In these last weeks of intense activity for the sake of the Amazonia, the ecumenical convesatory “Creation Moans from the Amazonia” (“La creación gime desde la Amazonia”) took place, organised by the QONAKUY (Spanish acronym for Organisation of Evangelical Universities of Latin and Central America and the Caribbean) and the AIPRAL (Spanish acronym for Alliance of Presbiterian and Reformed Churches of Latin America). The conversatory has supported the campaing Amazoniza-te (Get Amazonized), a joint initiative from the Panamazonic Ecclesiastic Organization (Red Eclesial Panamazónica) and other organisations, and was also supported by the UniReformada.
We would like to highlight the contribution of Mara Manzoni Luz, regional director of the CREAS (Spanish acronym for Regional Ecumenical Centre for Counselling and Service) in the event, to which complete access is available clicking on this link. The debate was arbitrated by Humberto Shikiya (QONAKUY) and counted with the participation of Humberto Shikiya (QONAKUY), João Gutemberg Sampaio (REPAM), Darío Barolín and Agnaldo Gomes (AIPRAL), Milton Mejía (UniReformada) and Gerardo Oberman (CREARTE). On that Amazonia day, we reproduce the voices of Mara and of all the people who take action for human dignity in the region.
This large area that extends over 9 South American countries includes half the tropical forests of te world and houses 15% of the Earth bodiversity. It has been consistently plundered over the centuries, so this is no news. I remember setting a foot on this land for the first time in 1983 as an antropology student when I was visiting the Gavião Pykobjê indigenous community. Back then, that distant portion of the state of Maranhão had already become of great interest for the transport of some companies’ goods of their mining-related products from the neighbouring state of Pará to the Atlantic. In these last years, I have been supporting the Quilombola communities of Oriximiná, Pará, which bear the burden of the social and environmental consequences of the bauxita mining industry, and visiting the Tacana indigenous communities of Rurrenabaque, Bolivia, united to face the construction of a dam, and I see that these threats dating from the 80’s, though terrible, were not as sofisticated as today’s devastation.
During the past years, the Amazonia has suffered, with varying intensity, the growth of the structural disparities, land invasions, mining exploitation, increased flexibility in environmental laws, criminalization of its defenders, the murder of local leaders, in many cases with the support of governments and big multinational companies. Many facts have been manipulated, as it is the case of fires, which they want us to believe are the consequence of droughts, or even, the regional communities’ fault in their alleged attempt to cause fires for crops. Those are lies, to cover the fact that fires are the result of a criminal behaviour for which the agroindustry and the extraction business are responsible. These actions are in many cases motivated by the same local authorities’ speech –wether it be based on a so-called “developmental” policy, a submission to economic interests of the Northern powers, earnings, a complete disrespect not only for the flora, but also for the 34 million people who inhabit this land. Among these, there are 380 indigenous communities, 140 of which live in voluntary isolation.
They are communities that have already suffered all possible threats, resisted to everything, and have finllay chosen to live and protect their ancestral lands, their rivers, their flora.
Now, these communities find their lifes threatened once more by the COVID-19 pandemics, which is equally affecting babies (the Yanomami case), the youth, and, mainly, the elderly. As an Ecuatorian Waorani leader said, “if our ancestors die, our community will cease to exist.” It is devastating to see every day the death of leaders caused by the pandemics and the risks faced by the communities living in voluntary isolation. As said by leader Ashaninka Francisco Pikãyo, coordinator of the Organisation of Indigenous Communities of Juruá River, “the pandemics is the new chemical weapon of the domination”. At the same time, the number of young leaders taking up their rightful place in the defense of their communities gives us all hope!
According to the Coordinator of the Indigenous Organisarions of the Amazon Basin (COICA, as its Spanish acronym reads), and the Pan Amazon Ecclesiastic Organisarion (REPAM, as its Spanish acronym reads), until August 19th, the number of indigenous people infected was of 44.881; the number of deceased indigenous people was of 1.442 and approximately 221 communities were affected in the Pan Amazon region. Brazil, Perú, and Colombia are at the top places of this disheartening statistics.
In Brazil, it isn’t that much about one pandemics in 520 as it is about a deliberate genocide made possible through the banning by the president of the Republic of the law intended to implement emergency measures to face the pandemics among the indigenous, quilombolas, and traditional communities. This is affecting the whole local territory, but in the case of the Amazonia, with the distances and the given vulnerabilities, the impairment to access safe water, the inequality in healthcare and in connectivity in regard to the communication with the most isolated areas, this last in conection with how slow assistance-related actions are, represent an explicit violation of human rights. Which hasn’t yet been achieved with years of plundering thanks to the resistance of the Amazon communities is now being attempted using the pandemics to further deforestate and therefore enlarge the agricultural borders and extraction.
What about the ecumenical movement?
