Satellite image of deforestation in the Amazon Basin, Brazil. Copernicus Sentinel data [2018]

Human Rights in Amazonia

Issue 1903

6 March 2019

Pope Francis has called for a Special Assembly of the Synod of Bishops for the Pan-Amazon Region to be held in October, dedicated to the theme, “Amazonia: New Paths for the Church and for an Integral Ecology.” The goal of the Synod is to discuss how the Church can preach the message of Jesus more effectively in light of what is happening in the vast territory referred to as “Amazonia” or “Pan-Amazonia.” The discussions of the Synod are also intended to address situations analogous to those of the Amazon Basin. A further goal will be to assist the universal Church in understanding her current role in the mission of evangelization.

This is the way the Preparatory Document for the Synod[1] (PD) describes the pan-Amazonian territory: “The Amazon Basin encompasses one of our planet’s largest reserves of biodiversity (30 to 50 percent of the world’s flora and fauna) and fresh water (20 percent of the world’s fresh water). It constitutes more than a third of the planet’s primary forests and – although the oceans are the largest carbon sinks – its work of carbon sequestration is quite significant. It covers more than seven and a half million square kilometers, and nine countries share this great biome (Brazil, Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Peru, Suriname, Venezuela, and French Guyana, an overseas territory)” (PD I, 1).

The document goes on to state that “in the Amazon rainforest, which is of vital importance for the planet, a deep crisis has been triggered by prolonged human intervention, in which a ‘culture of waste’ (Laudato si’, 16) and an extractivist mentality prevail” (PD, Preamble). This is the crisis to which the Church wishes to respond with renewed vigor, especially since it is so prevalent in the region.

Hence the Synod intends to listen not only to the bishops of the area, but also to members of the communities for which they are responsible, especially indigenous peoples, those living close to the river basin, and those in the surrounding areas.

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