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Coronavirus in Amazon raises fears of “potential genocide”

If the coronavirus pandemic worsens in the world's major cities, its effects in more remote regions could be catastrophic. For example, in the Amazon, Church initiatives are vital in accompanying indigenous minorities.

Executive Secretary, REPAM
“This extreme and drastic situation helps understand the daily experience of these populations. Now that it's happening also in Europe and North America, it invites us to look for new paths. The synod didn't propose replacing existing paths, but searching for new ones, to give the Church a more concrete presence.”

Mauricio López is executive secretary of the Pan-Amazon Ecclesial Network. He says the crisis caused by the coronavirus is more serious in Amazonian countries like Ecuador, which is the region most impacted by the pandemic. He also includes Venezuela and Brazil. In Brazil, images of mass graves for coronavirus victims in Manaus are truly heartrending.

Executive Secretary, REPAM
“Indigenous towns are especially vulnerable in these situations, since they have a very short immunologic memory. Many of these communities have only recently been contacted, and are thus much more vulnerable in these situations. It's also evident that there's an absolute lack of health care infrastructure and of accompaniment.”

These are communities that, even in the 21st century, don't have access to potable water. This lack of basic hygienic material makes it difficult for them to avoid further spread of the coronavirus.

Executive Secretary, REPAM
“We're facing a potential genocide. They say that because these territories face the highest levels of resource extraction—to support all our Amazonian states and countries—inequality adds to the fragility of the situation, making them even more vulnerable.”

Pope Francis said,

“Caring for ecosystems demands far-sightedness, since no one looking for quick and easy profit is truly interested in their preservation.” (Encyclical Laudato si', 36)

Executive Secretary, REPAM
“What Pope Francis denounces in the Laudato si' encyclical is related to our biggest vulnerability in front of pandemics. It's not that the pandemic is caused by a degradation of the environment. It's that the pandemic hits more forcefully. In other words, the epidemic evolves into a pandemic when there is a lack of equilibrium in the ecosystem.”

Equilibrium goes hand-in-hand with the extraordinary blessing Pope Francis gave during the pandemic. He called the health emergency the moment of “our judgment: a time to choose what matters and what passes away, a time to separate what is necessary from what is not.”

Daniel Díaz Vizzi

Translation: Claudia Torres