martes, 17 de junio de 2014

EXPERIENCE IN ‘MADRE DE DIOS’ (Town named ‘Mother of God) “…we listen to life where God is calling…” Sr. Isabel Chávez, RGS-Perú

Madre de Dios is a district in the southeast of Peru. It was named after the river Madre de Dios (Mother of
God), a river basin, which is the source of most of the rivers in the region. On the banks of ‘Madre de Dios’ is the town ‘Puerto Maldonado’ which is situated on the border with Brazil and Bolivia. It is a beautiful place in the Peruvian Amazon, but it is plagued by pollution and exploitation of the land. Due to the existence of gold in its rivers, mining – legal, illegal and informal - has increased at an alarming rate, with the disastrous consequence of human trafficking for the purpose of sexual and labour exploitation. Girls and women, boys and men are captured in various parts of the country and brought to the mines. Access to these places is very difficult and costly.

In 2013 the Conference of Religious in Peru (CRP) initiated exploration in the district of ‘Madre de Dios’ through an inter-congregational community, an initiative promoted by the Kawsay-Peru network. It is composed of women and men religious who work against human trafficking. Three missions have been planned for this purpose in 2014.

We visited ‘Puerto Maldonado’, the capital of ‘Madre de Dios’, from 15th to 31st March. On this occasion we were three female and one male religious. We shared with the Missionary Franciscans of the Immaculate Conception and the Marist brothers, both of whom have missions with indigenous children in the region.

It was an opportunity to connect with the people and institutions which are working against human trafficking. We were able to visit places where people are recruited and brought to the mines, for example prostitution zones. We also made contact with a native community who had suffered because of the inundation of ‘single’ children, who are exposed to many dangers and potential victims of trafficking.

What did this experience mean?

To be present in a place on the border, to listen, look, get a sense of the situation. What to do? How to get involved? We must be in solidarity with religious life in ‘Puerto Maldonado’, which is committed to specific tasks. We have to approach a highly complex reality where life has no value, just a ‘price,’ and to listen to the cry to protect the children who are at risk, who need households to host them.

During our stay the miners’ went on strike because of the norms set by the government to eradicate illegal mining, while at the same time granting concessions to foreign companies coming to extract gold. This highlights the problem of the place because the state presence is weak there, and corruption is large-scale.

Since being a Sister of the Good Shepherd means leaving the gathering to go to the margins, or as the ‘Latin-American and Caribbean Confederation of Religious’ puts it, “to discover emerging persons.” This means searching, watching over a place where life cries out for a God who frees.

At the same time we are experiencing the richness of inter-congregationality, sharing everyday life as consecrated persons. This allows us to develop new projects and contribute to making the Kingdom of God present, incarnating ourselves in a reality where God himself is crying out.

Sr. Isabel Chávez, RGS-Perú

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