Nature is filled with the words of love

CAFOD campaigner and volunteer, Julie Cox, shares her passionate solidarity with the Yanomami indigenous community in Brazil and how, after meeting Davi and Dario Kopenawa (leaders of the Yanomami community) when they visited CAFOD in February 2020, she has been inspired take on a personal pilgrimage and challenge to fundraise, raise awareness and share the story of this incredible community.

The Terrible Plight of the Yanomami Community in Brazil

Let us take time to stop and breathe a moment…and when you’re ready to reflect:

Welcome to one of the most diverse forests on the planet – envisage the river, the lush foliage, all the sounds, colours, feel the humidity, see the Yanomami living in harmony with their land, the river, the wildlife.  Take as long as you like.

Amazon Rainforest

Let us now awake and consider reality: let’s look at what is actually happening to our earth family members in the Yanomami indigenous community in the Brazilian Amazon Rainforest.  They are exposed to severe threats of our making – our consumerist lifestyles fuelling much of what is going on there.

Time is running out for the largest indigenous community of Amazonia, numbering 27,000 people, whose ancestral homeland covers over 200 villages in an area of 2.3 million acres on the Brazilian-Venezuelan border.  The Yanomami are true custodians of their Amazon rainforest reservation.  But their future and the future of the magnificent rainforest now hang on a knife-edge.

Both the elders, the Yanomami shamans, the ones with traditional knowledge of medicinal uses of plants etc. and the youngest are most at risk and tragically succumbing to the new Corona virus epidemic.  Rachel Bunyan for Mailonline, 20 November 2020, publicised figures from a report compiled by Yanomami leaders:  “Confirmed cases of Covid-19 in the reservation have risen some 260% between August and October – from 335-1,202 cases.  So far, there have been 23 confirmed deaths.”  An estimated 10,000 have been exposed, as it is impossible for the Yanomami community to self-isolate.  They have confined themselves to their individual village compounds, having gone deeper into the forest but the disease is spreading.

In addition malarial cases are rising and contributing further, particularly to child-deaths. 

Medical support including provision of ventilators is non-existent for such marginalised communities – chloroquine which can treat malaria and Covid to some degree, has not been distributed and the Brazilian Government is not doing anything.

No food is available at medical points and this situation causes further spread of the virus.

Mercury poisoning is on the increase due to the proliferation of gold mining activities.

Learn more about Davi Kopenawa and how CAFOD and the Yanomami Indigenous Community work together

Why we are implicated in these tragic circumstances

We create the demand which encourages corrupt multi nationals and governments to plunder the earth, unhindered.  The price of gold has sky-rocketed and there are now 200,000 illegal gold miners in the Yanomami territory –another gold-rush is on, with planes, boats, barges transporting tons of equipment, taking advantage of President Bolsonaro’s complicity.

Davi Kopenawa visiting CAFOD in 2020 and meeting our young supporters

Mines are scarring previously pristine rainforest which has taken thousands of years to develop.

The miners are infiltrating, drinking strong alcohol and forcefully having their way with Yanomami women, so clearly this is exacerbating Covid-19 spread.

The loss of elders is tragic for the future of the Yanomami.  Their oral tradition means that their knowledge dies with them.  Since previous malaria epidemics, the loss of elders has weakened the resilience of the indigenous community as a whole.

Gold mining pollutes river water and the land.  The life-span of the Yanomami people is being further diminished as a result through mercury poisoning.  Also, we can ascertain what this is doing to the food chain – poisons being transferred and concentrated upward towards the top predators like the Jaguar.

Scientists have shown that due to our demand for timber, beef and soya (feed for our livestock and poultry to support our meat industry including the UK), the Amazon biome is reaching a tipping point beyond which it will convert to drier savanna vegetation – this will have a massive impact on global weather patterns since evapotranspiration from the tropical Amazon rainforest canopy generates rainfall as far away as Texas, in the key agricultural area of Midwest US. (R S Butler, 2020)   This means production will suffer, which will have a knock on effect to our food imports.

Check out CAFOD’s website for ideas on how to live more simply and sustainably

How can we stop this disaster unfolding?

Let us remind ourselves,

“Nature is filled with the words of love.” Pope Francis in Laudato Si’ para 225    

We all like to think we love nature – and we do, if we take time to appreciate it in our local surroundings and learn from our mother earth and become aware of global connectivity.  Lessening our impact and living gently upon the earth is our natural and authentically loving response.  This involves a certain amount of sacrifice.

If you would like to support the Yanomami as they fight for their lives – please sign their ‘Miners out Covid out’ campaign:  www.MinersOutCovidOut.org/   

Please watch the video The Shaman’s Message

My Amazon Pilgrimage

My challenge is to cover the 6,400 Km distance of the R. Amazon by 2027, through combined country-walking and swimming.  I’m considering open-water swimming as leisure centres/pools are still closed.  In addition I’m raising funds from crafting hats, headbands and scarfs.

