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FOSPA 2022: ecumenical and inter-religious group promotes act in homage to the martyrs of the Amazon Rainforest

To the sound of the Suraras do Tapajós drums, banners for each and every one of the martyrs of the Amazon rainforest were carried onto the stage, to the loud cries of the audience: “They live on! They live on! They live on!” Photo: Mídia Ninja

 

Banners, gowns, turbans and drums: a lot of mysticism made sure the ‘Martyrs of the Amazon Rainforest’ act, held on 29 July, was an inter-religious and diverse meeting. The auditorium of the Benedito Nunes Event Centre at the Federal University of Pará (Universidade Federal do Pará: UFPA) in Belem was the venue chosen to receive hundreds of people who share the ideals of the men and women who have fallen (been murdered) defending lives in the region.

The act was attended by more than eight hundred people to pay homage to twenty martyrs from Pan-Amazonian countries and the states of the Brazilian Amazon, representing all those who have dedicated their lives to defending the forest and the peoples who inhabit it.  These are the martyrs who were honoured: Chico Mendes, Sister Dorothy, Zé Claudio and Maria do Espírito Santo, Dom Pedro Casaldáliga, Bruno Pereira, Dom Phillips and Wilson Pinheiro; Chief Emyra Wajãpi; Augustinian Recollect Missionary Sister Cleusa; Paulino Guajajara; Vicente Cañas Costa; Dilma Ferreira Silva; Nilce de Souza Magalhães – Nicinha; the Yanomami People; Josimo Morais Tavares, Father Josimo; Nicolasa Nosa de Cuvene; Alcides Jiménez Chicangana, Father Alcides; Alejandro Labaka and Inés Arango; Sister Maria Agustina de Jesús Rivas López, Aguchita, and the indigenous peoples, the great martyrs of the Rainforest.

Before the act started, attendees wrote the names of family members and friends who died of COVID-19 on a placard.  This “Martyrs of COVID-19” placard opened the homage to the martyrs.

Alcidema Magalhães and José Francisco dos Santos Batista, from the Dorothy Committee (Comitê Dorothy), introduced the event, stressing the importance of this moment at the 10th Pan-Amazonian Social Forum (Fórum Social Pan-Amazônico: FOSPA): “The Amazon doesn’t have time to wait. The situation in the Amazon is a global emergency.  We therefore need the kind of hope that acts, that revolutionizes, to have hope to change the Amazon’s history.  The largest tropical rainforest on the planet is pleading for help. And our hope has to be revolutionary.  We have to come together to fight in defence of the Amazon.”

Photo – Rodrigo Viellas

Mam´etu Nangetu, representing the Inter-religious Committee of the State of Pará (Comitê Inter-religioso do Estado do Pará), welcomed everyone on behalf of all the religious representatives and honoured martyrs. In a heated speech about the importance of the martyrs’ struggle as inspiration for everyone to fight in defence of the peoples of the Amazon, she ended her blessing saying: “In the name of all the Amazonian Gods, in the name of Jesus, Buddha, Jehovah, the Ladies of the Waters and the Lords of Creation, it is my desire that every leaf on the trees of nature fall on us, giving us life, prosperity, luck, peace and love, at this time.  May each of you leave here feeling stronger.  May we have no weapons, but a lot of peace and love in our hearts.”

Mam´etu Nangetu from the Inter-religious Committee of the State of Pará at the act’s opening blessing. Photo: Bruno Almeida

Short videos were shown about the lives of the Pan-Amazonian martyrs who were honoured. The IAÇÁ Dance group from the Evangelical Church of the Lutheran Confession in Brazil (Igreja Evangélica de Confissão Luterana do Brasil: IECLB) and the Atabaques group from Mam´etu Nangetu’s African-origin worship house also celebrated the struggle of the peoples of the rainforest.

The Mártires da Floresta Amazônica (Martyrs of the Amazon Rainforest) booklet was also launched on the day; it contains a brief biography of each of the martyrs honoured. The launch was followed by a procession to the banks of the Guamá River, where an inter-religious celebration, with a large Carimbó circle dance, brought hope and celebrated the lives of all the peoples of the Pan-Amazon.  Download the Mártires da Floresta Amazônica publication in Portuguese HERE and in Spanish HERE.

Sônia Mota / Photo: Bruno Almeida

Pastor Sônia Mota, CESE’s Executive Director, declared that the act was a sacred moment for the memories of people who are no longer with us, who sadly fell defending their communities and territories: “We want to remember these women, men and entire communities who were persecuted, expelled, decimated. We also remember the martyr of nature,” she said.

Following the publication’s launch, the audience went out in procession, singing indigenous, African-origin and Christian church songs, with banners containing the names of those who died to defend the forest and it original and traditional peoples.

