we can try to create something.
DJ: Aurelia and I are passionate about issues affecting women. Three years ago we had the opportunity to be part of an Indigenous Women’s Network and we organized with the idea of walking together and working for women’s rights. In the Indigenous communities if the woman is not married or does not have children, then this person has no voice in the community. That makes her life very difficult. We also work to provide options for women to work and make an income. And we come together to make a change to let the communities know that women have the same rights as men. Two years ago, someone from BPFNA ~ Bautistas por la Paz came and we took her to our conference. That conference is planned around March 8, which is International Woman’s Day. We as Indigenous women have started to organize, to speak about our rights, the rights to our own body, and to be stronger together. If it so happens that you want to come to Chiapas on those days, you are welcome to join us.
AJ: For me, it’s better when we get together face to face because speaking over the phone will always be a challenge. And for me it is a challenge because I am not fluent in Spanish like I am with my native language. It will be better if you all come to Chiapas. It’s always better for people who want to know about what we do to come and see for themselves what we do in our communities.