By Christopher Wells
In his address to people of the Amazon region of Peru, Pope Francis, picking up on the witness given by a local family, said that this land, a land “that is mostly forgotten, wounded and marginalized” is not “a no man’s land.” This land, he said, “has names. It has faces. It has you.”
Pope Francis spoke especially to the issue of the exploitation of the land, and once again denounced the “throwaway culture” which throws out “anything that does not serve its interests.” Even people, he said, are treated this way, tossed aside and abandoned as soon as they are deemed useless. In particular, he denounced human trafficking, which he said is better spoken of as slavery: “slavery for work, sexual slavery, and slavery for profit.” He spoke out especially about the exploitation of women: “It is not right,” he said, “for us to look the other way and let the dignity of so many women, especially young women, be trampled upon.”
The Holy Father also noted how many people have immigrated to the Amazon region in search of better futures for themselves, notably in the area of gold mining. But he warned that gold “can be turned into a false god that demands human sacrifices.” False gods, he said, corrupt everything, “people and institutions,” and “they ruin the forest.” Calling to mind the words of Christ, that some demons can only be expelled through much prayer, he said, “this is one of them.” He encouraged his listeners to continue to organize in order to overcome these situations.
“Salvation is not something generic or abstract,” the Pope said. Every Christian community should reflect the gaze of Jesus, a gaze “that creates bonds and generates community.”
The Holy Father concluded his address with words of encouragement: “I have hope in you,” he said, "in the hearts of all those people who seek a blessed live.” And he called on them to love their land, even to “fall in love” with it, and to commit themselves to the land, and to care for it. “Do not use this land as a mere disposable object,” the Pope said, But as a genuine treasure to be enjoyed, cultivated, and entrusted to your children.”
Finally, Pope Francis said, “Let us commend ourselves to Mary, the Mother of God and our Mother, and place ourselves under her protection,” before leading those present in praying the Hail Mary.