Photo: Bruno Almeida

 

From left to right: Dorismeire Almeida de Vasconcelos – REPAM Brazil; Nhandeci Adelaide Lopes – Guarani Kaiowá People; Clarice Gama da Silva Arbella – Tukano People / Association of Indigenous Women Residents from Alto Rio Negro in Manaus / AMARN and Mam´etu Nangetu  – Inter-religious Committee of the State of Pará marching for peace, in homage to the lives of those who have fallen and against racism and political and religious intolerance. / Photo: Bruno Almeida.

Photo: Bruno Almeida

For Father Dário Bossi, National Advisor of the Pan-Amazonian Ecclesial Network (Rede Eclesial Pan-Amazonica: REPAM), “The martyrs have taught us many things, including indignation. […] They call on us to be indignant about a system that has condemned the Amazon, and its people, to death.”

“This was an act against political and religious fundamentalism, an act of faith and great respect for the sacred revealed in every way of being and existing on this earth. Out of our diversity it is possible to plant respect and harvest beauty, hope and peace. We are not talking about a Sacred that is above everyone.  We dare to experience the wind that blows freely between us and invites us to Love as a revolutionary act,” Sonia declared.

With support from the Ford Foundation, the entire act was organized by the 10th FOSPA Ecumenical and Inter-religious Coordination Group (Grupo Articulação Ecumênica e Inter-religiosa), made up of the following faith-based organizations: Ecumenical Coordination of Service (Coordenadoria Ecumênica de Serviços: CESE), the ACT (Brazil) Ecumenical Forum (Fórum Ecumênico ACT Brasil: FEACT), the Process of International Networking and Dialogue (Processo de Articulação e Diálogo Internacional: PAD), the National Council of Christian Churches of Brazil (Conselho Nacional de Igrejas Cristãs do Brasil: CONIC), the Churches and Mining Network (Rede Igrejas e Mineração), the Pan-Amazonian Ecclesial Network (Rede Eclesial Pan-Amazonica: REPAM), the Amazonizar Network (Rede Amazonizar), the Council of Mission among Indians (Conselho de Missão entre Índios: COMIN), the Indigenous Missionary Council (Conselho Indigenista Missionário: CIMI), the Amazonian Council of Christian Churches (Conselho Amazônico de Igrejas Cristãs: CAIC), the Pastoral Land Commission (Comissão Pastoral da Terra: CPT), the Dorothy Committee (Comitê Dorothy), the Evangelical Church of the Lutheran Confession (Igreja Evangélica de Confissão Luterana: IECL) in Belem, the Anglican Episcopal Church of Brazil (Igreja Episcopal Anglicana do Brasil: IEAB) in Belem, the National Centre of Africanity and Afro-Brazilian Resistance (Centro Nacional de Africanidade e Resistência Afro-Brasileira: CENARAB), the Inter-religious Committee of the State of Pará (Comitê Inter-religioso do Estado do Pará) and Koinonia.

Watch the Act for the Martyrs of the Amazon Rainforest at UFPA.

Find more photos of the Act on CESE’s Facebook page.

About the 10th FOSPA: the 10th FOSPA is the principal event for mobilization, resistance and hope in the Pan-Amazon. In 2022, it was marked by increased poverty on the Latin-American continent, the war in Europe and the war declared against the Amazon by predatory extractivism, narco-trafficking, illegal fishing and similar.  This was the year of the murder of so many defenders of nature, including the recent deaths of Bruno Pereira and British journalist Dom Phillips.  In this edition, the forum was divided into thematic houses – the Houses of Knowledge and Feelings, collectively constructed according to the central lines of debate and approved by the International Committee of the 10th FOSPA.  The name given to each house reflects the scope of the agenda issues: House of Common Goods; House of the Peoples and Rights; House of the Territories and Self-government; and the House of Mother Earth.

About the Ecumenical and Interreligious Coordination Group – TAPIRI

In the House of the Peoples and Rights, the following faith-based organizations: CESE, FEACT, PAD, CONIC, the Churches and Mining Network, REPAM, the Amazonizar Network, COMIN, CIMI, CAIC, CPT, Dorothy Committee, IECLB/Belém, IEAB/Belém, CENARAB, the Inter-religious Committee of the State of Pará and Koinonia – collectively constructed an Ecumenical and Inter-religious Tapiri (Tapiri Ecumênico e Inter-religioso). Tapiri is an indigenous word meaning a “hut to shelter wanderers”. Based on this meaning, the group proposed inter-religious dialogue between the organizations that work in the legal Amazon and the Pan-Amazon, strengthening the struggles for the promotion and guarantee of the rights of the people of the Amazon and combatting religious and political fundamentalism.