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Pre Pan-Amazonian synod meeting held in Guyana

  • 28 November 2018
Discussions are underway in St Ignatius, Guyana prior to the Pan-Amazonian synod which Pope Francis has called for October 2019.

St Ignatius Parish is located in Central Rupununi in the savannah region of Guyana, next to the border of Brazil. It is in the heart of the Amazon basin and has been chosen as the location for the pre-synod meeting of Eastern Amazonia which will host around 200 attendees including the Bishops of Guyana, Suriname and French Guiana.

Fr Jim Conway SJ returned from Guyana earlier this year after spending five years working with Amerindian communities in the Amazonian interior of Guyana.

During this time he was actively promoting the Pan-Amazonian Church Network (REPAM) and the Jesuit Amazonian project in which Jesuits of the region are collaborating to protect the world’s largest ecosystem, and its peoples, from destruction. This week Fr Jim has returned to Guyana to help run the pre-synod meeting. He says,

“When we first started talking to the indigenous people about the pope’s encyclical on the environment, Laudato Si, nearly four years ago, they were amazed that the pope had written about their needs and concerns. They have been discussing this ever since and will contribute enthusiastically and thoughtfully to this consultation. It is great to think we will be hosting this huge meeting in St Ignatius.”

Pope Francis announced the Synod on the Amazon following his trip in January to Porto Maldonado in Peru, when he expressed grave concern for the indigenous peoples and the ecology of the Amazon region.  The theme for the Synod is, “ The Amazon: New paths for the Church and for integral ecology.”

Jesuit Missions Communications Officer, Stephanie Beech has recently returned from Guyana where she attended the Pre-Pan-Amazonian coastal gathering in Georgetown.

This was the preliminary stage to the current assembly in St Ignatius. Results from both the coastal gathering and assembly in St Ignatius will be put together to form one report that Bishop Francis Allenyne can take with him to Rome next year to represent the whole country and the future of the church in both Guyana and the Amazon.

Fr Jim explains, “When I first went to Guyana it wasn’t considered important within Amazonia, but in fact it has a unique strategic place in the Pan-Amazonian scheme because it is the only country which links the Amazon to the Caribbean.”

The Amazon basin covers seventy five percent of Guyana, however ninety percent of the Guyanese population live along the small coastal strip next to the Caribbean.

Paul Martin SJ, former regional superior of the Jesuits in Guyana, has been travelling over the past six months to nearly sixty remote indigenous communities scattered across the Pakaraima Mountains and Rupununi savannah, and straddling the border with Brazil, to present the pre-synod consultation documents.  Each village has chosen two delegates to attend the four-day assembly in St Ignatius.

The church of St Ignatius was built in 2016 as the first round church in Guyana. This is based on the Amazonian benab – the traditional meeting room for the village council and community decision-making.

Joel Thompson SJ writes about how we can learn from the indigenous people of the Amazon about caring for creation and living the good life.

In order for the village to accommodate an extra 200 people for four days the local people have constructed a new temporary benab which will serve as a conference room but also sleeping accommodation at night. Many of those who travel from the remote areas will bring hammocks and sleep in the benab.

This article has been adapted from the Jesuits in Britain website.