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Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Querida Amazonia
2 February 2020
…26. The Amazon region ought to be a place of social dialogue, especially between the various original peoples, for the sake of developing forms of fellowship and joint struggle. The rest of us are called to participate as “guests” and to seek out with great respect paths of encounter that can enrich the Amazon region. If we wish to dialogue, we should do this in the first place with the poor. They are not just another party to be won over, or merely another individual seated at a table of equals. They are our principal dialogue partners, those from whom we have the most to learn, to whom we need to listen out of a duty of justice, and from whom we must ask permission before presenting our proposals. Their words, their hopes and their fears should be the most authoritative voice at any table of dialogue on the Amazon region. And the great question is: “What is their idea of ‘good living’ for themselves and for those who will come after them?”
27. Dialogue must not only favour the preferential option on behalf of the poor, the marginalized and the excluded, but also respect them as having a leading role to play. Others must be acknowledged and esteemed precisely as others, each with his or her own feelings, choices and ways of living and working. Otherwise, the result would be, once again, “a plan drawn up by the few for the few”, if not “a consensus on paper or a transient peace for a contented minority”. Should this be the case, “a prophetic voice must be raised”, and we as Christians are called to make it heard.
36. Like all cultural realities, the cultures of the interior Amazon region have their limits. Western urban cultures have them as well. Factors like consumerism, individualism, discrimination, inequality, and any number of others represent the weaker side of supposedly more developed cultures. The ethnic groups that, in interaction with nature, developed a cultural treasure marked by a strong sense of community, readily notice our darker aspects, which we do not recognize in the midst of our alleged progress. Consequently, it will prove beneficial to listen to their experience of life.
37. Starting from our roots, let us sit around the common table, a place of conversation and of shared hopes. In this way our differences, which could seem like a banner or a wall, can become a bridge. Identity and dialogue are not enemies. Our own cultural identity is strengthened and enriched as a result of dialogue with those unlike ourselves. Nor is our authentic identity preserved by an impoverished isolation. Far be it from me to propose a completely enclosed, a-historic, static “indigenism” that would reject any kind of blending (mestizaje). A culture can grow barren when it “becomes inward-looking, and tries to perpetuate obsolete ways of living by rejecting any exchange or debate with regard to the truth about man”. That would be unrealistic, since it is not easy to protect oneself from cultural invasion. For this reason, interest and concern for the cultural values of the indigenous groups should be shared by everyone, for their richness is also our own. If we ourselves do not increase our sense of co-responsibility for the diversity that embellishes our humanity, we can hardly demand that the groups from the interior forest be uncritically open to “civilization”.
38. In the Amazon region, even between the different original peoples, it is possible to develop “intercultural relations where diversity does not mean threat, and does not justify hierarchies of power of some over others, but dialogue between different cultural visions, of celebration, of interrelationship and of revival of hope”.
Endangered cultures, peoples at risk
39. The globalized economy shamelessly damages human, social and cultural richness. The disintegration of families that comes about as a result of forced migrations affects the transmission of values, for “the family is and has always been the social institution that has most contributed to keeping our cultures alive”. Furthermore, “faced with a colonizing invasion of means of mass communication”, there is a need to promote for the original peoples “alternative forms of communication based on their own languages and cultures” and for “the indigenous subjects themselves [to] become present in already existing means of communication”.
40. In any project for the Amazon region, “there is a need to respect the rights of peoples and cultures and to appreciate that the development of a social group presupposes an historical process which takes place within a cultural context and demands the constant and active involvement of local people from within their own culture. Nor can the notion of the quality of life be imposed from without, for quality of life must be understood within the world of symbols and customs proper to each human group”. If the ancestral cultures of the original peoples arose and developed in intimate contact with the natural environment, then it will be hard for them to remain unaffected once that environment is damaged.
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