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Coronavirus poses new threat to caretakers of the Amazon

The pandemic is amplifying the suffering of isolated populations, like those in the Amazon.

Jesuit organizations, such as the “Amazonian Itinerant Team,” are worried about the virus' progress among indigenous populations. They see an urgent need for governments to implement clear, effective measures to prevent its further spread.

That's why they've made three key moves. One is asking the international community for resources. The second is developing an ethical and prophetic dimension. The third is political advocacy.

Amazonian Itinerant Team
“We can't let our governments stand by with their arms crossed and say, 'There's nothing we can do.' We can't let the pandemic destroy the Amazonian towns nor serve the big economic interests of those who want to continue to exploit natural resources.”

The goal of the ethical dimension is to prevent corruption and individual interests from feeding off this part of the planet.

Now the region's big cities, like Manaus, in Brazil, and Iquitos, in Peru, risk becoming the pandemic's point of entry into vulnerable indigenous towns, which have fewer resources than their neighbors to combat the virus

Missionary Company of the Sacred Heart of Jesus
“We've created an economic, health and structural dependence on the big cities. This new model is different from the indigenous people's former way of life, when they used to depend only upon their surroundings, upon nature.”

Another problem is that thousands of indigenous people are being forced to return to their communities due to a lack of income. This also increases the risk of coronavirus contagion.

The Church in this region has launched initiatives like health isolation centers, promoted by the Vicariate of Jaén, so people in transit can spend time in quarantine before returning to their communities.

“I think the fundamental question isn't how COVID has impacted Amazonian towns. The key issue is how COVID has impacted all of humanity, the entire planet. I think reflections are going in the direction of what Pope Francis already said in the Laudato si', for which we are celebrating a special year. He said everything is deeply interconnected.”

Fr. Fernando López has dedicated many years to defending indigenous minorities. He says there are two lessons to be learned from this difficult moment. One is the need to care for ourselves and the environment. The other is that it's pointless for me to save myself if my neighbor is suffering.

Daniel Díaz Vizzi

Translation: Claudia Torres