Concluding the Special Synod of Bishops on the Amazon, Pope Francis in his homily said with a witty remark that the final document speaking of women falls “short” because of the importance of women in “transmitting the faith and in preserving the culture.”
For the laity to be privileged actors, “the Church in the Amazon wants to expand the spaces for a more incisive female presence in the Church” and promote “their active participation in the ecclesial community. If the Church loses women in its totality and real dimension, the Church is exposed to sterility (Pope Francis).” In the Amazon region, women lead most Catholic communities. Hence, the request to create a ministry for “the women leaders of the community”, requesting the permanent diaconate for them.
However, a special Synod risks focusing only on that particular region. The Church and the society, on the other hand, risk considering its conclusions as important and valid only for that region. The risk increases when names such as Brazil and Amazonia enter the stories and make us forget that there are other important forests in Africa and Asia oxygenating the world and that the Amazon itself covers nine states.
It is significant that at the Synod’s vigil, on September 20-21st in Cochabamba city (Bolivia) there was held an important event that went unnoticed: the 6th annual summit of the National Network of Women in Defense of Mother Earth (RENAMAT). A wide range of women – indigenous, peasants, youth, adults and girls -, arrived from different communities impacted by mining, or in resistance against the mining companies, gathered to reaffirm their commitment of struggling, which was professed as a dream back on 2013. It was then when they decided to resist to mining extraction, opening a space of their own.
The meeting went on with the usual indigenous ceremonies, with thanks to the Pachamama and the traditional coca leaf picheo (A special way of sucking coca leaf). Then the assembly evaluated the work done and honored Isabel Anangono, leader of the Intag Valley (Ecuador). Intag Valley after twenty years of struggle managed to stop two mining projects that were going to plunder the territory. In Cochabamba, it was the symbol of women’s struggles and of this struggle brotherhood throughout all Latin America.
The dispossession generates loneliness, sadness, pressure and concern among women and the Network wants to be the political engine worthy of accompanying the daily struggle. However, in this fight, women do not want to forget their most emotional and personal aspects and that is why in the meeting, they made typically female healing islands with massages, hairstyles, hugs, laughs and tears in the view of the self-assessment of each one of them.
To this also contributed a contest of dancing and songs where the indigenous folklore intermingled with the Afro-Ecuadorian one. The political analysis highlighted the environmental emergency leading peoples towards a catastrophe because of the looting by the hands of state projects. This awareness brought up the decision of taking solidarity actions expressed in a declaration in defense of the ecosystem.
Women, in the Upland plant beans, potatoes, quinoa and fruit trees such as apples and peaches. Therefore, each seed gave the name to the chosen projects focused on three guidelines: what RENAMAT is asked to do in the communities, the achievements that are expected at the national level, and the contents that should be worked on at the Itinerant School of the RENAMAT.
The final knitting contest wanted to remember how each woman spins her struggle in her territory, but the result should be a collective weave of resistance, defense of life and a better future for all. Gathered from all sides, each one shares the Network, the obstacles and the hopes so life would increasingly grow in the communities.
Pope Paul VI already said it very well: “The time is coming, the time has come when the women’s vocation is fulfilled, the time in which women acquire in the world an influence, a weight, a power never reached before. That is why, at this moment when humanity faces such a profound mutation, women imbued by the Gospel’s inspiration can help so much to prevent humanity’s decay.”
John Paul Pezzi, mccj
VIVAT International NGO
with consultative special status at UN