Brazil – Fr Justino Rezende: "School education that takes into account themes of Amazon and environment"

03 June 2020

(ANS - Saõ Paulo) - "Dealing with the Amazon, ecology and the environment today means dealing with thorny issues," says Fr Justino Sarmento Rezende, SDB. A member of the Tuyuka people, the Salesian priest was part of the Special Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops for the Pan-Amazon region. He currently works in the Salesian Mission of Marauiá in the far north-west of the Amazon.

With the publication of the Laudato Sì Apostolic Exhortation, the concept of "integral ecology" was established. What does it mean?

I learned that our human life is linked to that of many living beings ... Our educators have taught us that human life is linked to these worlds and that these worlds and their inhabitants are linked to human beings. Our sages understand that the world is a ritual home (maloca). Everyone has a place in this house. This understanding promotes individual and community responsibility to respect the various worlds and their inhabitants, because then we will also be respected by them.

What's going on in the Amazon region?

The ambition and greed of large companies presume to occupy more and more spaces. I see these realities with great sadness ... Ambition then provokes invasions. The current context clearly expresses the project of decimation of indigenous peoples. We therefore live in an atmosphere of helplessness and uncertainty. And there is no respect for the Federal Constitution.

Are these problems related to the advance of Covid-19 in the Amazon region? What has been done to protect indigenous and river populations from coronavirus?

Covid-19 shows the harsh reality of government policy towards indigenous peoples, who live in various regions of Brazil and the Amazon. The peoples themselves have resorted to traditional forms of finding refuge in the most remote areas of their communities. We are in a difficult situation. For this reason, awareness-raising work has intensified.

What can be done in defense of ecology?

Dealing with the Amazon, ecology and the environment today means dealing with thorny issues ... In any case, we must work for a school education that takes into account the issues of the Amazon, ecology, the environment, of the peoples of the Amazon ...

What can Catholics do in urban centers in defense of ecology and the environment?

During the period of preparation for the Synod on the Pan-Amazon region, I was a councilor of the Synod and participated in various appointments to review the contents of the Preparatory Document and the Instrumentum Laboris ... It is something that all men and women must make their own, regardless of their religious affiliation. Citizens from all over the world must participate in this work.

Source: Salesian Bulletin (Brazil)


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