HE Sonia Guajajara Addresses the IRI Dialogue with Indigenous Leaders
Ladies and gentlemen, esteemed members of the Parliament of the World’s Religions, I address you today with a sense of immense gratitude, acknowledging the importance of this plenary space that the Parliament has provided to voice the concerns of the Indigenous Peoples from the heart of the Amazon.
Your unwavering and decades-long commitment to promoting dialogue and understanding across diverse religions and traditions serves as an inspiration to people around the world. The link between respecting Indigenous rights, particularly the rights of our ancestral territories, and the preservation of the Amazon rainforest is undeniable. Our lands have thrived for centuries under the guardianship of our Indigenous communities, nurturing a delicate balance between humanity and nature through our cultures and traditional knowledge.
By upholding our rights, we not only safeguard our way of life and our homes, but also ensure the continued preservation of the Amazon as a vital source of life for the entire planet and for all humanity.
Yet, as we gather here, let us not forget the ongoing threats and intimidations faced by Indigenous peoples in Brazil and throughout the Amazon basin.
The relentless pressures of economic and political interests tied to extractive industries, cattle ranching, agriculture, mining, infrastructure projects, illegal logging, and drug trafficking continue to erode the fabric of our communities and our natural environment. Deforestation across Brazil soared between 2019 and 2022 under the former president, Jair Bolsonaro with cattle ranching being the number one cause.
Let’s remember that the destruction of the Amazon is not only a Brazilian affair. It is also the responsibility of consumer countries like the EU, the USA, or China who need to enact supply chain laws to make sure that the meat they import is produced without causing deforestation.
In the face of these challenges, I am heartened to share a glimmer of hope.
In the new administration of Brazil, we have witnessed a 42.5% reduction in deforestation rates compared to last year, with dedicated policies and commitments being set in motion to combat and reach zero deforestation by 2030.
President Lula’s creation of the Ministry for Indigneous Peoples, and his invitation for me to assume responsibility over this Ministry, signifies a milestone in recognizing our rights and concerns. Along with his strong attention to combat the humanitarian crisis of the Yanomani people, for example, it is a testament to his respect and commitment to our cause.
However, the urgency of protecting the Amazon and supporting Indigenous Peoples in deafening our lands demand a united front of strong support and solidarity. It is an uphill battle, and this is where the Parliament of the World’s Religions plays a pivotal role.
All the religious leaders and faith communities around the world, embodying principles of Peace, Goodwill, and Commitment, offer a beacon of hope to support our struggle to protect nature. That is why I am so proud to have participated in the founding of the Interfaith Rainforest Initiative (IRI) in Oslo in 2017, along with the Parliament of the World’s Religions.
Since then, I have accompanied the world globally and as a member of the Advisory Council of IRI Brazil, and it fills me with a sense of pride and responsibility to see that the efforts in Brazil, Colombia, and Peru are bearing fruit. IRI is now serving as a strong partner in supporting Amazonian governments to implement that safeguard this invaluable ecosystem, the Amazon, and its peoples.
Just last week, IRI’s Call to Action resonated powerfully in Belem during the Amazon Summit. This call, endorsed by my Ministry, as well as the Ministers of Environment of Brazil, Peru and Colombia, is very much aligned with the decisions emerging from the Amazon Summit.
This watershed moment presents an opportunity for the Parliament of the World’s Religions to unite and endorse this urgent call to protect the Amazon too. In doing so, I also implore the members of the world’s religions to not only hold Amazonian governments accountable but also fight against the unsustainable consumption and production patterns in the global North that drive deforestation in the Amazon.
Policies and practices established in your countries can be directly causing irreversible harm to the Amazon and our collective homes. This is a space where the religions of the world must rise as educators and mobilizers, guiding their followers towards responsible choices and advocating for sustainable development.
It’s time for our governments, banks, and investment firms to assume responsibility for their role in this crisis. To close, I extend my deepest gratitude to the Parliament of the World’s Religions for your unwavering support and commitment.
Together, we have the power to create lasting change, to protect the Amazon, and to ensure the rights and dignity for the cultures of its Indigenous inhabitants.
Let us stand united, with our hearts and hands intertwined, reforesting our minds for a world where the Amazon and its people flourish.
Thank you very much.