30 year ago Chico Mendez, a Brazilian environmental activist, was killed. He said “at first I thought I was fighting to save rubber trees, then I thought I was fighting to save the Amazon rainforest. Now I realise I am fighting to save humanity”.
More and more earth protectors have been killed since then and in Brazil deforestation levels are approaching a critical point of no return. 2018 has been the deadliest year of record for land and environmental defenders, especially indigenous leaders, agribusiness is shown was the to be the industry most linked to killings. Global Witness talks of an “epidemic of violence”. Villages affected by mining, dams, illegal logging and agribusiness are targeted by killers reportedly hired by corporations and state forces. Worse still Bolsonaro in Brazil is threatening to reduce the powers of Brazil’s environmental protection agency and weaken safeguards for the indigenous peoples numbering over 3 million in the Amazon region.
Listening to the indigenous people and all the 390 different communities that live in that region is of vital importance to us all. The presence of the Church can make a difference, hence the Amazonian synod to be held in October 2019. In 1992 St John Paul apologised for the terrible pain and suffering inflicted on indigenous peoples. But the exploitation continues. More than that we in the developed world and in the developing world need to learn from the wisdom of those peoples living in harmony on their land and in their forests for thousands of years. They recognise the gift of soil, water, trees animals, night and day, everything imbued by spirit, and to be accepted with gratitude and respect. “The Amazonian peoples are a living memory of the mission God has given us : taking care of our common Home. The defence of this land has no other purpose than to defend life itself”. (REPAM) Let us listen and learn from them and stand in solidarity with them.
Jessica Gatty, ra