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Member of indigenous Amazonian community during Pope Francis' visit to Puerto Maldonado Member of indigenous Amazonian community during Pope Francis' visit to Puerto Maldonado  (AFP or licensors)

Amazon Bishops uphold the right to self-determination for uncontacted tribes

Members of the pan Amazonian ecclesial network have released a statement in which they support the rights of uncontacted indigenous tribes living in the Amazon.

By Francesca Merlo

The Pan Amazonian Ecclesial Network (REPAM), along with indigenous Amazonian organisations and communities have been working together in order to promote the rights of indigenous tribes living in voluntary isolation. These groups have just held their second meeting (5-8 July) in Puerto Maldonado, Peru. It involved specialists getting together to discuss and tackle the protection of those indigenous tribes who have chosen to live a life in the Amazon unaware of the other societies that surround them. Tribes who have chosen to live a life in total isolation, an act which should automatically protect them from their surroundings.

The objective of the meeting was to make progress regarding the protection of the rights of these tribes. The meeting resulted in a Statement being published in defense of indigenous peoples living in voluntary isolation. Amongst the specialists involved were experts in Amazonian indigenous people, anthropologists and University Professors – people who have studied past and present changes in indigenous peoples and the effect that the outside world has had and can have on them. Pope Francis visited Puerto Maldonado in January, having returned stating that the Amazon is a “cultural reserve” under threat of new colonialism.

Maintaining rights for those few remaining tribes

REPAM stated that we are now aware of approximately 150 tribes that have little to no connection with those surrounding them - these 150 are a very small percentage of those that used to be. REPAM’s aim is to save the remaining 150, and any others that we have not discovered, from dispersing and disappearing as a result of what might be defined as harassment from the outside world.

Threats

REPAM tell us that the members of these tribes are under constant threat of having their land invaded in order to benefit external economic growth, through the rapid gentrification of remote lands.

Acts such as cutting down trees, mining, exploiting oil and gas resources, drug trafficking and deforestation, as well as modernization through motorways and railways are silently threatening people’s homes, lives and ancestries. All of these activities are extremely harmful in terms of “care for our common home”,  as well as being harmful to the indigenous peoples: mentally, physically, culturally and often also spiritually.

The urge to implement human rights globally

Ahead of the 2019 Synod, amongst other recommendations, REPAM urge National States to exercise the unimpeachable obligations they have towards guaranteeing and implementing isolated indigenous people’s rights in their constitutional framework.

 

23 July 2018, 16:33