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South American bishops call governments to implement zero deforestation

Posted on: October 2, 2019 12:15 PM
Amazon rainforest fires
Photo Credit: NASA

[ACNS, by Rachel Farmer] A group of eight Anglican bishops from five South American countries have issued a joint statement calling for international governments to urgently implement zero deforestation following devastation from fires in the Amazon.

The bishops, representing indigenous people in churches in Argentina, Bolivia, Paraguay, Perú and Uruguay, described the fires as evidence of “human pride and disobedience against God’s command to be stewards of His creation.”

Representing the largest indigenous church membership in Latin America, each of the bishops, said their members had seen homes burned and their biodiversity being destroyed. They state: “We believe that without genuine repentance on the part of all of us, we will continue to pay a huge price with greater disasters than those we have recently seen in our countries.”

The declaration, issued last week, asked local and international governments to implement a policy of Zero Deforestation through the passing and fulfilling of effective laws and programmes of protection, action and restoration of the damaged and threatened ecosystems. Their hope is that the new protections will be concrete outcomes of the next international Climate Change Summit, COP25, to be held in Chile in January 2020.

They said: “We also urge businesses and producers to reflect on their strategies of exploitation and extraction of natural resources and to seek more sustainable alternatives.  Finally, we urge all the inhabitants of planet earth to adopt ways, customs and habits, that will reduce their carbon footprint, and do less harm to the planet. We consider these measures to be essential if we are to combat climate change and ensure the survival of those peoples who seek to protect their ancestral lands.”

Expressing solidarity with the global climate protests, they said it was unacceptable that the economic interests of any one country should cause the destruction of the world’s environment, or that local political interests should be more important than the future of the planet.  

It stated: “Our region includes three of the countries which have seen the greatest deforestation in the world in the last 10 years. This human activity is also affecting the Gran Chaco, the second largest forest ecosystem in South America after the Amazon.”

Reaffirming their declaration on Climate Change and the Role of the Church in Lima in May 2018, they highlighted the many other voices from across the Christian community who had expressed the same concerns, including the Anglican Bishops in Brazil, the Pope (Laudato Si), by the Conferences of Catholic Bishops in US and Latin America, as well as statements and documents by Greenpeace, Latin American Council of Churches, Evangelical Coalition for Climate Justice, Brazilian Christian Alliance and United Mission Board (Argentina).

The Bishops who signed the declaration includes: Gregory Venables, Presiding Bishop of South America and Bishop of Argentina; Nicholas Drayson, Diocesan Bishop of Northern Argentina; Mateo Alto, Suffragan Bishop of Northern Argentina; Crisanto Rojas, Suffragan Bishop of Northern Argentina; Raphael Samuel, Diocesan Bishop of Bolivia; Peter Bartlett, Diocesan Bishop of Paraguay; Jorge Aguilar, Diocesan Bishop of Peru; and Daniel Genovesi, Interim Bishop of Uruguay.

A full copy of the declaration is available here

A short service of lament has been written by the Anglican Communion Environmental Network for St Francis Day – Friday, 4 October  – which marks the official end of the ‘Season of Creation’.