• Elisabeth Steffens Catholic Theology at the Rheinisch-Westfälisch Technische Hochschule Aachen
Keywords: Berta Cáceres, Earth, Indigenous Religions, Indigenous Theologies, International Labor Organization, Maya Spirituality, Sacred Places


Assassination of Berta Cáceres (1971-2016), a Maya-Lenka Woman from Honduras in 2016, shows in a brutal way, that the recognition of indigenous religions in Abia Yala-Latin America is not only an interreligious, but also an economic and political challenge. Indigenous people believe that, as animals and plants, they belong to nature, where they are born, cultivate and die. All elements of nature are alive, have a soul. So, destroying nature for big transnational projects without consulting the people, especially indigenous people, who live in the concerned regions means destroying their (im)material existence which is in inherent relationship to spiritual forces. This paper elaborates upon the impact of catholic evangelisation until today, tries to explain the links between spiritual and economic exploitations of indigenous people and proposes ways to overcome these violations by developing new partnerships between Indigenous and Nonindigenous people. 

An original version of this article was first published in German language: “Indigene und Religionsfreiheit in Abia Yala – Lateinamerika. Überlegungen aus einer europäischen Sicht,” in Glauben in Bedrängnis. Religionsfreiheit als Menschenrecht, ed. Volker Kauder und Hans-Gert Pöttering, Herder: Freiburg im Breisgau, 2017, 38-47

Author Biography

Elisabeth Steffens, Catholic Theology at the Rheinisch-Westfälisch Technische Hochschule Aachen

Elisabeth Steffens, PhD is an expert on Latin America. She holds a PhD (2014) in Philosophy from the University of Bremen, Germany; her doctoral thesis was on ‘another understanding of indigenous peoples from an european-intercultural perspective.’ From 2007 to 2015 she worked at missio Internationales Katholisches Missionswerk e.V. in Aachen. She has also taught Anthropology at the Institute of Catholic Theology at the Rheinisch-Westfälisch Technische Hochschule Aachen, Germany. Email:


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How to Cite
Steffens, E. (2019). INDIGENOUS PEOPLES AND RELIGIOUS FREEDOM IN ABIA YALA, LATIN AMERICA. Asian Horizons, 13(04), 619-628. Retrieved from