521 - April 2012
February 22nd, 2012 - March 24th, 2012



Recreate yourself 2012: in the Peruvian rainforest

The Peruvian rainforest remains more than ever a very impressive target for foreign investors. Statistics tell us that in 2011, Peru grew economically by 7%. They say that was a good year. They speak of a country that is growing and is in good condition to face the economic crisis. In the executive branch, they speak of a policy of social inclusion. The development of a powerful oil industry is starting in the Napo-Loreto basin.

On the other hand, the indigenous communities are concerned about such topics as the pollution of the rivers because of oil spills; the spread of drug trafficking; the increase in illegal logging; the unlawful mining of gold; the taking of large quantities of fish from the lake in freezers; the increasing lack of teachers on all levels. And there is only talk about social inclusion, but they don’t have much on the policy level.

In the midst of this reality, the parish of Our Lady of the Assumption in Santa Clotilde-Rio Napo-Loreto, for the fourth consecutive year, is focusing on the education of indigenous boys and girls and teenagers of the Kichwa peoples. The RECREATE YOURSELF project is a program created by the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate for providing a place for the integral formation of the children and youth of the Napo. This January 2012, a total of 24 indigenous Kichwa communities in the basin were present at Santa Clotilde by sending their representatives: 51 boys and girls, accompanied by a team of young leaders and professionals. The central theme for their work was “Children and care for creation.” Each day, there was academic enrichment, group work, a workshop for painting and drawing, a puppetry workshop, a singing workshop, catechesis for the first encounter with Christ, and a workshop on indigenous Kichwa values. Nor did we leave out recreation, sharing, the common life, and interchange with the neighbors in the barrio. Each participant was examined by the doctors of the Health Center of Santa Clotilde.

At the same time, 25 indigenous youth from the Upper and Middle Napo received pre-university training at the St. Eugene de Mazenod Academy. For the third consecutive summer, their academic background was reinforced and they have been prepared for entering the National University of the Peruvian Amazon. The young students, many of them high school graduates, found in the SEM Academy an opportunity to learn and to prepare themselves. This year, the focus of discussion was “The presence of oil in the Napo river.” They shared information about oil spills in the Loreto region in the past five years, the increase in deforestation and illegal logging, as well as the increase in drug trafficking in the area. Their concern was evident in their faces and in the prolonged dialogue. Our thanks to the professionals who guided this academic formation. We are happy that this year, two Kichwa indigenous youth from the High Napo, Edgar Jota and Ítalo Noteno, have succeeded in getting into the university, Edgar for a career in nursing and Ítalo for pharmacy and biochemistry. They are the first indigenous Kichwa youth to take this step. Now it’s up to us to accompany them in their training.

The mission of Santa Clotilde is grateful to those who were involved in this task: the benefactors, the youth leaders of the parish, the professionals from the Health Center of Santa Clotilde, the lay professionals who came from the Parish of Nuestra Señora de la Paz–Comas–Lima. May God, the Father of the Earth, whom we call in Kichwa “Pachayaya,” bless the work and the efforts of each one. We believe that this work is a contribution to the Amazon and to the indigenous communities. We believe that RECREATE YOURSELF is an important experience that should be continued. We believe that by listening to the indigenous children and youth, we learn a lot. (Edgar NOLAZCO ALMEYDA y Roberto CARRASCO ROJAS)

A blanket and a house

It was a cold winter's morning with a sky so dark and angry-looking clouds ready to drench the earth. A fine drizzle was falling and in spite of the bleakness of the day, the leaves had a beautiful shine of clearness that helped to make the morning a little brighter.

I noticed a very old man walking up the dirty street wear­ing an old, filthy blanket that had more holes in it than cloth. He walked slowly and looked as if he was carrying the world's problems. I went to my room for a fairly new, heavy bed blan­ket. Folding it, I proceeded to the other side of the street to meet this elderly person. I asked if he wanted to trade blankets, but to my surprise he said no. He looked at me with sad, watery eyes and hesitated to speak in answer to my offer. I did not insist, but returned to my room with my blanket pondering his negative response.

After some reflection I came to the conclusion that “no” was not out of disrespect for my interest in helping him but rather to say: “If I accept your new blanket, this very night it will be taken from me by thieves and drug addicts as I sleep in the street ... so my old, dirty and holey blanket helps me to keep warm.”

One day I came across a fallen-down shack and knocked on the plywood door hanging from one hinge. A man, about 45 and the father of eight children, appeared at the door. I chatted with him for a few minutes and he invited me into his ‘home.’

I mentioned that we could help him build a little home but, being very poor, he did not have two cents to rub together. When I mentioned to him that he had to participate in the actual work in the construction of his new house, he said he couldn't give the time “because I have no job and I am working out in the streets for food for the family.”

Upon hearing his good logic I offered him something that the poor man did not expect. I said: “During the construction of your new house, you will work with my builders. While the work progresses and at the completion of the construction, you will receive a decent wage to provide for your family.” The man, with great surprise, began to cry. “No one does things like this ...” (Blaise MACQUARRIE in Oblate Spirit, February 2012)

I will never forget their eyes....
Recently, Father Miguel FRITZ, General Councillor for Latin America, published a book entitled: Nunca me voy a olvidar de los ojos. Derechos humanos en el Paraguay - Como yo los viví. (I will never forget their eyes. Human Rights in Parguay -- as I lived them.) The following is an excerpt from an interview published in the weekly newspaper, UltimaHora.

What motivated your writing this book?
When I arrived in Paraguay, working in the Independencia Colonia, I was moved by so many injustices, sufferings, atrocities, and I began to take notes. When Stroessner fell, that was not the end of the injustices. And I had the impression that many things are never known while others fall into oblivion. Then I decided to write about what I have seen, heard and lived.

How do you see the reality of the indigenous Chaco people?
Today’s reality is totally different from the 80’s. We have succeeded--and this was one of the goals of the first Indigenous Pastoral Plan--so that they are no longer the strangers in the country and that they are the managers of their own interests and needs. In the Chaco, for example, they are an important political factor, something which we ourselves had to learn too. Today, they have access to modern means of communication, but not all and not all in the same way. Of course, this fact is causing dramatic changes within their cultures. The future of a culture does not depend on which elements remain, whether they change or not, but on “ethnic esteem:” a healthy pride in being who they are.

And specifically, what about the partnership of the Church with the NGO’s in the Paraguayan Chaco?
I distinguish between governmental organizations, non-governmental and ecclesial. They are three different ways of operating. The Church is not an NGO and it is certainly not governmental, but one must distinguish well between an NGO where there are people who benefit and who take their livelihood from it, which is not bad, but it is a fact that they create NGO’s to feed the people, while the Church does not. We do not create jobs in order to have a better life and to eat; we look for ways to transform lives. It is obvious that we must continue to cover functions that should be done by the government. For example, we started all the schools and health centers. We started them in the Chaco; there were no others.

What is the relationship between the indigenous and the Mennonites in the Chaco?
When they arrived, the Mennonites had no idea that there were indigenous peoples. When they found them, the thought: “The Lord has sent us to evangelize them.” So with very good intentions and good assistance, they began to help them. It’s been a long road for them to discover that the indigenous are active participants. And there is still some welfare mentality. So there have been some good experiences with organizations that work with the indigenous; there are things happening. I think that very early on, we discovered that we have to lay aside all paternalism and promote work and self-rule…

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