From Guyana to Rome: Leah Casimero
Leah Casimero is the youngest participant at the Pan-Amazonian synod currently taking place in Rome. She is a 26-year-old young indigenous woman from the Wapichan Amerindian community in Southern Guyana. She is part of the resource team for the Quality Education Bilingual programme which is supported by Jesuit Missions.
The bilingual programme was launched in 2018 and encourages children to learn to read and write in their native Wapichiana language at school, simultaneously to English which is the national language of Guyana. This is part of a campaign to preserve the local indigenous Amerindian culture which accounts for ten percent of the Guyanese population.
The Pan-Amazonian synod in Rome is taking place from the 6th-27th October 2019 and is an opportunity for Bishops and lay people from across the Amazon to come together and discuss the future of the church in the Amazon.
Leah describes the women in her church community as “very strong, evident and committed” and she supports the synod proposal to ordain women as permanent deacons.
As an appointed auditor for the synod by Pope Francis, she cannot vote in the synod decision making, however she has been able to participate in one of the discussion groups and also had the opportunity to address the whole synod assembly in a four minute speech, the same amount of time as the synod fathers.
“In my speech I shared my personal experience of studying in the city as an indigenous youth. It’s so important we preserve our culture, as once that’s gone, we are just people without an identity. That’s why with the bilingual programme the children start from a very young age learning about their culture and traditions first.”
She went on to say:
“We are the catholic church, we are universal. We have different ways of worship. But coming together despite all the differences, being able to listen to one another, that has been the real spirit of the synod. But the action comes next.”
This article was adapted from the America Magazine written by Fr Luke Hansen SJ who interviewed Leah in Rome on October 23rd 2019.