Preparing for the Amazon Synod in Peru

7 October 2019

A group of indigenous women from the Shipibo community in Cashahuacras, Peru

A group of indigenous women from the Shipibo community in Cashahuacras, Peru 

In January 2018, Pope Francis visited the town of Puerto Maldonado in the Peruvian Amazon. During his visit, the Pope paid tribute to the many indigenous groups living in the Amazon who have protected the rainforest for thousands of years, often in very hostile conditions.

Pope Francis spoke of the great debt that we owe to indigenous people who have protected the Amazon while facing huge threats such as illegal mining and illegal logging, and human and drug trafficking.

This has led to severe social and environmental devastation and violation of human rights.

Calling for a “Church with an Amazonian Face”

It was during the Pope’s symbolic visit to Puerto Maldonado in Peru’s Amazon that he announced the inauguration of the Pan-Amazonian Synod which is taking place in Rome this month.

The Synod is a way for the Church to listen to the people of the Amazon and respond with them to the devastation facing them and their environment.

Pope Francis called for the Church to be molded by indigenous people and spoke of a “Church with an Amazonian face”.

What is the Amazon Synod?

To begin our journey towards a “Church with an Amazonian face”, CAFOD and our partner CAAAP (The Amazonian Centre for Anthropology and Practical Application) have been working alongside the local Church and indigenous communities in Peru’s Amazon to increase the understanding of the critical difficulties that the Amazon is facing and improve the protection of the Amazon and the people that live there.

To truly hear the voices the people of the Amazon, the Church needs to understand the realities that indigenous communities are facing and the issues that matter most to Amazonian people.

CAAAP have been working with the Church in Peru’s Amazon to help them listen to indigenous people, particularly women and young people and to provide pastoral workers with tools to communicate better.

Improving lines of communication

Communication between local churches and indigenous people in Peru’s Amazon has traditionally been very challenging, particularly working in such a huge geographical area with limited resources and poor infrastructure. To respond to these challenges, CAFOD’s partner CAAAP has supported eight vicariates with communications training and developing a communications strategy.

CAFOD and our partner CAAAP have been supporting indigenous people and the Church to become better able to share indigenous communities’ experiences through different communication channels, including:

  • radio
  • newspapers
  • parish bulletins
  • public and academic forums.

The Church is also being supported to share information about the Synod and its proposals with indigenous communities through parish newsletters. This information is particularly important as Amazonian communities often receive very limited information about proposals for, and what is being said by others about their own region.

A key way that indigenous people have been able to share their voice has been through radio bulletins shared on church radio stations in the Amazon but also in other areas like the country’s capital, Lima.

These bulletins were translated into ten Amazonian languages and discussed a range of topics including:

  • Amazonian culture and cosmovision
  • threats to the Amazon
  • experiences of Amazonian women
  • the importance of the Pan-Amazonian Synod
  • participation of indigenous people.

Read our Theology team's blog about people's hopes for the Amazon Synod

Listening to the people of the Amazon

Three territorial assemblies were held, where Amazonian people were invited to express their opinions and share their realities.

Through these listening encounters between the church and indigenous communities - including an encounter that was held at the request of women, just for women- many Amazonian women shared their experiences of discrimination, inequality, gender-based violence, exploitation in the workplace, loss of cultural identity and loss of their ancestral lands.

Let us pray for the Amazon

Following the assemblies, workshops and gatherings organised by CAFOD’s partner CAAAP, a document was prepared for the eight Peruvian Amazonian Bishops featuring up-to-date information on the Amazon and initiatives led by indigenous people to protect their rights and their territory.

Looking ahead

Our partner CAAAP is accompanying indigenous women and men from Peru to attend the Pan-Amazonian Synod, where they will share their experiences of living in the Amazon.

The Synod represents a crucial opportunity for representatives of the Amazon to share their message with the world and for us to look at what caring for our common home truly means.

To do that, we must listen to the people of the Amazon.

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