Meeting a group of Indigenous delegates attending the 6th Global Meeting of the Indigenous Peoples Forum, Pope Francis calls for the protection of their rights and highlights the crucial role of indigenous peoples in the fight against climate change.
By Lisa Zengarini
Pope Francis has urged governments and the international community to respect the cultures, dignity and rights of Indigenous Peoples, acknowledging their crucial role in helping address the current global social and environmental crises.
The appeal came as he addressed a group of 40 Indigenous delegates attending the 6th Global Meeting of the Indigenous Peoples Forum, taking place this week in Rome in conjunction with the Governing Council of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD).
The Forum was established in 2011 as a platform for consultation and dialogue where Indigenous Peoples’ representatives convey their concerns, requests and recommendations to improve the partnership with IFAD to eradicate world poverty and hunger and the effectiveness of its engagement with Indigenous Peoples.
Indigenous Peoples’ Climate Leadership
This year’s meeting, running until 13 February, is focused on Indigenous Peoples’ Climate Leadership: Community-based Solutions to Enhance Resilience and Biodiversity.
In his address in the Consistory Hall, Pope Francis remarked that the theme offers an opportunity to recognize the critical role indigenous peoples play in protecting the environment and to “highlight their wisdom to find global solutions to the immense challenges that climate change poses to humanity on a daily basis”.
Converting from Western models to address the climate crisis
The Pope insisted on the urgent need for “joint actions” and dialogue to reconvert “the consolidated power structures that govern Western societies and, at the same time, “transform the historical relations marked by colonialism, exclusion and discrimination”, because, he said, “the environmental challenge we are experiencing and its human roots have an impact on each of one of us”.
Valuing Indigenous People’s cultural heritage
He therefore called upon governments to recognize the indigenous peoples “with their cultures, languages, traditions and spiritualities”, and to respect their dignity and rights, remarking that “Ignoring the original communities in the safeguarding of the Earth is a serious mistake, not to say a great injustice”.
While commending IFAD’s work to assist indigenous communities in their endeavours for autonomous development, in particular through its special Fund to Support Indigenous Peoples, Pope Francis said these efforts must be intensified and accompanied by farsighted decisions for a “fair transition”.
Harmony with creation key for a good life
Continuing off the cuff, the Pope encouraged Indigenous peoples to continue pursuing harmony with creation and in their communities as a key for a good life, and their fight against the current extractivist policies which are destroying the Earth. Indeed he said, the good life “is not doing nothing, ‘la dolce vita’”, it’s harmony with our environment which is more than an equilibrium, because “it’s not functional” to something.
Indigenous peoples know this too well. This is why, the Pope the Pope insisted, that “Aboriginal cultures must not be converted to a modern culture”, but “need to be respected” , and allowed to follow their own path to development, and their wisdom should be listened to.