The Amazon basin is one of the most ecologically rich regions of the earth and has been called the “lungs of the earth.” However, as the bishops note in paragraph 85, citing Pope Benedict XVI, the devastation wreaked on the region:
In his address to youth in Pacaembu Stadium in Sao Paulo, Pope Benedict XVI drew attention to the “environmental devastation to the Amazon and the threats to the human dignity of its peoples,” and asked the young people for “greater commitment and the broadest areas of action”.
In paragraph 86, the bishops express their opposition to the internationalization of the Amazon, a policy that would negatively affect the lives of the native peoples living there as well as the environment.
The growing assault on the environment may serve as a pretext for proposals to internationalize the Amazon, which only serve the economic interests of transnational corporations. Pan-Amazon society is multiethnic, multicultural, and multi-religious.
They also note what of the most critical and volatile issue: land use and ownership.
The dispute over the occupation of the land is intensifying more and more. The traditional communities of the region want their lands to be recognized and legalized.
The Church in Brazil has been engaged in efforts to assist the landless as well as the native populations to organize against the efforts of large landowners and international corporations to take over lands, some of which have been used traditionally by native peoples. In these efforts leaders in the church and the popular organizations have experienced persecution, threats, and even death. Among the martyrs of the struggle for land in Brazil are Chico Mendes, a leader of the rubber workers, Fr. Josimo Morais Tavares, and Sister Dorothy Stang.