Dialogue Towards Action: The Synod on the Amazon
Informative! Stimulating! Spirit-filled! The first online discussion on the Synod on the Amazon was held on November 27, 2019. This dialogue, a joint initiative of the Antilles Episcopal Conference and Signis Caribbean, disseminated information about the synod and also served as a catalyst to propel the region into action. The collaborators included Bishop Gabriel Malzaire (President of the AEC), Bishop Karel Choennie (Bishop of Paramaribo via video), Lisa Bhajan (President of Signis Caribbean), as well as several representatives from the dioceses across the region.
One of the main questions asked by several people at the emergence of the synod was – why a Synod on the Amazon? Joel Thompson, a member of the Amazonian Church Network, answered this pressing question. This network (made up of all nine countries of the Amazon) was formed to spearhead the consultation process over the two-year preparation period for the synod. They engaged in discussions with over eighty-six thousand people from the Amazonia region regarding their concerns. Ultimately, the synod emerged as a response to several concerns which Pope Francis had regarding the protection of the Amazon region and it was also one the ways of ensuring the application of Laudato Si’. Further to this, Bishop Choennie stressed that the Church recognized that the earth was “crying out for attention” and thus, wanted to emphasize the need to change from a culture of destruction to a culture of harmony. He shared the very profound mantra of the Amazonian people i.e. Their ‘Four Elements for Good Living’ – Being in harmony with yourself, being in harmony with your fellow human beings, being in harmony with nature and being in harmony with the Creator.
Leah Casimero, one of the youngest auditors at the synod from the Diocese of Georgetown, gave a heartfelt testimony of the “Amazon going to Rome.” Her moving recall of the synod brought to the fore the need for all people within the Church, clergy and laity, to work together to address the ongoing challenges faced by the Amazon. Significantly, while at the synod, Leah shared the story of her people, the Wapishana, and their current pilot program which seeks to integrate their language into the national school’s curriculum. Through this discussion, collaborators were able to understand the significance of having the indigenous people present at the synod to share their experience.
Understandably, collaborators also wanted to garner an understanding of the way forward. Bishop Malzaire recognized that the leadership and clergy would have greater influence on promoting change within the laity when they become more conscious of the upcoming Apostolic Exhortation. Significantly, he also called for the implementation of practical measures to enable the earth to ‘breathe’ properly again.
Ultimately, our preliminary dialogue has resulted in the recognition that the regional Church has to urgently develop programs that will promote change in our current lifestyle so that the “lungs of the earth” will be resuscitated!
Written by Rachael Mair, participant from the Archdiocese of Kingston, Jamaica.
To watch the online conversation please click the link – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iG9I2CaxTPQ