Historically, there have been numerous initiatives in connection with the defense of the Amazonia on the part of the local, regional and international ecumenical community, it was not possible to name them all. More recently, in 2019, prior ro the Pan Amazonic Synod of the Catholic Church, the ecumenic initiative of “Global Solidary Action for the Amazonia”, promoted by the Christian Aid of Latin America and the Caribbean in collaboration with CONIC –Brazil, ISEAT- Bolivia, Bolivia, Interecclesiastic Commission of Justice and Peace- Colombia, CREAS, Forum of the ACT Alliance of Brazil, among other entities, was an importan initiative to strenghten, in a broader way, the profetic voices in defense of the Amazonia.
Today, CREAS and Koinonia of Brazil, along with Christian Aid, are developing a project whose main goal is to strenghten the intereligious and ecumenic dialogue skills in the Amazon region – Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia and Perú being the priorities – for human dignity and the rights of the indigenous and black communities. The Latin American churches and the ecumenic organisations and those based on faith have been historically crucial to support these communities in carrying a fulfilling life, with justice, equallity and sustainability. Now, with the growing economic and social threats, religious conservatism and violence, a renewed strenght be given to the ecumenic and intereligious dialogue within the region is of paramount importance.
In our 2020 action plan, the Intereligious Alliance for the 2030 Agenda has the goal to exert influence for granting the indigenous and traditional communities of the Amazonia the control over the land, its common goods and health, in the perspective of the Common Home. We are working to amplify the connected initatives based on faith, the defense of the indigenous communities of the Amazonia, in light of the increase in the negative impacts of the pandemics and the overuse of the lands and the flora.
According to the Encyclical Laudato Si, the Amazonia or other indigenous or community land isn’t just a geographical area, but also a meaningful place for faith or the experiencing of God in history… “In the Amazonia, ‘the caressing of God’ manifest to be incarnated in history (cf. LS 84).”
According to the Encyclical Laudato Si, the Amazonia or other indigenous or community land isn’t just a geographical area, but also a meaningful place for faith or the experiencing of God in history… “In the Amazonia, ‘the caressing of God’ manifest to be incarnated in history (cf. LS 84). This serving as inspiration and us being part of the Amazon communities, we must strenghten our commitment in the sense of continue with:
1) Our pressure over the Countries to ensure that the indigenous, quilombolas and traditional communities threatenes have access to and control over the lands and its common goods and that they have access to healthcare in times of a pandemics;
2) Calling out the heinous actions undertaken by canvassing missionaries who have brought so much evil to the past generations and today, as a part of a fundamentalist, economic, social, cultural and religious project, in association with the agroindustry, seek to take over the lands;
3) Our standing by the defenders of the Human Rights and nature that have consistently found themselves threatened, through effective denuntiation and protection, and standing against the attempts to criminalise the fights of the Amazon communities;
4) The support of the local communities in the promotion of economically sustainable alterntives and in the facing of the economic system in force along with the challenges of the climatic crisis in the region;
5) The development of an environmental spirituality that helps us to hear what the Spirit tells us, feeling we are part of the Common Home and the whole of the inhabited world, starting with our congregations and faith communities;
6) Our support to local organisations and initatives based on faith in the development of these goals, keeping ourselves consantly updated, challenging and active in what for us represents an imperative of our faith: ¡the defense of the indigenous communities, the Amazonia and the environment!
Hence, it is essential thar Churches, ecumenic and intereligious organisations of the global South and North go on with their profetic work of faith. We need to strengthen the awareness that the dangers posed by the extiction of the Amazonia and its communities are before usa ll. Only in the solidarity and the defense of the Common Home will we be able to prevent the losses of the indigenous communities, the living libraries, represent a loss for the humaniy, as it is them who are resposinle for the environmental balance as a whole and for the remaining flora.
I will finish this with the Topknot of Environmental Responsibility of the Common Prayer of the Anglican Episcopal Church of Brazil: “Breath of life, you created in your very centre the whole of the ceated order, we are taught to respect all criatures, living testimony of the Evangelic, which encourages to fight for the preservation of nature, restoring the ideal of Eden, and the perfection of everything given to us as a gift.”
La autora es científica social y educadora popular brasileña, directora regional de CREAS, integrante de la Alianza Interreligiosa para la Agenda 2030 y laica de la Iglesia Episcopal Anglicana de Brasil.
The authot is a social scientist and a Brazilian educator of the por, regional directo of CREAS, member of the Intereligious Alliance for the 2030 Agenda and a lay of the Episcopal Anglican Church of Brazil.
 In the past June, according to the study of the Coordinator of Indigenous Organisarions of the Brazilian Amazonia (COIAB, in Spanish), and the Institute of Environmental Investigation of the Amazonia (IPAM, in Portuguese), the levels of pollution (of 759) was an 84% higher for the indigenous communities, compared to the average of the country (of 413); the death rate (52 for every 100 thousand) was a 150% bigger than the Brazilian average, of 21 every 100 thousand people.