· Vatican City ·

Amazonia, and the women who reinterpret borders

© L’Osservatore Romano
27 June 2020

On July 9, 2009, the writer Eduardo Galeano -one of the most important contemporary thinkers in Latin America-, was awarded the Order of May by the Republic of Argentina. To demonstrate his gratitude for his nomination and for receiving the award, the writer composed a beautiful poem entitled Maps of the soul have no frontier, in which he reported on the multiple definitions of the term “frontier” that emphasize various conceptions. When we talk about “going further”, “expansion”, “pioneer”, we are not necessarily indicating the “border line” or the “limits” between countries, within “borders between countries”.

If we reflect on certain aspects of the experience of the Special Synod for the Amazon, we can say that the synodal process was an opportunity to finally confirm that “maps of the soul have no frontiers.” And, the borders that separate, divide, humiliate, rape and kill, lose their meaning when we recognize that we live in the same “common house”.

The synodal process, which clearly passed through the hands, minds and hearts of women, was an opportunity for rapprochement, dialogue, encounter and celebration for the whole Church of the nine countries that make up the Pan-Amazon, with a common note that reaffirmed the struggle in defense of the Amazon and its peoples.

In the light of the Laudato si’ encyclical in which it was reaffirmed that “everything is interconnected in this common house”, from the evangelization of peoples to the possibilities of an integral ecology, and the lessons of coexistence and care for creation that Indigenous Peoples give to the whole planet. In particular, women who are the true guardians of the forest, waters and territories, and who teach how to take care -with love and responsibility-, of this great common house that knows no frontiers, but only the horizon where the gaze falls.

The synodal process has shown a “Church with an Amazonian face” that is capable of celebrating and living the Word of God, with its own spirituality, devotion and religiosity; it has recognized the identity and cry of the people of God in the Pan-Amazon region, especially of the Indigenous Peoples; it has helped to reveal to the world the richness of the biodiversity of the territory and to know better its biome in order to defend the region with its forests, its waters and its peoples marked by socio-cultural, political, economic and religious diversity.

The intense participation of women in the whole synodal process only confirms this characteristic recognized in the Final Document of the Synodal Assembly (2019) and in the Post-Synodal Exhortation Querida Amazonia of Pope Francis (2020), namely that in this region there is “a Church with a woman’s face”.

The Synodal Assembly recognized the prominence of women in communities, pastoral work, social movements and the whole mission of the Church in Pan-Amazonia. Likewise, it recognized that their participation and representativeness in the world of politics, social movements, organizations of black women, quilombalas, indigenous women, peasants and cross-border migrants are undeniable.

Nevertheless, in the Pan-Amazon countries, violence against women is a common occurrence, with a high rate of femicide. Throughout the region, this violence can trace its origins to the processes of colonization and must be taken seriously by the Church, nation States and society as a whole.

However, even in such violent contexts, there is no denying the role of women in the struggle to overcome all forms of oppression, machismo, misogyny and discrimination, and the legacy of patriarchy that still persists even within the borders of the Church.

During the Synodal Assembly the participants undertook to “identify the kind of official ministry that can be conferred to women, while taking into account the central role they play today in the Amazon Church”. Based on the experience of the early Church, “when she responded to their needs by creating appropriate ministries”, the Church in the Pan-Amazon region recognizes “the presence and time of women”, highlighting their charisms, talents and the space they historically occupy in society. Therefore, she admits that their voice is heard, that they are consulted and participate in pastoral and ecclesial decision making, and ministries.

Finally, the Synodal Assembly stressed that “the wisdom of ancestral peoples affirms that Mother Earth has a feminine face”. The foundation of a feminist eco-theology that recognizes that the action of women is fundamental for the formation and continuity of cultures, of spirituality, of the changes that transform unjust structures into a fraternal and supportive society, without the borders that separate and limit.

by Márcia Maria de Oliveira
Panamazzonic Ecclesial Network–Repam, Universidade Federal de Roraima – Ufrr