The 5000 indigenous peoples scattered throughout the earth (90 countries), with their thousand-year-old cultures and languages (7000), are a permanent memory to humanity that nature is still waiting, it cries out, for our ecological conversion. This is the same conversion to which Francis called the Church in Laudato Si (No. 217).
Through our charism, the Vincentian Family works with indigenous peoples in many corners of the world since these 370 million people (5% of the world’s population) are among the most disadvantaged and vulnerable populations, representing 15 percent of the poorest people on the planet. Being so culturally distinct, the indigenous peoples of the world share common problems when it comes to protecting their human and territorial rights as different peoples.
Due to the evident vulnerability of these peoples, the international community now recognizes that special measures are needed to protect their rights and maintain their cultures and ways of life. This is why the United Nations declared August 9th as a day to protect indigenous cultures and to reclaim the respect of rights of indigenous peoples.
The 2018 theme of this international day will focus on the current situation of indigenous territories, the root causes of migration, trans-border movement and displacement, with a specific focus on indigenous peoples living in urban areas and across international borders. The observance will explore the challenges and ways forward to revitalize indigenous peoples’ identities and encourage the protection of their rights in or outside their traditional territories.
From the UN, the Vincentian Family has been committed to having representation of indigenous peoples as part of the working group of NGOs that politically denounce extractive industries and advocate for the right to drinking water for all people on earth. Through this presence we are connected to the Ecclesiastical Pan-Amazonic Network (REPAM) and the representative of the CM in the UN is part of the international advocacy team of this network.
The celebration of this year has a special meaning for the Church since Pope Francis has summoned a synod about the Amazon in October 2019. In this synod the reality of indigenous Amazonian peoples will be discussed and from them – common realities and related challenges – the reality of the indigenous peoples of the planet.
We would like to invite you all to join us in the celebration of this day and from the heart of the indigenous peoples, to re-read the essential lines of the encyclical Laudato Si. Indigenous peoples constantly remind us of the responsibility we have to take care of ourcommon home. “The cry of the earth is closely related to the cry of the poor – and to indigenous peoples – who suffer the most from the consequences of environmental degradation. A joint cry springs up from the same pain, caused by a system of predatory production and consumption, which has put economic benefit at the center instead of the defense of life.”
We have known this for some time. LET’S ACT… We still have time!
Guillermo Campuzano, CM is the Congregation of the Mission UN representative and Chair of the UN NGO Working Group to End Homelessness