“Hear the cries and suffering of the Amazon, who is being abused, exploited and excluded, along with the people”

April 2, 2016

Bishop Rafael Cob is bishop of the Apostolic Vicariate of Puyo , ecclesiastical circumscription walking in the middle of Amazon jungle of Ecuador .  He has accompanied the life of indigenous peoples in the region since 1990, first as a priest and then as bishop. It is a region difficult to access, where isolation makes it difficult for many crimes committed there against nature and the peoples who inhabit the region are known and therefore reported.

Like many bishops of the Pan Amazon, Monsignor Cob is part of the REPAM , the Ecclesial Red Pan Amazon, with the impetus of Pope Francisco, wants to help everyone become aware of the need to care for the region where the bodies vital to our common home.  In this interview he tells how he is articulating REPAM internationally and the steps that should be given to this region, which is essential for the survival of Planet Earth , can be better maintained.

What is REPAM?

REPAM is the Ecclesial Communication Network of the Church in the Amazon, in defense of life and the people who live there.

What is the work done so far REPAM?

There is a program. We, at the level of Ecuador, from Caritas, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference has worked with the vicariates who belong to the Amazon in a training process to sensitize communities about human rights. Also on the effects of threats to which the Amazon is subjected and the consequences of oil exploitation and mining transnationals that threaten to destroy the jungle with deforestation. I think it is worrying the formation of our communities in that regard. Also, they know the laws that protect communities from governments to do not be manipulated or, worse still, that between corruption and stop buying their conscience, that would be the most serious.

What are the countries that are part of this network?

All countries that are part of the Amazon, Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Bolivia, Peru, Brazil, which is the one that has a greater extent, 63%, plus the Guianas. It is a good number of Amazon countries that, thank God, we have had this vision that unity is strength and that together we can achieve goals and objectives separately never reach.

It seems that Pope Francis is quite aware of everything that is happening in this network.

This is because since the beginning, since its origin is from the Department of Justice and Peace of CELAM, where Monsignor Pedro Barreto is taking it hard and begins to support initiatives that come in this way to defend the people of a wild exploitation, and that is why Caritas Ecuador begins to join forces with all the vicariates of the Amazon and a message is released, not only nationally but also internationally. In Puyo, in 2013, it was to have an Amazonian meeting network in which not only the vicariates of Ecuador come together to deal with, but invites international media and guests from other countries, all with the aim of defend the Amazon, because we know that is essential to everything that involves the preservation of the environment and climate of planet Earth referent.

From there and starts and arrives the following year in Brasilia to what would be the official founding, when sent to the Pope the document by which the ecclesiastical jurisdictions represented at that meeting, as they were not yet all Amazon countries, although the vast majority, made the charter, with the motto “the Amazon is the heart of this planet Earth.”Pope approves and encourages, especially with the influence of Cardinal Hummes, since Brazil has long encouraged this important theme of the defense of life in the Amazon and its inhabitants. Cardinal has always been a stone foundation for this to succeed.

With this leads in 2015 to the meeting in Bogota, where we have been present representation of all Amazon countries. CELAM has assumed as an even more important, within the Department of Justice and Peace party, whose job will be to coordinate from this area. It will also be other important forces that have entered, such as Caritas International, the CLAR (Latin American Conference of Religious), which will help this awareness will spread and, while also deepening.

And the people of the Amazon, how they are viewed from this network?

They see in the Church a very big support. Precisely in Bogota were representatives of some indigenous tribes in Venezuela and Ecuador, where they expressed their views in front of these processes that the Amazon is suffering, displaying a message to hear the cries and suffering of the Amazon, which is abused, excluded and exploited, together with the people. I think they saw in the Church a great ally to jointly defend the rights of life in the Amazon. We must now continue to spread this message to all communities.

In Ecuador it is working from the REPAM with these ecclesiastical jurisdictions belonging to the Amazon. There is a training program in which they are taken certain commitments.

Is it still possible to save the Amazon?

I think so, although it has already had deep wounds that are difficult to heal, but obviously suffering on this earth, we must be the first to defend life. We are still in time to make that Amazon is the lung of our common home, as the Pope says, is habitable and the residents who live there can not only be respected in their rights to live in that environment where they were born and work, but also the consequences globally. In a globalized society like ours, we have to look at it from this comprehensive attitude that, in the Laudato If, Pope Francis tells us so clearly, we could deepen the Bogota meeting.

Is the integral ecology, which leads us to see beyond our noses, our square meter, to see that everything affects everyone and we have to see not only from climate aspect, but from this integrated environment of development of the people, of the people who work there and live the consequences of river pollution, over-exploitation, not to take into account how the wealth of the subsoil and what hurts is exploiting land and nature, forgetting their rights.There are even some constitutions that defend the rights of nature, as was done in Ecuador, but sometimes it seems that there is a contradiction between what is written and what then is made or permitted.

That is a bit recover the spirituality of Good Living, which is a very present in the life of indigenous peoples aspect.

That’s right . This philosophy of Sumak Kawsay, which they say, or Living Well, is part of their cosmology, their way of thinking and is very much agree with what we propose on the defense of life, not only of nature, but also people who live there, who care little consequence of habitat are also affected.