Written by Anthony Moujaes
In the multi-cultural global family of Christian people he met during 10th Assembly of the World Council of Churches in Busan, South Korea, Louis Blue Coat found ecumenical conversations, workshops, worship and plenary sessions on climate change, indigenous people, ecological justice and government/tribal relations provided resources for his work with the Cheyenne River Reservation in South Dakota and the Council for American Indian Ministries (CAIM) of the United Church of Christ.
As a licensed lay pastor for three years in Dupree, S.D., Blue Coat has provided pastoral care, technical support and youth ministry leadership with the United Church of Christ Dakota Association.
Although he grew up in the Episcopal Church, he shifted to the UCC in 1996.
Blue Coat attended the World Council of Churches (WCC) gathering earlier this month as an Assembly Participant, invited by UCC ecumenical officer Karen Georgia Thompson. He arrived early to take part in the Pre-Assembly Indigenous Peoples Conference.
"I came to talk with indigenous people from around the world about land issues, about other struggles of in different contexts and about their spirituality and traditions," said Blue Coat.
"Traditions have been practiced for centuries. Some traditions are hand in hand with Christianity, some are separate, and some need to build bridges," he said. "I wanted to find where the concerns intersect and how people regain their identity."
In conversations on the environment, he told those gathered about the impact the Keystone XL Pipeline would have if it is completed through the Dakotas, Nebraska and on south, taking oil extracted from tar sands in Alberta, Canada.
"It will be devastating here. Cleanup crews from people on and off the reservation have already come, preparing for a disaster," he said. "They are already building ‘man camps.’ With those camps come rape, murder, drug abuse and prostitution."
Blue Coat and others are using social media, Facebook and Twitter to organize rallies and to write Congress and the President in an effort to stop the pipeline. The WCC statement on climate justice issued Busan, South Korea calls on the United States to reject construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline.
"Tribal leaders have passed bills. Some are not for it, and some are against it. Some think it would be good for the economy, rather than seeing how it will destroy our people," he said.
"I’m also worried about the effect of fracking on the Ogallala Aquifer, an underground ocean that runs from North Dakota to Kansas. Fracking will destroy the system," he continued. "I’m worried about our future, what kind of future we are making for our children."
Blue Coat said he went to the World Council of Churches 10th Assembly to build solidarity among indigenous brothers and sisters. Twelve people formed an ad hoc Committee of Indigenous People as a platform to bring resolutions going forward to the WCC’s Central Committee.
"I hope we see the same vision and know we aren’t alone," he said. "There is now a network of people who do care, not just indigenous people, but people all over the world who feel connected. It’s important to understand what people in other parts of the world are going through.
"I bring back ideas to CAIM about how to deal with racism, ecology and climate change so we make a smaller carbon footprint," Blue Coat added. "The ideas include divesting from fossil fuels."
The assembly also opened his eyes on the impact of military bases on Pacific islands.
"It’s hard to get all the information. There are so many issues, perspectives and voices. I wanted to hear all the sessions," he said.
Blue Coat said the assembly enhanced his faith, putting it "in overdrive."
During the morning prayers and other worship experiences, he found to comforting to know people are praying like prayers, with the same feelings and about the same problems.
"I believe people across the globe can understand each other as human beings," Blue Coat said.