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by Joseph Nangle, OFM
Pax Christi USA Ambassador of Peace

“Querida Amazona” (“Beloved Amazon”) is the title of Pope Francis’ commentary on last year’s Synod. It speaks of the affection which motivated the Holy Father’s historical initiative and serves as a perfect example of how to hear the Cry of the Poor – by loving them.

There is a wonderful hymn sung in Central American communities which refers to the horror of war. Its refrain goes: “Solo pido a Dios, no me dejes ser indiferente a la Guerra. Es un monstro que pisa fuerte a la pobre inocencia de los pobres.” (Lord, do not allow me to remain indifferent to war. It is a monster which tramples heavily on the poor innocence of the people.”) We could rightly substitute the word “capitalism” for “war” in describing the plight of Amazonia and the cry of its people there and in so many other areas of the world.

The reality of the Amazon River is well known—a vast inland ocean, a marvel of nature that flows for more than 4000 miles through Peru, Colombia and Brazil, affecting several other countries with its tributaries.

Capitalism, with its self-justifying systems of plunder, has turned this wonder of the world into the planet’s most vulnerable area. The list of capitalism’s sins that have caused this global disaster is almost endless. They are greed committed by multinational interests together with traitorous local accomplices. In Amazonia they include: privatization, even of water; logging and illegal logging concessions; predatory hunting and fishing; unsustainable mega-projects (hydro-electric and forest concessions); monocultivations; highways, waterways, railways; mining and oil projects; extractive industries; city garbage dumps.

In the face of this planetary disaster and thanks to the spotlight which Pope Francis has turned on it, the cries of its victims are eloquent—but beyond sad! Many of them are contemplative and poetic, which best express the wailing.

A cry of appreciation for Querida Amazonas

“Amazonas, capital of the syllables of water,
father and patriarch, you are the hidden eternity
of the processes of fertilization;
streams alight on you like the birds.”

~ Pablo Neruda, ‘Amazonas’

A cry over the loss of cultural identity

Make the river your blood…
Then plant yourself,
Blossom and grow: let your roots sink into the ground
Forever and ever,
And then at last become a canoe,
A skiff, a raft,
Soil, a jug, a farmhouse and a man.”

~ Javier Yglesias, ‘Lamado’

A cry protesting those who have raped the River

“Those who thought that the river was only a piece of rope,
a plaything, were mistaken.
The river is a thin vein on the face of the earth…
The river is a cord enclosing animals and trees.
It could burst and spatter our faces with water and blood.”

~ Juan Carlos Galeano, ‘Los que Creyeron’

Cries in the face of colonizing and industrial interests

“Many are the trees 
where torture dwelt 
and vast are the forests
 purchased with a thousand deaths.”

~ Ana Varela Tafur, ‘Lo que no veo en visiones’

“The timber merchants have members of parliament, 
while our Amazonia has no one to defend her… 
They exiled the parrots and the monkeys… 
The chestnut harvests will never be the same.”

 ~ Jorge Vega Marquez, ‘Amazonia solitaria’

The Amazon Synod is a metaphor for all the areas of the world endangered today by a horrendous belief in entitlement to economic and ecological domination. They are all too many to enumerate here, but no matter, we know them. We have also heard the cries that come from the victims of those dominating worldwide forces.

The clear call is to make ourselves in every way we know how creators of the dream set out in the Final Document of the Amazon Synod: “… New Paths for the Church and for an Integral Ecology.” The present Covid-19 experience of a global event that touches each one of us gives humanity the opportunity to make that vision a reality.

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Joe Nangle OFM is a Pax Christi USA Ambassador of Peace. As a member of the Assisi Community in Washington, D.C., he is dedicated to simple living and social change. Joe also serves as the Pastoral Associate for the Latino community at Our Lady Queen of Peace, Arlington, Virginia.

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