Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Turning to Prayer in Bid to Save the Amazon

Handout aerial picture released by Greenpeace showing smoke billowing from forest fires in the municipality of Candeias do Jamari, close to Porto Velho in Rondonia State, in the Amazon basin in northwestern Brazil, on 24 August 2019. Image credit: AFP

A fire burns a tract of Amazon jungle as it is cleared by loggers and farmers, near Porto Velho in Rondônia, Brazil. Image credit: Yahoo! News 

As thousands of fires ravage the world's largest rainforest, this has triggered vociferous outbursts of disquieting concern.

Brazil's president Jair Bolsonaro (right) was thankfully receptive. On Wednesday, he signed an order to ban burning throughout the country for two months, government sources cited in local media said.

Notwithstanding the presidential decree, some indigenous tribes are turning to prayer in a bid to halt the destruction and protect their environment for future generations. 

In the village of Feijo, in the west of Brazil, approaching the border with Peru, indigenous people from the Shanenawa tribe on Sunday performed a ritual to try to find peace between humans and nature. With faces painted, dozens danced in circles as they prayed to put an end to the fires. 

"We want peace and love", Tekaheyne Shanenawa, a Shanenawa leader, told Reuters as he participated in the said ceremony.

“If the fires continue the way they are, in 50 years’ time, we will no longer have the forest standing up”, added Bainawa Inu Bake Huni Kuin, another Shanenawa leader. 

"And we will not feel secure in what we have, in our culture, in our language, in our songs. Us without the forest, we won't be able to farm, we won't be able to eat, without our land we won't be able to live". 

The Shanenawa number only about 720 and inhabit around 23,000 hectares (57,000 acres) of land. 

This year’s dry season has indeed witnessed devastating forest fires and said to be the most in at least a decade – at the same time as Brazil's No. 1 has argued that the forest needs to be exploited, and native reservations vastly reduced. 

Even when Bolsonaro was a far-right Congressperson and presidential candidate, he had already drawn headlines for his disparaging remarks regarding Indian tribes, and as president he has maintained that too much of the country's territory is unproductive because the indigenous peoples enjoyed special rights. 

The natives can only pray because they know they cannot depend on their government for any assistance.

"Our rituals pray for planet Earth, to always keep it healthy and safe", Bainawa said. "We pray for mother water, for father sun, for mother forest and for mother earth, whom today feel very wounded".

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