By Robin Gomes
The Holy See is insisting that indigenous peoples be always be treated as dignified partners of their development and destiny, with free, prior and informed consent in all matters concerning them. “In practice, this means upholding the collective right of indigenous peoples to their lands and resources,” Apostolic Nuncio and Holy See’s Permanent Observer to the United Nations in New York, Archbishop Bernadito Auza said on Thursday.
Amazon – human rights
He made the point in his opening remarks at a special event on the theme, “Violation of Human Rights in the Amazon: Networks to Respond to and Redress Them,” hosted by the Holy See.
Arch. Auza voiced the concerns of Pope Francis for the indigenous people, particularly those of Latin America, whose lands culture, rights and dignity, he said, are being overlooked or even trampled upon for the narrow economic interests of others. This is particularly true of the vast Amazonian region, the largest tropical forest in the world, home to 2.8 million indigenous people with their variety of cultural wealth
During his visit to Brazil in 2013, Arch. Auza noted, the Pope commended the Church’s presence in the Amazon, unlike others who come to carry away everything possible. He particularly called on encouraging the Church’s work especially through the training of Church workers, native teachers and clergy to consolidate the “Church’s ‘Amazonian face”.’ This why the Pope has convoked a Synod of Bishops for the Amazon region to be held in Rome in October 2019.
The Holy See’s diplomat recalled Pope Francis’ January 19 visit to the heart of the Amazon in Puerto Maldonado in the Peruvian Andes, where he condemned the extractive exploitation of indigenous land and its resources by great business interests, and also certain movements that, under the guise of preserving the forest, lead to situations of oppression for the native peoples.
In the face of this, Arch. Auza called for two measures. Firstly, one needs to break “the historical paradigm that views Amazonia as an inexhaustible source of supplies for other countries without concern for its Inhabitants.” Secondly, the world must recognize that the native peoples and communities themselves are the guardians of their lands and cultures.
He urged that the indigenous people be guaranteed their voices are heard and they are given the political, economic and social space necessary to affirm their identity and their right to become agents of their own development and destiny.