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The Ties that Bind in the Here and Now

This morning I read with wonder about 63-year-old Jair Candor who risks his life for the sake of isolated, at-risk of extinction indigenous groups of the Amazon. Hired by the Brazilian government to trace these elusive indigenous peoples, he documents evidence of their existence so their lands can be protected. He has survived a dozen bouts of malaria and two attempts on his life. It’s a spiritual thing…Inside the forest, there’s a mode of communication that we can’t explain according to our worldview. And Jair can tap into that,” his deputy, Rodrigo Ayres, said of this seasoned tracer.[1]

Encountering what lies outside one’s “worldview”, is also manifest in Jojo M. Fung’s articulation of faith: “I experienced the presence of the divine in the celebrations and their daily mystical sense of the presence of the divine or you call it the transcendence or the sacred in their midst”.[2] As a Malaysian Jesuit, one might assume that he speaks in the context of experiencing the “divine” or “transcendence” or “sacred” within the Catholic Church. But ‘their midst’ refers to the indigenous worldview of the Murut community in Sabah, East Malaysia with whom he has indwelled for the past decades as part of his long-term research. As one who has since then been anointed a shaman, as a shaman-priest, he conceives of a “Shamanic theology of sacred sustainability”. As Fung theologises: “Embedded in the indigenous logic is the experience that the indwelling presence of the divine being and shamanic spirits in our world has made sacred all things, all life forms, and all human beings, the entire Planet Earth and creation in a manner that all are ‘sacredly alive’”.[3]

The lived realities of Candor and Fung, embody the indigenous wisdom that all are not only interconnected but are one. Where much of the world struggles with even that first truth – that all are interconnected, as the Pope reminds us in Fratelli Tutti – indigenous peoples, one of the most disenfranchised peoples live out, in their worldview, the truth that all are one. Realising the ties that bind us in the here and now (not just in the afterlife), goes deeper than an “integral ecology”[4] – as it challenges Christian anthropocentrism – the hierarchical ordering of creation with humans still very much at the centre of creation. Realizing the ties that bind us in the here and now potentially makes unfamiliar, in effect, queers Christian theology and human anthropology.

[1] Andreoni, M. and Nicas, J. (2023, August 25), He tracks elusive Amazon tribes, but only from the shadows. The New York Times. Retrieved from

[2] Personal interview with Jojo M. Fung, SJ on 6 May 2014.

[3] Fung, J. M. (2014). A Shamanic theology of sacred sustainability: Church and shamans in dialogue for liberative struggle in Asia. Quezon City: Jesuit Communications Foundation, p. 109. Emphasis is Jojo’s own.

[4] Pope Francis. (2015). Encyclical Letter Laudato Si’ of the Holy Father Francis on Care for Our Common Home. Retrieved from