"Let's care for nature" says the bishop of Labrea in the Amazon (2/3)
The Prelature of Labrea has also been preparing for the synod. What have they been doing?
The guidelines for the preparation for the synod were in our hands very early and we started work immediately. Since the REPAM (Pan-Amazon Ecclesial Network) appeared, we have closely been following the work carried out by this Institution and we even had a symposium here in Labrea. We have made the people of this Prelature very much aware of the synod to come. Both in our parishes and missions of Tapaua, Canutama, Labrea, Pauini,Belo Monte - Foz de Tapauáhave been gathering to talk about what they consider important enough to be taken to the synod.
In the Prelature Assembly held at the end of January of this year in Pauiní, an intense training was offered while already the communities contributed important input which was later presented at a regional meeting in March. Our presentation was ready before the May CNBB assembly.
Which issues appeared to be important and studied with determination? Have concrete proposals been made and sent them to the CNBB and Rome?
Considered of great importance were Evangelization and environmentalconservation. Being a Catholicsynod, everything is considered from the Gospel perspective without ignoring the preferential option for the poorest. How to make it a reality is a great concern. The lack of missionaries, the lack of means, the egoistic interests of others, the exploitation of our people and their lands... To face these problems from a Christian perspective is challenge: How will evangelization be done if they are not sent? Who will be sent? What characteristics should missionaries have? How must they be prepared to evangelize? Is the formation given now working? Opening new roads is the motto of the synod. Of course, many proposals have been presented. Let's hope for positive results after the synod ...
As bishops of the Brazilian Amazon whose reality is important to this coming synod, do you feel you have been considered and listened to by the CNBB and the Vatican?
We are privileged to be considered because we are directly affected by the theme of the synod and we feel the Church has a serious concern about our reality. A thing I have noticed is that at times outsiders may seem more concerned than insiders. And I tell the people in meetings and celebrations: "Look, the world worries about us and it seems that we have not fully realized our problems that they already noticed". Of course we worry but we are surprised that our concerns are truly being considered by outsiders.
The CNBB is listening to us and we are mutually aware of our interests and expectations. Same situation with the Vatican. At the stage we are at now in the studies of our reality, preparation and logistics close to the synod, everything has been constant communication, attention and concern for us. During the past CNBB assembly the media gave it importance through interviews and news reports; they are interested in what is happening and the results that will come from this. We are not only listened to, but we also want to talk.
Pope Francis speaks of the "integral ecology", which includes the defense of life in all its forms, beginning with humanity. Do you think this is the way ecology is commonly understood here in the Amazon?
I believe that there is some confusion on the subject of ecology, as if you wanted to preserve the jungle and the animals, and the indigenous people in their pure state. The Pope strives to give the true meaning of ecology, but it seems that everyone continues with the other idea. Ecology is the rhythm and sense of nature, because everything is interwoven and, when a chain link is broken, everything suffers. And of course -in this chain- the first link is human life, totally connected with the rhythm of climate, water, animals and plants. Respect of this rhythm will give us all a greater quality of life. This chain is at risk in the Amazon, and several links are close to being broken: deforestation , which influences the climate and rhythm of the waters, in addition to impoverishing the soil; the mining exploitation, generating pollution and leaving the lands useless; not respecting human rights, taking away the basic means of life from our people: property, healthy waters for fishing, lands for farming, health, housing, teaching ... Respecting these human needs is also caring for ecology; how the Pope understands it. The rest is romanticism. Therefore, fighting for the indigenous rights is not just opening a museum showcasing them as if it were a human zoo. Caring for their rights is giving back what is theirs. Within this ecology is evangelization, which also has to be ecological, respecting the balance of nature that God put in creation.
What problems cannot be omitted in the synod and must present concrete solutions in short, medium and long terms?
We must not forget that a synod is an ecclesial activity, not a political one, it´s main interest is not economical, material or simply social. That's why I think that one concrete and urgent measure is to remind these people of their dignity as children of God; their rights and obligations. Sadly the "evangelicals”are wanting to do this work in a way that only creates more confusion. That is why the pastoral challenges are: Well-formed laymenfrom and in each village, missionaries who know and respect the culture ... In the middle of so many problems, the people still know that the real help only comes from the Catholic Church; they do not ignore that other institutions only approach them with their own hidden agenda and interests. It is only in the Church that they find hope. This makes listening to them and communicate real hope a priority. They are expecting answers and solutions from us.