“I don’t know what’s happening with this new culture of defending territories by building walls. We already knew one, that (one) in Berlin, which brought so many headaches and so much suffering,”
– Pope Francis, quoted in Reuters, May 28, 2019
As the above quote indicates, Pope Francis opposes the idea of walls, especially a wall between the U.S. and Mexico. However, apparently, not all walls are created equal. Some are completely acceptable. It depends on who is building them.
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There are Walls, and Then There are Walls
Consider the recent visit to the Vatican of the Brazilian “indigenous leader” Raoni Metuktire, elderly chief of the Kayapo on the Xingu Reservation.
Why is this Brazilian chieftain visiting the Vatican? According to MSN, he wants to raise “one million euros ($1.1 million) to better protect the Amazon’s Xingu reserve.” How does Raoni plan to meet this goal? The million will be used to begin construction of – you guessed it – a wall.
“I am looking for a million euros to finance green walls made of bamboo to outline the Great Xingu Reserve, which has suffered from the permanent intrusion of lumber and exotic animal dealers; miners and hunters, who come to hunt on our land,” Raoni said in an interview with the French paper, Le Parisien. Raoni Metuktire is famous for high-profile activism that has put him in contact with world leaders and pop stars. He has just completed a tour in which he held talks with French President Emmanuel Macron and environment minister Francois de Rugy and later traveled to Belgium, Switzerland, Luxembourg, Monaco and Italy where he met with Pope Francis at the Vatican.
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Unlike America’s proposed wall of concrete and steel, Raoni wants an eco-friendly bamboo wall. While the American wall is denounced as divisive, Raoni’s wall is built to protect. Of course, walls “protect” by “dividing” one group of people from another – but one suspects that such arguments would be unwelcome.
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The new bamboo curtain protecting the 6.5 million acre Xingu Reservation is acceptable because Raoni has the right enemies – rightists. Near the top of that list is Brazil’s newly-inaugurated president Jair Bolsonaro. According to Agence France Presse (AFP), Mr. Bolsonaro is a “climate change skeptic” who used “anti-environment rhetoric” in his campaign. Thus, everyone rashly assumes he will harm the Amazon basin environment and must, therefore, be opposed.
Still worse, “Bolsonaro has said he wants to ‘integrate into society’ Brazil’s estimated 800,000 indigenous people” by extending to them the benefits of education, law, technology and other amenities. The left sees any effort to improve the lot of the suffering tribes as cultural deprivation.
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Hence, Raoni’s request for a protective green wall to protect the reservation’s mere 3000 people is much more politically motivated since the primitive tribe would be much better served by schools, hospitals, roads or housing. The absurdity of creating a “divisive” wall of bamboo around such a vast territory with so few people does not appear to bother anyone. Walls like these are good.
What has impressed people about the trip is the photo opportunities of Raoni embracing the Pope and French President Macron, as he makes his way through Europe.
The Context of Raoni’s Visit
The efforts to enclose the Amazon basin are not limited to Xingu Indians. There is a worldwide effort to turn to the region into a vast reserve. The environmentalist site “Deceleration” reported on last November’s United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity noting that “The proposal to protect the Amazon with a “sacred corridor of life and culture” was presented by COICA (Coordinator of Indigenous Organizations of the Amazon River Basin) at the UN conference.”
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A UN biodiversity agreement with references to the Amazon is scheduled to be signed in Beijing, China in 2020.
The Pan Amazon Synod
Raoni’s high-publicity tour and meeting with Pope Francis is also linked to the upcoming Pan Amazon Synod. An article carried by notes that the private audience “attests to Pope Francis’s ‘care for the Amazonian people and environment, as well as to his commitment to safeguard our Common Home.’ ”
“This audience with Raoni,” Gisotti added, “is also included as part of the preparation for the Special Assembly for the Amazon of the Synod of Bishops that will take place this upcoming October 6-27 on the theme, ‘Amazonia: New Paths for the Church and for an Integral Ecology.’ ”
The Synod will seek to recognize and “dialogue” with native peoples as a means of understanding their cultures, traditions and spirituality. Many fear that the meeting will put forth an agenda actively promoting married priests, liturgical abuses and unsound doctrine.
They believe that the Synod will wall off traditional Church teachings and deprive these poor indigenous peoples of the saving Truths of the Faith. It might well do the same for the entire Church by introducing dangerous innovations that will endanger all the faithful.