This statement first appeared in Spanish in the Facebook page of our Peruvian partner, the Comisión episcopal de acción social. It has been reproduced here with their permission.
In 2018, Pope Francis set foot in the remote Peruvian Amazon city of Puerto Maldonado and called for a break with the “historical paradigm which considers the Amazon a perpetually restocked pantry for the states without any concern for its inhabitants.”
Sadly, almost six years to the day later, with no prior consultation with the peoples who inhabit the highly biodiverse region, the Peruvian Congress approved changes to the Forestry and Wildlife Law which has been dubbed the “Deforestry Law” by our civil society and church partners.
Law 31973 legalizes farming activities in the Amazon that can only be carried out after the deforestation of previously protected areas. It endangers previously unreached Amazon indigenous peoples – highly vulnerable to diseases brought by outsiders – and who have mourned the assassination of 33 of their leaders in the last ten years. And it puts at increased risk those communities whose lands have still not been titled.
The legislation has also been condemned by the National Coordination of Human Rights and the bishops of the Peruvian Amazon. Even the Canadian embassy has expressed concerns that the new law may not be coherent with Peru’s commitments to protect environment and biodiversity and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Many will recall that Peru was host to the COP 20 in Lima in 2014, where the government stood on the world stage and rallied states to help cool the planet.
Our partners’ statement is reproduced below. To read the original version, click here.
POPE FRANCIS: “STOP DESTROYING FORESTS, WETLANDS AND MOUNTAINS”.
WE DREAM OF AN AMAZON AND ITS PEOPLES WITHOUT DANGER; THEREFORE, WE REJECT THE MODIFICATIONS TO THE FORESTRY LAW AND DEMAND ITS REPEAL.
The pastoral teams that make up the Pastoral Network of Indigenous Peoples and Integral Ecology in Peru, in view of the recent promulgation of Law 31973, a law that modifies Law 29763, the Forestry and Wild Fauna Law, and which approves complementary provisions aimed at promoting forest zoning, state the following:
- We regret that, through an illegal political maneuver, the President of the Congress has bypassed the procedure of two reconsiderations and signed the aforementioned law, perpetrating a pernicious attack against the Amazon that puts our common home at risk, placing economic interests above people and nature, of which we are a part.
- The enacted Law No. 31973 facilitates access to Amazonian forests, legalizing agricultural activities that are carried out due to the illegal deforestation of protected forests in indigenous territories, in indigenous reserves of peoples in voluntary isolation and initial contact, and even in protected areas, making it possible to expand the expansion of the agricultural frontier, not by supporting small farmers, as they say, but rather favoring fundamentally large companies, oil palm monoculture, and illegal activities of drug trafficking, illegal mining, and illegal logging, with the impacts that these also generate, aggravating climate change and violence, as is currently happening in our brother country of Ecuador.
- Law No. 31973, by allowing the “legalization” of illegal economic activities in Amazonian territories, exposes Environmental and Territorial Defenders to greater risks, particularly our Amazonian Indigenous Peoples and Indigenous Peoples in Voluntary Isolation and Initial Contact (PIACI [in Spanish]), who are “guardians of the forests and our common home”, who protect our Amazon, and who have been assassinated 33 times in the last 10 years, showing that the protocols for their protection are not working. These are crimes against the Amazon and its defenders.
- Likewise, it seeks to favor some groups and interests with “legal security”, when there are 710 native communities in the Amazon that have not been titled, and it is precisely their territories that were invaded to carry out these agricultural activities, because they do not have “legal security”. The titling of territories and prior consultation are tasks that the Peruvian state is obliged to recognize and carry out, according to the provisions of the Convention 169 of the International Labour Organization and Law No. 29785, the Law on Prior Consultation in Peru. We recall that the supreme purpose of the Peruvian State in the Constitution is the the defense of the human person and the respect of his dignity. It is no other.
For all these reasons, we make our own the dreams of Pope Francis in his Apostolic Exhortation Querida Amazonia, which he shared with us in Puerto Maldonado in 2018 during his visit to Peru, in our own Amazonia, desolated and consumed by the monocultures of the big companies, by the oil spills and the exploitation of hydrocarbons, by the illegal economic activities of drug trafficking, mining, and logging. Therefore, we say:
- I dream of an Amazon that fights for the rights of the poorest, of the original peoples, of the least of these, where their voice is heard and their dignity is promoted.
- I dream of an Amazon that preserves the cultural richness that makes it stand out, where human beauty shines in so many diverse ways.
- I dream of a (decolonized) Amazonia that jealously guards the overwhelming natural beauty that adorns it, the overflowing life that fills its rivers and jungles.
- I dream of Christian communities capable of giving themselves and becoming incarnated in the Amazon, to the point of giving the Church new faces with Amazonian features.
In the recent Apostolic Exhortation Laudate Deum, Pope Francis reminds us that “attacks on nature have consequences for people’s lives” (LD 3), and he makes a call to those who can intervene to be “strategists capable of considering the common good and the future of their children, more than the short-term interests of certain countries or businesses. In this way, may they demonstrate the nobility of politics and not its shame” (LD 60).
The mafias entrenched in the decision-making bodies of our country, the public officials who guarantee economic interests before the rights of the people, the large economic interests that create pressure to continue favoring themselves, all of them who have promoted and defend this norm do not understand that the future is at stake, not only of our Amazon, but also of nature in general, our common home, and of ourselves, human beings who are part of it.
The situations of violence that are already occurring in our brother country of Ecuador, we are already experiencing them in our own flesh in Peru, and with this law they will become more acute, because it is making it easier for the illegal economy to take control of the country, putting at risk first the lives of the indigenous peoples and then the future of our common home.
We urgently demand the repeal of Law 31973 and we ask the international community to intervene, because it is not only about Peru, but about the planet, about our common home.
Peru, January 11, 2024
RED PASTORAL PUEBLOS INDÍGENAS Y ECOLOGÍA INTEGRAL
COMISIÓN EPISCOPAL DE ACCIÓN SOCIAL – CEAS / OFICINA DE DEERECHOS HUMANOS – VICARIATO DE SAN RAMÓN / PASTORAL AMBIENTAL – DIÓCESIS DE CHICLAYO / PASTORAL SOCIAL Y DE DIGNIDAD HUMANA – ARZOBISPADO DE HUANCAYO / PASTORAL SOCIAL – VICARIATO DE REQUENA / DERECHOS HUMANOS Y MEDIO AMBIENTE – PUNO / CENTRO DE ESPIRITUALIDAD COLUMBANO – CEM LIMA NORTE / ÁREA JUSTICIA Y PAZ – DIÓCESIS DE CHULUCANAS / PASTORAL SOCIAL – ARZOBISPADO DE LIMA / PASTORAL SOCIAL – ARZOBISPADO DE CUSCO / COMISIÓN DE ECOLOGÍA Y CUIDADO DE LA CREACIÓN – DIÓCESIS DE LURÍN / PASTORAL SOCIAL – VICARIATO DE PUERTO MALDONADO / PASTORAL SOCIAL – VICARIATO DE JAÉN / PASTORAL DE LA TIERRA – VICARIATO DE YURIMAGUAS / PASTORAL SOCIAL Y DIGNIDAD HUMANA – DIÓCESIS DE CHOSICA / COMISIÓN DE JUSTICIA Y PAZ – DIOCESIS DE CHIMBOTE / ASOCIACIÓN MARIANISTA DE ACCIÓN SOCIAL – AMAS – OTUZCO / CENTRO LOYOLA – AYACUCHO