PUERTO MALDONADO, Peru (Reuters) – Pope Francis issued a ringing defense of the people and the environment of the Amazon on Friday, saying big business and “consumerist greed” could not be allowed to destroy a natural habitat vital for the entire planet.
Francis, who has made the environment and climate change a focus of his nearly five-year-old pontificate, made his appeal while visiting a corner of the Amazon in Peru where pristine rainforest and biodiversity is being blighted by mining and logging, much of it illegal.
“The native Amazonian peoples have probably never been so threatened on their own lands as they are at present,” the pope told a crowd of indigenous people from more than 20 groups including the Harakbut, Esse-ejas, Shipibos, Ashaninkas and Juni Kuin.
Thousands of representative of the groups from across Peru walked before him, dressed in traditional regional costumes and feather headdresses and speaking in their native languages, as traditional wind instruments sounded mournfully in a small stadium built to look like a hut in the city of Puerto Maldonado.
Francis decried the “pressure being exerted by big business interests” seeking petroleum, gas, lumber, and gold and plundering “supplies for other countries without concern for its inhabitants.”