Tuesday, June 24, 2008

The People Walking in Darkness

Within the past week I have come face to face with the very real animistic roots of Peru. You would probably guess that Peru is well enough catholic and evangelical that there wouldn't be much left of the animistic stuff. Yet, it's one of the layers of this culture that is very real in the countryside and even integrated in the lives of those in the city who are supposedly more educated and modern.

First of all I went to go see a play called Chaska this past week. It was a very impressive performance with exciting costumes and dancing and acrobats on wires suspended from the ceiling. But it was dark because the main story was about a village that has no rain and a young girl who gives up her life in sacrifice so that the god of the harvest can bless the town. The story was filled with the history of several of the gods of Peru who have demanded sacrifice. It was very eye-opening to me because it brought me face to face with the darkness of these beliefs. I left the show that night very grateful to be a believer.

Secondly, this week has been one of celebrating with parades and dances and festivities. It all cumulated today with the celebration of Inti Raymi (the Sun Festival). I decided to see what Inti Raymi was all about so I went downtown with my friend Luz and her family. The first place we went to was Korikancha (which is now a museum but supposedly was the old Incan palace that was converted into a church). At Korikancha, there was a presentation on the steps. People dressed up like the Inca, his authorities, the priest, musicians, his wife and cocubines (the virgins who worked in the temple of the Sun) came out and danced and played music. Later armies from the 4 Inca Empire sections marched out on the field. The Inca sang a song to the sun and called the sun: Father! He talked in Quechua the whole time but I bought a little booklet with the translation into Spanish. We weren't close enough to see very well but it was interesting.

Later we all crowded into the Plaza de Armas where the Inca and all his people marched in grand revelry. In the plaza I could see the soldiers closer up. The Inca came in seated on a gold throne that was carried by about 15-20 men and there were people going before him sweeping the street with tree branches and woman throwing flowers on the ground. In the plaza the priest and Inca did some ceremony with coca leaves to see if the main ceremony would be favorable. It was all very pagan and even though the bright sunshine and daylight made it seem less dark there was still lots of darkness hiding under the surface. I really wonder how many people actually believe in the sun as a god and how many just see Inti Raymi as a cultural recreation of times past. I wondered this as the actors sang a song of worship to the sun and when the woman next to me commented that the sun always seems to shine during the ceremony no matter how dark the day starts out.

The main ceremony was at Sacsayhuaman which is located above Cusco and is an archeological site with ruins that they believe were a military fortress once upon a time. We walk about 30 minutes up, up and up amongst the very crowded pathway. When we got to Sacsayhuaman we had to find a place on a neighboring hill to sit and watch the goings ons. There were so many people all over the hills. They looked like ants covering an ant hill. Unfortunately, even though we had a view we still could not see very well. I think only people who paid $50 some dollars could sit in the temporary stadium that was set up. There was no one allowed on the closest hill because it had ruins on it. It had been used in previous years and you could tell people had a bad attitude about it being prohibited this year. In fact they kept trying to sneak onto the hill while people on the other hills cheered them on. At one point the police gave up and then everyone rushed to the other hill. It was crazy! That meant that we couldn't see or hear very well what was going on. I just know from my booklet that a llama is sacrificed and etc. It was very colorful but I think I enjoyed my food and the adventure more than the ceremony. In the end the Inca gave a very modern sounding message (my friend Luz translated from Quechua for me) in the middle of an ancient ritual and ceremony. He asked the people to care for "Mother Earth" and help each other and get along. It was a very interesting.

Then we all walked down the hill and once when we stopped to wait for some of Luz's family to catch up, I started looking at all the faces walking by. I wondered how many believed in the Sun as their God and how many believed in Jesus. I prayed for them that the people walking in darkness would see a great light! I prayed for them to come to know their Creater God as their Father and Lord.

The Lord is bigger than the darkness that hides in the layers of the Peruvian culture. He can bring freedom to people who carry around so many superstitions. He can set them free from the darkness and redeem the creative and colorful things from their culture. Because there is so much color! There is so much creativity! Let it be used to bring glory and praise to the GREAT CREATOR OF THE SUN AND THE MOON!!!

The people walking in darkness have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of the shadow of death [a]
a light has dawned. Isaiah 9:2

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