These are the words of Pope Francis in Puerto Maldonado (Peru), to mark the beginning of his Synod:
“I had wanted to come and visit and listen to you, to be together in the heart of the Church, to join your challenges and reaffirm with you a sincere option for the defense of life, the defense of the land and the defense of cultures.”Pope Francis
In Puerto Maldonado the Pope denounced the threats and aggressions against life and land:
- “On the one hand, the neo-extractivism and the strong pressure by big economic interests that direct their avidity on oil, gas, wood, gold, agroindustrial monocultures;”
- “The perversion of certain policies that promote the “conservation” of nature without taking into account the human being; movements that, in the name of forest conservation, monopolize large tracts of forests and negotiate with them generating situations of oppression of native peoples for those who, in this way, the territory and natural resources that are in them become inaccessible;”
- “Devastation of the life that comes (…) with this environmental pollution caused by illegal mining;”
- Trafficking in persons: slave labor or sexual abuse. “Do not get distracted. There is a lot of complicity. “
The Synod for the Amazons is a reflection on these problems that currently represent the life of the Church. There have been many meetings around these themes, hopefully producing more than just documents that diagnose this region. This Synod is provoking new paths, new models of evangelization for facing the challenges of mission, especially in the Amazon region.
In this spirit, “The Amazon Project” is moving toward seeing THE HOW materialize from what was defined by the General Chapter of 2009 (mandate No. 24). We are generally clear on “what” is needed, but when it comes to becoming concrete in finding the most appropriate actions that allow to us gradually and progressively to achieve our objectives, it is still a challenge.
The two principles that guide us as a fraternity inserted in this part of the Amazon’s triple border (Peru – Colombia – Brazil) are intertwined and we feel are truly responsive: 1) “Mission and Church with an Amazonian face” (build a lay Amazonian Church that lives and celebrates the ancestral values as an expression of the Kingdom of God) and 2) we want to be a fraternity of lesser brothers that in a process of interculturality can achieve greater commitment for the defense of life, justice and peace in the care of disenfranchised Amazonians through the practice of a comprehensive ecology.
We are also finding Human Rights to be an intervention that allows us to concretize the goals that guide us in mission. Even so, this tool is so very broad and complex and that is why we are focusing first on LISTENING to the cries of our indigenous Amazon brothers and in the creation that with what happens in the region so that they are the ones alerting us up front of to the role that we must play today in their reality. This is a role that we can not do alone but in orchestration and articulation with A NETWORK with other social and Church groups with whom we meet, trying to mesh our work with theirs whenever possible.
Speaking concretely on the Synod for the Amazon, I see its main objective as discovering the human, religious and environmental reality of the Amazon, so it can really touches the essence of Franciscan Spirituality, its people, their way of life, their culture, religiosity, practices and customs, ecosystems, challenges, threats, and exploitations. This is exciting for us as Franciscans being part of this larger Church event. It is talking about a reality very close to the heart of the Franciscan movement: “To walk together!” It affirms the friars who find justification for the words of our founder himself, because St. Francis of Assisi sensed the need for “walking together” as an expression of the Fraternity minority, requiring listening, looking at the perspective of the other, and dialoguing in order to bring about an understanding that puts us all moving in the same direction as a consequence of obedience to the Spirit, who manifests in the gathered community.
I make a special invitation for you to consider participating with us in the “Amazon Project” whether it be for a few years or even temporarily for a months in order to strengthen us in our “walking together” in the defense of life in all its forms, listening to the cries of the Amazon which demands a real prophetic commitment from us toward the construction of a Church with both an Amazonian and indigenous face.
Fr. José de Jesús Caro P. OFM