Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Brazil, Environmental Destruction and the Church

Amazon River Drying Up

The growing alarm over global warming has many fronts. Polar ice melting, amphibian dwindling, deforestation in South America, Africa and Asia, drought in the southwest and southeast United States, extinction, the list goes on and on. The predicted effect is flooding coastal cities, the loss of small island nations, extinctions, increased starvation and increased international conflict. Not a happy picture.

The conflict appears to be one on a massive scale but the suffering will also be on personal levels. In Brazil the increased destruction of the rain forest is having a devastating effect. Parts of the Amazon River system has actually dried up making transportation among villages impossible. Imagine being part of the largest water system in the world and having to search for water to drink. Additionally, the destruction of the rain forest has lead to dislocation of the native peoples.

Whether looked at globally or nationally the problem looks too big to confront. It is not. Father Henri des Roziers is a French priest working under the auspices of Catholic Agency for Overseas Development (CAFOD). He has worked in Brazil for over 30 years. The good father works with the Pastoral Land Commission (CPT) of the Roman Catholic Church. He supports poor farmers who are in conflict with the large land owners. This work has placed the priest in direct conflict with the large landowners and he is currently under 24 hour police protection.

There have been over 814 killings in the Brazilian state of Para between 1971 and 2006 that are believed to be related to land conflict. The authorities in Para are taking the situation seriously and have provided the priest with four police officers per shift for the past three years. There is a reason for this caution. Sister Dorothy Stang worked for the poor in Para, she was murdered in 2005.

Most of us are not called on to put on life on the line. However, many of us can do something. Project H2O is an example of supporting people and local villages, the use of solar cookers supports women and slows deforestation. Green Peace, Amnesty International, religious-based organizations and environmental groups all provide avenues for us to support others while not having to make the choices Father Henri des Roziers or Sister Dorothy Stang have had to make. Struggles for land, water, food and energy are not going to go away. Faith communities and individual believers need to act on their faith to reduce conflict and improve the environment and quality of life. We are one creation and our job is to be grateful stewards of that gift.

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