By Linda Bordoni
Pope Francis’ upcoming visit to the Peruvian city of Puerto Maldonado will undoubtedly give visibility and voice to the indigenous people of the Amazon.
In an interview published by the Pan-Amazonian Church Network – Repam – Fr Manuel Jesus Romero of the Apostolic Vicariate of Puerto Maldonado said the Amazon’s indigenous people have an urgent need to make their rights known as they are increasingly pushed from their ancestral lands.
Indigenous people of the Amazon increasingly at risk
“Their territory is increasingly being invaded, their space is becoming smaller and smaller; the livelihoods with which they have survived for so many centuries are being destroyed: fishing, hunting, trees and rivers are more and more in danger. Therefore their lives are in danger” he said.
Pope Francis’ arrival in the city of Puerto Maldonado, a symbol of Peru's Amazon indigenous communities, is scheduled to take place on 19 January. Here the Pope will receive representatives of different Amazon communities who will be able to voice their concerns and listen to the Pope’s message of hope and encouragement.
Puerto Maldonado: poignant symbol for a series of issues
Following the announcement of the Pope's visit to Peru from 18 to 21 January, the Peruvian Episcopal Conference (CEP) explained the reasons behind his choice to visit Puerto Maldonado describing it as a poignant symbol thanks to the southeastern city's struggles with illegal mining, child labour and human trafficking.
It went on to say the Pope’s willingness to visit the area is also driven by the city’s environmental protection needs, a major issue for this gateway to the southern Amazon jungle.
The Amazon rainforest comprises as much as 60% of Peru's territory, and offers a major reserve of fresh water.
3rd Papal visit to Peru
Francis’ upcoming visit, which also takes him to Chile, will be the third papal journey to Peru, after John Paul II visited the nation twice, in 1985 and 1988.