- The preservation of the environment and social problems in this part of the country are two big concerns of the Holy Father.
- It is the first time a Holy Father visits Puerto Maldonado.
- Francis emphasized the struggle of the Amazonian Church to encourage intercultural education and of his missionaries to defend their cultures.
Lima, January 19, 2018. – Pope Francis arrived in Puerto Maldonado, “Biodiversity Capital of Peru”, in the eastern region of Madre de Dios. He came to meet with the people and listen to the voices of native communities, in order to call to take care of the Amazon and protect those who live there.
The Holy Father arrived at Padre José Aldámiz Airport at 10:10 a.m. and was welcomed by a group of children and the Vicar of Puerto Maldonado, Monsignor David Martínez de Aguirre Guinea. At his arrival, the Pope shared some moments with the little ones and greeted the youngsters who performed a typical dance.
Then, he headed to Madre de Dios sport centre in a closed car to meet the indigenous people of the Amazon, to listen to their testimonies and to deliver a message.
ENCOUNTER WITH THE AMAZON PEOPLE
“I have really been looking forward to this meeting. Thank you for being here and for helping me to see up close the reflection of this land in your faces,” expressed Pope Francis emotionally at the beginning of his speech and before the representatives of the native peoples of Harakbut, Esse-ejas, Matsiguenkas, Yines, Shipibos, Asháninkas, Yaneshas, Kakintes, Nahuas, Yaminahuas, Juni, Kuin, Madijá, Manchineris, Kukamas, Kandozi, Quichuas, Huitotos, Shawis, Achuar, Boras, Awajún, Wampís, who gathered there.
In reference to the problems experienced by the inhabitants of the indigenous peoples and their daily struggle to preserve their ancestral habitat and cultures, he stated, “We have to break with the historical paradigm that sees the Amazon as an inexhaustible source of supplies for the States without taking its inhabitants into account.”
GREETINGS FROM THE AMAZON PEOPLE TO FRANCIS
Likewise, the Pope received the greetings from Héctor Suyo and Yesica Patiachi, members of the native people of “Harakbut”, who told Pope Francis that his arrival reminded them of the Spanish dominican missionary Jose Alvarez Fernandez, who transported students from the missions and supplies to those indigenous peoples in need. “He came for us when they were eradicating us.”
After the greetings from the communities’ representatives, the Pope gave them the Laudato Sí (Praise be to you), an encyclical translated into their native languages.
This meeting was marked by different artistic expressions prepared for Francis. Finally, the Holy Father was given a tawas, a sort of crown from the native people of Awajún.
THE REALITY OF NATIVE PEOPLES IN MADRE DE DIOS
Choosing Puerto Maldonado as one of the cities for Pope Francis’ visit to Peru was not made by chance. The concern of the Head of the Catholic Church for the social problems in this remote area of the country, aggravated by crimes such as human trafficking, forced labour and illegal mining, will make the whole world pay attention to these issues. His presence in Puerto Maldonado will help us to become aware of these problems that affect many Peruvian people.
“(…) there is another devastating assault on life that comes with this environmental contamination caused by illegal mining. I am speaking of human trafficking: slave labour and sexual abuse. Violence against adolescents and women is a cry to heaven”, said the Pope.
The indigenous or native peoples are communities that descend from the inhabitants of the land before colonization and that, even after so many years, keep and maintain the way the organize themselves, work and live in their place of origin. However, it is not always the case. Some of these peoples have been displaced by their own communities.
There are 55 indigenous or native peoples in Peru. According to the data from the Ministry of Culture, there are 51 in the Amazon and 4 in the Andes.
Regarding Madre de Dios, it is estimated that around 19 thousand people belong to the indigenous or native communities, representing almost 18% of all the inhabitants.
Pope Francis’ Visit to Peru
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