The Amazon rainforest The Amazon rainforest 

Brazilian Bishops say threats against the Amazon are on the rise

Brazil's Catholics Bishops denounce mounting threats to the survival of the Amazon Rainforest and indigenous peoples, pointing to the responsibilities of the federal government.

By Lisa Zengarini

Brazilian bishops and other national ecclesial bodies are warning that attacks against the Amazon Rainforest and its indigenous peoples are on the rise, threatening water security of all Brazilians as well as the global climate system.

Solidarity with the Amazonian peoples 

In a statement released on the occasion of the World Human Rights Day, on 10 December, the National Conference of Bishops of Brazil (CNBB) draws attention to "well-orchestrated" threats against the forest biome, expressing solidarity with the Amazonian peoples and "their cry".

The statement was signed by the Bishops’ Committees for Integral Ecology and for the Amazon, the Pan-Amazonian Ecclesial Network (REPAM), the Indigenous Missionary Council (CIMI), the Commission for Pastoral Ministry of Land (CPT) and the Brazilian Commission for Justice and Peace (CBJP).

Dramatic rise in  deforestation

According to the Brazilian bishops, "the Amazon rainforest has been handed over by the federal government to loggers, arsonists and miners", resulting in a dramatic rise in forest fires and deforestation.

Illegal mining is also on the rise, again with the consent of the government. “Garimpeiros (illegal miners) linked to drug trafficking and financially supported by unknown groups, take over lands, kill and terrorize indigenous peoples, destroy forests, pollute rivers and severely poison animals with mercury,” the statement reads.

Threats from new legislation

Bishops further highlight that threats to the survival of the Amazon and its peoples also come from new legislation.

“Indigenous peoples, forest peoples in general, the forest itself and, therefore, all peoples of South America, are all equally targeted by land grabbers, miners, large mining companies and, above all, companies of the agri-food industry that are strongly supported by the National Congress," they say.

In fact, there are three bills pending in the House of Representatives and the Senate that aim to “complete the dismantling of the legislation protecting the country's ethnic, cultural and natural heritage." They are: Draft Law 191/2020, which liberalizes mining activities in indigenous territories; Draft Law 2159/2021, which will make environment licencing more flexible and Bill 510/2021, known as the "Land grabbing project".

The forest is life

The statement concludes recalling Sister Dorothy Stang’s words: "The death of the forest is the end of our life."

The American-born nun and advocate for the rural poor of the Amazon Rainforest was shot dead in the Brazilian State of Parà on 12 February 2005 for her outspoken activism after receiving death threats from loggers and landowners.

CEAMA'S appeal in November

The urgent need to take bold action to protect the South American rainforest region and its peoples and cultures was highlighted recently in a joint statement by REPAM and Bishops’ Conference of the Amazon (CEAMA) during the COP-26 in Glagow in November.

In it, the South-American Catholic bishops pointed out that the region is threatened today by environmental policies enacted “by insensitive and uncompromising governments,” ruthless mining activities, deforestation, ever-growing fires, and pollution of rivers, at the expense of the poor who are the first to suffer the consequences.

13 December 2021, 16:38