Puerto Maldonado (Agenzia Fides) - The indigenous Amazonian peoples have probably never been so threatened on their own lands as they are at present". The Amazon is a territory that is being disputed on many fronts. On the one hand, "pressure being exerted by great business interests seeking petroleum, gas, lumber, and gold and on the other, the threat against the territories also comes from the perversion of several policies that promote conservation without considering humans". This is what Pope Francis said to about 4 thousand representatives of the Amazonian peoples gathered in the Madre de Dios Coliseum, in Puerto Maldonado, the second stage of his apostolic visit to Peruvian land. The Pope highlighted the "movements that, in the name of forest conservation, take possession of large extensions of forests and negotiate on them generating situations of oppression for the indigenous peoples, for whom, in this way, the territory and the natural resources found there become inaccessible. These problems", added Pope Bergoglio, "strangle her peoples and provoke the migration of the young due to the lack of local alternatives. We have to break with the historical paradigm that views Amazonia as an inexhaustible source of supplies for other countries without concern for its inhabitants".
The Bishop of Rome wanted to document that the defense of nature and earth "has no other purpose than the defense of life", and that this "primordial option for life" manifests itself in the preferential concern for the weaker sector of society, which in the Amazonian context - the Pope clarified - are the so-called indigenous Peoples of voluntary isolation (Pueblos Indígenas en Aislamiento Voluntario, PIAV): those who have withdrawn into the most inaccessible hideouts of the Amazon forest, in order to live in freedom. And now they must be defended as "the most vulnerable brothers". Their presence - Pope Francis insisted "reminds us that we cannot use goods meant for all as consumerist greed dictates". We need to recognize and welcome the essential contribution they offer to the whole of society, without "making their cultures an idealization of a natural state, or even a sort of museum of a past lifestyle".
The indigenous peoples threatened by "cultural colonialism"
Among the attacks and violence suffered by the indigenous peoples of the Amazon, Pope Francis recalled the suffering caused by "leaks of hydrocarbons that seriously threaten the life of your families and pollute your natural environment", and the trafficking of persons connected with the phenomenon of illegal mining, with enslaved labor and sexual abuse of women and adolescents. The Pope also called into question "new ideological colonialisms" that risk annihilating the traditions of the indigenous peoples, with an explicit reference to campaigns of demographic control through sterilizing methods that international organizations try to impose in the Amazon as well. "In times of crisis, in the face of different imperialisms", Pope Francis said, "the family of indigenous peoples was the best defense of life. We are asked to take special care not to allow ourselves to be captured by ideological colonialisms disguised as progress, which gradually enter and dilapidate cultural identities and establish a uniform, unique and weak thought".
A Church with an indigenous face
The emergencies and threats that weigh on the life of the Amazonian populations - said Pope Francis - should push political authorities to "give life to institutional spaces of respect, recognition and dialogue with the indigenous peoples; assuming and redeeming culture, language, traditions, rights and spirituality that are theirs". The Bishop of Rome recalled the "initiatives of hope" of those who propose "that the indigenous peoples themselves and the communities are the guardians of the forests, and that the resources produced by their conservation return to the benefit of your families, to improve your conditions of life, health and the education of your communities".
In particular, school and the education of the indigenous peoples - the Pope said - should represent a field of priority commitment for political authorities, aimed at respecting and integrating their "ancestral wisdom" as an asset of the whole nation. And the Church too - suggested the Successor of Peter, offering a hint of the spirit that will animate the Synod of Bishops for the Amazon he convened for 2019 - is called to confirm and renew the preference for the indigenous peoples that marked his journey in Latin America, since the time of Franciscan Saint Toribio de Benavente Motolinia, quoted by Pope Francis: "How many missionaries" the Pope recalled "have engaged with your peoples and have defended your cultures! They did it inspired by the Gospel. Christ too incarnated himself in a culture, the Jewish one, and starting from that, he gave himself to us as a novelty for all peoples so that each one, starting from his own identity, feels self-affirmed in Him". It is necessary - added the Bishop of Rome "that the indigenous peoples culturally form the local Amazonian Churches. Help your Bishops and missionaries so they join you, and in this way, through dialogue with everyone, can shape a Church with an Amazonian face, a Church with an indigenous face". (GV) (Agenzia Fides, 20/1/2018)