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Devastating fires have affected more than 2,200 kilometres in the Amazon

27/08/2019: General House

In recent days, the whole world has expressed its concern over the fires that have devastated the Amazon jungle. Last Sunday, the Pope exhorted the Church to pray that the fire may be extinguished with the collaboration of all.

On the 22nd, the bishops of Latin America also expressed their concern about the seriousness of the tragedy and said: “We urge the governments of the Amazon countries, especially Brazil and Bolivia, the United Nations and the international community to take serious measures to save the lungs of the world. What happens to the Amazon is not just a local issue but of global reach. If the Amazon suffers, the world suffers.”

The 22nd General Chapter asked all the Marists of Champagnat to pay special attention to ecology, “challenge us to awaken in ourselves and those around us an ecological awareness that engages us in caring for 'our common home'”.

The next Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, from October 6 to 27, has as its theme the Pan-Amazonian Region. The Preparatory Document recalls that “the Amazon is a region with rich biodiversity; it is multi-ethnic, multi-cultural, and multi-religious; it is a mirror of all humanity which, in defense of life, requires structural and personal changes by all human beings, by nations, and by theChurch.”

"The cry that comes from the Amazon not only refers to its self-preservation, but also to the living conditions on Earth. If the Amazonian ecosystems continue to fail, the quality of human life in the global sense will be compromised," says Brother João Gutemberg, from the Province of Brasil Sul-Amazônia.

 

Marist Presence

Our Marist presence in the Amazon goes back more than 100 years. It was in 1903 when the missionary Brothers, coming from the Province of Aubenas - France, settled in Belém do Pará, founding the Province of Brasil Norte, which today belongs to the Province of Brasil Centro-Norte. At present, four Marist Provinces form part of the territory of the International Amazon: Brasil Sul-Amazonia, Brasil Centro-Norte, Norandina and Santa María de los Andes. In this region there also exists an International Marist Community of the Lavalla200> Project, in Tabatinga.

 

Br. Saturnino, from Province of Santa Maria de los Andes, writes about the situation in Bolivia

The Marists of the Province are on the front line defending the Amazon, especially in Bolivia, in Roboré. Brother Saturnino Alonso, Provincial, sent the following text on August 27.

 

“For the last few days I have been in Roboré, which is the centre of fire control operations in the Bolivian Amazon.

During this time In Roboré there are no classes in order to prevent breathing problems.

In our school during the weekend we welcomed into the classrooms around 50 people from 3 peasant communities. As the fire was close to their communities they evacuated infants with their mothers, children and elderly people. After spending the night and Sunday at school, in the evening they returned to their villages.

Later, they stayed at the fire-fighter's school (there are currently 100) who had arrived from other parts of Bolivia to help the large contingent of soldiers, police, fire-fighters, doctors and other volunteers who have been working in the area for several days fighting the fires.

The teachers and people from different institutions, in coordination with the Mayor's Office, are engaged in preparing food in large common pots for several hundred people, those who are working on fire control, those who look after the health and other needs of the communities (small towns) and those who look after various other needs.

There is a constant flow of aid with materials to put out the fire, bottled water, medicines, masks to protect against contamination and food for the affected population and for those who collaborate in fire control and health care.

And prayers are being intensified to ask the God of Life to send rain to stop so many environmental disasters, caused by fires, among the population, the animals, and the great diversity of flora and fauna of the place.

One problem is that sometimes through social networks there are stories that are false. And they cause fear. The situation is very serious, but in the large populations it is controlled, they suffer more in the peasant communities that are closer to the forest suffer more.

And since we are in the midst of political campaigning for the October elections, all the groups are taking advantage of it to make it political. When they bring help, many seek to take pictures of themselves in which they are shown to be helping. Yes, it is evidence of dedication, but in many cases the suffering of the people is being used for personal benefit. That, too, is a pity.

This has worldwide repercussions because the Amazon is one of the great lungs of the Planet.

In the educational works of Bolivia, there is great participation in the population of Roboré and its surroundings. And in other places they are collecting and sending solidarity aid: bottled water, non-perishable food, medicines (eye drops, gauze, chinstraps, serums, ointments, ...), clothes, shoes. The intention is to collect materials in order to support, above all, later on, when there is no longer so much aid and when the rivers have become polluted and this has a greater impact on the populations that have been left without resources for their survival where they live.

And we will study at Province level sustainable aid that we can deal with.

At the regional level the situation is also very complicated because it is not only in Bolivia. The Amazon in Brazil, which is the largest, is also suffering large conflagrations. In the Chaco, Paraguay, they are also suffering from fires.”

Br. Saturnino Alonso, Provincial of Santa Maria de los Andes

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