WelCom May 2019:
Catholic Church tackles destruction of ‘the lungs of the world’
The Amazon rainforest absorbs carbon for the entire planet, produces more than 20 per cent of the world’s oxygen and is being destroyed by deforestation and climate change. As carbon dioxide levels continue to rise, humanity is choking its own oxygen supply.
In October, Pope Francis will lead a month-long hui in Rome with Bishops from around the world to decide on how the Church can help to care for the Amazon and its people.
To prepare for this meeting, the Catholic NGO, REPAM (redamazonica.org) the Pan-Amazonian Ecclesial Network, has held hui in more than 150 communities in the Amazon to hear about local people’s struggles to preserve the land and their way of life; and what needs to happen to combat the forest destruction and human rights abuses that dominate their lives.
Last year, Jorginho Guajajara, a leader of the Guajajara people who campaigned to protect the forest from logging, was killed. Members of his tribe said his death was the result of violent conflict provoked by loggers making incursions into the land.
Up to 80 Guajajara have been killed in Maranhão state since 2000. The Catholic Church has also lost an activist. Sr Dorothy Stang faced threats from wealthy ranchers and fought for human rights and land reform for 30 years in the Amazon. She was murdered in 2005.
Shifting rainfall patterns caused by climate change are threatening the health of the Amazon rainforest but the threat is also coming from large-scale logging, as land is cleared for beef farming and oil exploration.
Less rain and deforestation is likely to turn the rainforest into a woodland savannah – lush forest will give way to a light canopy of trees, spelling extinction for thousands of rainforest plant and animal species.
Hundreds of communities call the Amazon home including the nomadic Awa tribe known as ‘uncontacted’. Many of them have never had contact with the outside world. The Awa people have been massacred in what Brazilian judge José Carlos do Vale Madeira, described as ‘a genocide’.
The Church’s Synod on the Amazon in October will aim to find solutions to bring justice and peace to the Amazon rainforest and its people.
The article was supplied by the Integral Ecology Committee of the Wellington Archdiocesan Commission for Ecology, Justice and Peace.
Archdiocesan parishes invited to plant a tree
The Catholic Church in Aotearoa is part of a world-wide movement to protect the Amazon rainforest, the indigenous people who live there, and the environmentalists who risk their lives to save the area known as ‘the lungs of the world’.
The Archdiocesan Commission for Ecology, Justice and Peace invites parishes and schools in the Archdiocese to plant a tree on World Environment Day, Wednesday 5 June, as a symbol of solidarity with the people of the Amazon and a response to the call of Pope Francis to ‘care for our common home’.