Amazonia: Ecological Research and Ecclesiastical Practices in a Threatened Habitat

From February 14th to 17th 2019, 27 KAAD scholars from seven Latin American countries gathered together at the seminar in Münster entitled “Amazonia: Ecological Research and Ecclesiastical Practices in a Threatened Habitat”. The background to this seminar organised by the Academy “Franz Hitze Haus” and the KAAD was the special meeting of the Synod of Bishops of the Amazon Region convened in October 2019 by Pope Francis.

The seminar was started with a talk by social anthropologist Michaela Meurer (University of Marburg) explaining the social, economic and ecological complexity of the Amazon region to the participants. She stressed the existence of big cities, the since thousands of years ongoing interaction between mankind and nature and the region’s economic use. Without doubting the crisis and serious problems of Amazonia, she clearly stated that an analytical and realistic approach to those problems would require an understanding of the region which goes beyond the typical stereotypes of the “planet’s green lung” and “threatened indigenous peoples”. She advised the church to keep an eye on this complexity during their work of the synod.

Father Michael Heinz SVD, Managing Director of the episcopal action Adveniat, had to cancel his participation at the seminar at the last minute, but still sent his presentation to the students. He bridged the gap between the Pope’s Encyclical on the Environment Laudato si´ (2015) and the concerns of the Amazon synod and explained that during the current preparatory phase the people have been bringing their worries and concerns to the local churches which are then incorporated into the synod. Father Heinz also explained the important work of the regional church network ‚Red Eclesial Panamazónica‘ (REPAM) which coordinated the synod’s preparations.
Most of the participants of the seminar came from countries bordering the Amazon and showed in lectures and discussions how differently the topic Amazonia and the Synod are discussed in the civil societies of their countries. The group decided to write a paper on the results of the seminar and to contribute it to the preparatory process of the Synod.