Vatican to shine light on Amazon’s indigenous communities

Pope Francis receives gifts from representatives of indigenous communities of the Amazon on October 4, 2019 in the Vatican gardens before the Amazon synod that takes place on October 6, 2019. (File/AFP)
Updated 06 October 2019

Vatican to shine light on Amazon’s indigenous communities

  • The synod, which runs until October 27, will also reflect on making official roles for women, who already play a central part in the Amazonian Church
  • The working document for the “synod,” which mainly brings together bishops from nine Pan-Amazonian countries, denounces in scathing terms social injustices and crimes

Vatican City: Pope Francis will gather Catholic bishops at the Vatican Sunday to champion the isolated and poverty-struck indigenous communities of the Amazon, whose way of life is under threat.

The global spotlight has recently been on the world’s largest rainforest, which is vital for the planet but is suffering from its worst outbreak of fires in years, due in part to an acceleration in deforestation.

The working document for the “synod,” which mainly brings together bishops from nine Pan-Amazonian countries, denounces in scathing terms social injustices and crimes, including murders, as well as suggesting a Church action plan.

“Listen to the cry of ‘Mother Earth’, assaulted and seriously wounded by the economic model of predatory and ecocidal development... which kills and plunders, destroys and devastates, expels and discards,” the 80-page document says.

The run-up to the three-week synod, or assembly, saw some 260 events held in the Amazon region involving 80,000 people, in a bid to give the local populations a voice in the document.

Among those attending the synod as an observer is Sister Laura Vincuna, a missionary trying to protect the territories of the Caripuna indigenous people in the Brazilian Amazon.

“Help us defend our motherland, we have no other home!” she said on Saturday. “Earth, water, forest: without these three elements nobody can do anything,” she said on the eve of the synod.

Sunday’s gathering comes as Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, a climate-change skeptic, told the United Nations that the world’s media were lying about the Amazon, and attacked indigenous leaders as tools of foreign governments.

In his 2015 encyclical on ecology and climate change “Laudato Si,” Francis denounced the destruction of the Amazonian rainforest in the name of “enormous international economic interests.”

Last year the world’s first Latin American pope visited Puerto Maldonado, a village in southeastern Peru surrounded by the Amazon jungle, to meet thousands of indigenous Peruvians, Brazilians and Bolivians.

That trip was the first step toward this synod, which opens Sunday with a mass in St. Peter’s Square. Francis’ hopes of bringing the Catholic faith to far-flung populations will also see the bishops gathered in Rome debate a highly controversial proposal — allowing married men to become priests.

The issue deeply upsets some traditionalists, who argue that making an exception for the Amazon would open the door to the end of celibacy for priests, which is not a Church law and only dates back to the 11th century.

The German Catholic Church in particular, which has an influential progressive wing, has been hotly debating the subject.

The synod, which runs until October 27, will also reflect on making official roles for women, who already play a central part in the Amazonian Church.

Of the 184 prelates at the synod, 113 hail from the Amazonian region, including 57 from Brazil. Others taking part include 17 representatives of Amazonian indigenous peoples and ethnic groups, and 35 women — who will not have the right to vote on the final document.


Anti-government protesters block roads in Pakistan as unrest mounts

Updated 14 November 2019

Anti-government protesters block roads in Pakistan as unrest mounts

  • Tens of thousands of demonstrators joined a sit-in in Islamabad on Oct. 31 and camped there for about two weeks
  • Firebrand cleric leading the protests called for nationwide demonstrations

ISLAMABAD: Anti-government protesters in Pakistan blocked major roads and highways across the country on Thursday in a bid to force Prime Minister Imran Khan to resign.
The demonstrators — led by the leader of opposition party Jamiat-e-Ulema-e-Islam (JUI-F), the firebrand cleric Maulana Fazlur Rehman — have taken to the streets as the start of their “Plan B” to topple the government and ensure a general election after failing to push Khan out through a fortnight-long sit-in in Islamabad, which ended on Wednesday.
That same day, Rehman told his party workers to spread their protests to other parts of the country.
“This protest will continue not for a day but for a month, if our leadership instructs,” said JUI-F Secretary-General, Maulana Nasir Mehmood, to a group of protesters who blocked the country’s main Karakoram Highway — an important trade route between Pakistan and China that also connects the country’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) province with its northern areas.
The JUI-F protesters also blocked other key routes in KP and a major highway connecting the provinces of Sindh and Balochistan. The party’s Balochistan chapter also announced its intention to block the highway connecting Pakistan to neighboring Iran.
Tens of thousands of demonstrators joined the sit-in in Islamabad on Oct. 31 and camped there for about two weeks, demanding the prime minister’s resignation and fresh polls in the country following allegations of electoral fraud last year and the mismanagement of Pakistan’s economy. The government denies both charges.
Rehman is a veteran politician who was a member of the National Assembly for 20 years. He enjoys support in religious circles across the country. His party has yet to share a detailed plan regarding which roads will be closed when, or how long this new phase of protests will continue.
The JUI-F and other opposition parties have been trying to capitalize on the anger and frustration of the public against the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf ruling party, which came to power last year promising 10 million new jobs for the youth, 5 million low-cost houses, and economic reforms to benefit the middle class.
Since then, Pakistan’s economy has nosedived, witnessing double-digit inflation and rampant unemployment. The government signed a $6-billion bailout deal with the International Monetary Fund to stave off a balance-of-payments crisis.
“Prime Minister Imran Khan has stabilized the deteriorating economy, and Maulana Fazlur Rehman ‘Plan B’ will fail like his ‘Plan A,’” Firdous Ashiq Awan, special assistant to the prime minister on information and broadcasting, said in a statement to the press.

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