“Querida Amazonia”

Earlier this year, Pope Francis wrote “Querida Amazonia.” It was his response to the 2019 Synod of Bishops on the Amazon.

In this inspiring document, Pope Francis strongly endorsed the role of indigenous people as the guardians of creation. He also laid out in plain terms what we should call the acts of those businesses that harm the Amazon: “injustice and crime”.

On 14 July, Catholics from all over Oceania came together to reflect, pray, and discuss how we can apply Pope Francis’ teachings to our region.

Both Nalis Miranda and I from the parish chose to attend this gathering (via zoom). The opening speaker was Cardinal John Ribat from Papua New Guinea. He spoke about his time with the Synod in the Amazon. He said two learnings that he took away was regarding the land and the sea. He said that there were similarities between the problems that existed in the Amazon and those that existed in the Pacific Islands.

Regarding the land he said that there was a problem of “land grabbing” in both the Amazon and Papua New Guinea. This was a cause of great unhappiness to the people. They are surprised at how they lose their land. The people from the villages in Papua New Guinea do not understand the processes of where and how they lose their whole lives. Logging has been in place in Papua New Guinea for many years. Companies come in seeking to use the land for their work. They come up with an agreement for the people of the villages to sign. The people of the villages are signing up for more than what they had thought they had signed up for. In the end they find out that they do not own their land anymore.

Also, people are being separated from their land. Companies seeking labour come in and promise people a good job if they are prepared to leave their villages and go to another place to work. When they go, they find that the promises originally made to them are not kept and the result is that they wind up being exploited. People are not being told the truth.

Regarding water in Papua New Guinea Cardinal Ribat said that there was a problem with seabed mining. Companies are not aware about the deep impact their mining will cause. Although this has ceased for the time being the licence to mine is still alive, which means that the licence can still be sold to anyone. The mining is not just on the seabed of the ocean but is also very close to where people go fishing for their livelihood. Companies do not carry out any studies of how their mining will affect the tuna and other forms of sea life in the area. In response people from the Papua New Guinea and other parts of the Pacific have come together to protest. They want all seabed mining in the Pacific to cease.

The Synod of Amazon represented a call to come together to see what we can do.  How can we get our people to come together to come up with a situation that helps all of us? The question is who is watching? We know that God is watching. The fact is that humanity is turning their backs on what is really happening, and this is what Pope Francis is talking about when he expresses his deep concern about the environment.

This Synod in the Amazon represented the first time that the Papal Encyclical Laudato Si was applied to any part of the world. The purpose of Querida Amazonia was to read and reflect on the issues and how to respond to them.

In writing “Querida Amazonia” Pope Francis spoke of 4 dreams:

  1.  the social circumstances of people and the stories that need to be shared.
  2. to cultivate and maintain ecosystems that preserve beauty.
  3. that all cultures are recognized so that the richness of each culture informs all of us.
  4. that the church allows herself to be guided by social and ecological values so that we can all become integrated with the earth.

This document illuminates seven recommended pathways that we should follow. The one that stood out to me was the importance of everyone being educated in the beauty of creation so that we can all play our role in looking after our world and each other in the way that God intended. When reflecting upon what is happening in our part of the world at this present time and how we should respond it seems to me that this is a good place to start.