“The fact that Pope Francis visits Mexico and that the government tells him what the people need is not enough (…) We need him to really intervene in such tough problems as the dispossession of lands and the destruction of nature.
Mexico is a country hit by violence, corruption, government impositions in favor of companies and corporations that end up ignoring our rights and devastating our territory to satisfy their interests, ”the indigenous Mexican leader Claudia Solís Hernández told Noticias Aliadas.
Solís Hernández participated together with indigenous and peasant leaders in the Latin American indigenous summit called “With the encyclical Laudato If we defend the rights to land, territory and forests”, which on February 13 and 14 brought together a hundred indigenous representatives of 15 Latin American countries in San Cristóbal de Las Casas, Chiapas, within the framework of Pope Francis' first visit to Mexico between February 12 and 17.
Laudato Si (Praise You), Pope Francis' second encyclical, published in June 2015, accepts the scientific consensus that global warming is a human responsibility and blames the indifference of the developed world for the destruction of the planet due to its relentless pursuit of short-term economic gains, arguing that nature cannot be seen as separate from humanity or simply the place where we live.
“It is essential to pay special attention to Aboriginal communities with their cultural traditions. They are not a simple minority among others, but must become the main interlocutors, especially when it comes to advancing large projects that affect their spaces. For them, the land is not an economic asset, but a gift from God and from the ancestors who rest on it, a sacred space with which they need to interact to sustain their identity and their values ”, says the encyclical. “When they remain in their territories, they are precisely the ones who best take care of them. However, in various parts of the world, they are under pressure to abandon their lands in order to free them for extractive and agricultural projects that do not pay attention to the degradation of nature and culture ”.
The good life
Latin American indigenous communities feel that the Pope's message echoes his concept of Good Living, based on the sustainable use of natural resources.
“The encyclical is the first document in which the Pope refers to the climatic and ecological situation. There is an element that for us is fundamental: the recognition of the role that we indigenous people have had and the call to the human family to reflect that we are in a common home. This thought coincides with the thought of the Good Living of the indigenous peoples who consider Mother Nature as their universe, as the one that gives sustenance, because we have a spiritual bond with her ”, indicates the Panamanian indigenous leader Cándido Mezúa, of the Mesoamerican Alliance of Peoples and Forests (AMPB).
Arlen Ribeiro, a member of the Huitoto indigenous people in Colombia and representative of the Coordinator of Indigenous Organizations of the Amazon Basin (COICA), adds that Pope Francis' next step should be the publication of "an indigenous Laudato Si that can contain the knowledge ancestral traditions of indigenous peoples ”.
According to Ribeiro, despite the fact that indigenous peoples play a key role in the conservation of natural resources, they are often ignored in the global debate on climate change. Ribeiro admits that because many of the countries that have signed Convention 169 on Indigenous and Tribal Peoples of the International Labor Organization (ILO) have not complied with its terms, it will not be an easy task for governments to heed the Pope's message. . However, he considers that an indigenous Laudato Si encyclical "may be a moral appeal to the States to assume the responsibility of stopping the path they are leading us on, which is that of destruction."
“If there is not a voice of the indigenous peoples denouncing, being insistent in their proposals, the governments are not going to change because they want to. We want to ask the Pope that he can serve so that the messages of the indigenous peoples are considered by the governments. We have the advantage that the majority of Latin American countries are Catholic in nature and that can positively influence policies ”, added Mezúa.
As part of his visit to Mexico, Pope Francis arrived in Chiapas on February 15, where he met with eight indigenous representatives who expressed their views on Laudato Si and raised the main issues discussed during the summit, including climate change. , indigenous autonomy and the right to prior and informed consultation.
Mass in indigenous languages
During his stay, the Pontiff visited the tomb of Monsignor Samuel Ruiz (1924-2011), bishop emeritus of San Cristóbal de Las Casas, who once caused the wrath of the Vatican by celebrating mass in accordance with indigenous customs and in indigenous languages. and presented a decree that officially authorizes local Catholic priests to celebrate Mass in the different languages spoken in Chiapas: Tzeltal, Tzotzil, and Chol.
Pope Francis' visit to Chiapas - the poorest state in Mexico and one of those with the largest indigenous population in the country - coincided with the twentieth anniversary of the San Andrés Accords on February 16, which ended the conflict between the Mexican government and the rebels of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN).
The agreements were based on respect for indigenous autonomy and diversity and the conservation of natural resources within indigenous territories, demands that have not been met, affirm the indigenous communities of Chiapas.
At the end of his stay in Chiapas, Pope Francis visited the state of Michoacán and Ciudad Juárez, located on the border with the United States, which has become the second most violent city in the world as a result of drug trafficking.
Although the majority of the Mexican population greeted him with open arms, the Pontiff's refusal to meet with the relatives of the 43 students of the rural normal school of Ayotzinapa, Guerrero, who were kidnapped and disappeared by police on September 26, 2014 , or victims of sexual abuse by Catholic priests, provoked criticism from human rights defenders, including members of the Catholic Church.
Spanish theologian Juan José Tamayo, who attended the indigenous summit, told Noticias Aliadas that Pope Francis' decision not to meet with these groups was "a mistake."
In Chiapas, human rights activists displayed a banner with the number "43" splattered with red paint to show their discontent over the Pontiff's refusal to meet with the families of the disappeared students from Ayotzinapa.
They also did not attend the mass that Pope Francis celebrated in Ciudad Juárez in protest of the fact that the Pontiff did not grant them a private meeting and that only three family members were invited to attend the liturgy.
When asked about his controversial decision not to meet with these groups, Pope Francis said during his flight back to Rome that “there were many groups” who had requested to meet with him and that “it was practically impossible to receive all the groups which, on the other hand, were also at odds with each other ”.