Last March, the Pan-Amazonian Ecclesial Network (REPAM) was officially launched at the Vatican. This new association was created during a meeting of bishops whose territories include the Amazon, priests, missionaries of congregations who work in the Amazon, national representatives of Caritas and laypeople belonging to various Church bodies concerned by the threats to the Amazon and the people who inhabit its territory.
This week, the REPAM is holding a meeting at the headquarters of the Episcopal Conference of Colombia, in Bogotá to discuss some of the mega-projects that are putting the Amazon and its people at risk. Development and Peace, which works in several countries that encompass the Amazon, such as Brazil, Colombia, Bolivia, Ecuador and Paraguay, is participating in this meeting to see how it can contribute to this important network.
Anne Catherine Kennedy, who is a program officer for Latin America for Development and Peace and is participating in the meeting on behalf of the organization said that an inspiring message is emanating from this gathering: “The Church is hearing the cries from the poor, the marginalized, the most vulnerable in the Amazon and feels compelled to act in a concerted way – everyone together – in order to be stronger.”
The approach of the REPAM is to listen to the voices of those most affected and support efforts to defend the ancestral wisdom, territories and the right of prior consultation and effective participation in decisions about life and the future of Amazonian communities.
The REPAM brings together several of Development and Peace’s partners who work closely with Indigenous communities to support them in having their voices heard and to defend their rights.
The group Iglesia y Mineria, which is working on the destructive impacts of mining in Latin America on people and the environment is a member of the REPAM and has received support from Development and Peace. The group organized a conference at the Vatican this summer and those present released a declaration that expressed concern over a strategy being used by mining companies to approach the institutional Church for support, which they feel runs counter to upholding the human dignity of those most affected, and re-iterated the need for no-mining zones.
One of the cases that is being presented and discussed at the meeting is the construction of massive hydroelectric dam, which would be the third largest in Brazil, and is threatening the land of the Mundukuru people in the province of Para, where Development and Peace is working with several partners.
In his encyclical Laudato Si’ Pope Francis gives special attention to the importance of the Amazon, referring to it as one of the “lungs of our planet,” and calling for its urgent protection.
“Our implication in the REPAM with our partners in the region seeks to respond to Pope Francis’ call,” added Anne Catherine Kennedy. “We need to protect this invaluable ecosystem on our planet and to do that, we must consolidate the rich knowledge of the peoples who have been living there in harmony for generations.”