I invite you to look at my JustGiving Fundraising page.

Please be assured that all your donations will go directly to the Hutukara Yanomami Association, led by Davi Kopenawa, himself.  CAFOD will send the initial target sum as soon as it’s raised.  Fundraising will continue for the duration of my virtual pilgrimage challenge of the length of the Amazon. I very much hope to encourage others to begin their own fund-raising initiatives – our Earth cries out as do the Best Keepers of the Earth, our indigenous peoples of the rainforest.

Let’s take time to hear the cry of the Yanomami, of future generations and that of the Earth.  Lets, together, do whatever we can in order to help ensure their future survival.

My sincere thanks to all supporters.  We can make a difference, together with CAFOD’s fantastic encouragement and outreach support.

What’s next after Harvest? Julie is sharing her ideas.

Julie Valentine is a parish Volunteer at Our Lady Queen of Peace in East Sheen. She reflects on her experience of this Harvest Family Fast Day and what is coming up next for us all. 

Harvest in a Nut shell

Julie Valentine from East Sheen shares her experience on Harvest Fast Day in her parish

What was Harvest like this year? I heard that some parishes like St James the Great in Petts Wood achieved very substantial collections for Harvest and got a good response from their parishioners to donate via their mobile phones.  Or other parishes like Our Lady of the Rosary in Sidcup managed to advertise successfully in the parish newsletter and social media.  A few parishes like St Vincent de Paul, Battersea, were even brave enough to try the cashless payment with ordering some devices from CAFOD.  These examples were very uplifting and show the wonderful commitment of my fellow volunteers and their parish communities.

For me though, Harvest Fast Day was disappointing and flat.  With the church still not open for Sunday Mass, there were no posters, no inspiring talk at the Masses, no satisfaction of watching the pile of envelopes mount up in the collection basket.  Our priest kindly circulated the CAFOD Newsletter and did his best to remind parishioners during the Zoom Mass and, to me, it all passed with scarcely a ripple …

So here we go again, I thought.  Back into relative lockdown and now also face the prospect of a “non-Christmas”.  How about all those people that CAFOD works with, for whom every year is probably a “non-Christmas”?  They are still battling their own problems, their own helplessness, their own hopelessness… But does it have to be like that?  “No one beyond reach” is our motto.  Time to pull up my socks and think creatively about how I can continue to do even a tiny bit for CAFOD!  In my country, Jamaica, we have a saying “one-one coco fill basket” (Coco is a small root vegetable).  I must try to contribute my coco. 

What’s next after Harvest?

First stop : the CAFOD Website

First stop, the CAFOD website.  What are other people doing?  Wonderful things – I saw the runners in the marathon and heard of parishes raising thousands of pounds with sponsored runs and walks.  That’s one option, maybe not for me though but my grand children!  https://cafod.org.uk/Fundraise/A-Z-of-fundraising-ideas

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Discover Pope Francis’ invitation to “Rejoice and Be Glad” on November 24th

Join us to pray and share on Pope Francis’ “Gaudete et Exsultate” (Rejoice and Be Glad) on November 24th, from 10am to 4pm, . The retreat will be hosted at Romero House, 55 Westminster bridge road, London, SE1 7JB. Please bring a shared vegetarian lunch.

On Saturday November 24th, we’ll be reflecting on how to be holy in today’s modern worlds, as well as looking at some of the idea’s in the Pope’s new document “Gaudete et Exsultate” or “Rejoice and be Glad.” He encourages us to open our eyes, ears and hearts to the words of the gospel and expand our limited horizons.

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Join CAFOD and others at our retreat to explore the journey of faith

Register here

In this document, Pope Francis celebrates the simplicity of life’s daily activities and how they can be a window to our holiness and a way for us to channel the values of the Beatitudes. He celebrates the uniqueness and individuality of us all and reminds us that we all have agency and power to shift things that happen in our world. But, the way we carry out our daily activities can also expose to us how we separate ourselves from holiness, such as how our addiction to consumption could make spending time with God a ‘painful exercise’.

Julie from Rochester who has attended many CAFOD events says, “I cannot recommend CAFOD events highly enough. Over the years I’ve benefited greatly by participating in justice and peace assembly meetings and workshops and retreats on various themes.  They always prove to be inspiring occasions and I feel we need to prioritise such events more in our busy itineraries.  Why? Because they provide us with knowledge, social catholic teaching and prayer, providing guidance and examples of how we might help build the Kingdom of God together through personal lifestyle changes, and participation within our parish and wider communities.”

Take a look at our invitation video on Facebook and Twitter

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