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Pope condemns policies that 'strangle' indigenous in Amazon

In Puerto Maldonado, Peru, in the middle of the Amazon, the crowds were ready to receive the author of Laudato si’, Pope Francis.

In the Mother of God Coliseum, he met with more than 3,500 representatives of native communities from all over the country. The whole region waited with great expectation for the visit.

Hector and Yésica from the Harakmbut tribe explained to the pope that the native Amazon populations feel like victims of a double persecution: their lands are exploited and polluted and their way of life and culture are threatened and unappreciated.

"We are asking him to defend us. Outsiders see us as weak and insist on taking away our land in different ways. We want our children to study, but we do not want the school to erase our traditions, our languages, we do not want to forget our ancestral wisdom."

The pope began his speech quoting St. Francis’ “Canticle of the Creatures.” He said the words of this song fall short because of the deep wounds suffered by the region and its people.

The pope denounced that the Amazon cannot be considered "an inexhaustible pantry" by the States, and that it does not take into account the rights of its inhabitants. The world, he said, has much to learn from the indigenous people.

"Allow me to state that if, for some, you are viewed as an obstacle or a hindrance, in reality, your lives cry out against a style of life that is oblivious to its own real cost. You are a living memory of the mission that God has entrusted to us all: the protection of our common home."

He also denounced human trafficking, sexual abuse and the sterilization of women.

"Violence against adolescents and against women cries out to heaven. Let us not look the other way. There is a greater conspiracy than we think. This issue involves everyone! We need to speak out against the pressure applied to certain countries by international organizations that promote reproductive policies favoring infertility. These are particularly directed at the native peoples. We know too that the practice of sterilizing women, at times without their knowledge, continues to be promoted."

Pope Francis warned against "ideological colonialism, disguised as progress, that slowly but surely dissipate cultural identities and establish a uniform, single and weak way of thinking.”

He also recalled that in 2019 there will be a Synod on the Amazon. Besides promoting the evangelization of the region, the objective is to study ways for the Church to accompany indigenous populations as they face challenges of the modern world.

At the end of the ceremony, the pope was greeting by those dressed in indigenous attire. They gifted him pieces they had made, like this painting.