On September 29, the Peruvian branch of the Interfaith Rainforest Initiative (IRI) announced the creation of a platform for dialogue between communities of faith, indigenous peoples and other actors in defence of the Amazon in the Ucayali region. This followed the formation of a similar observatory in the Madre de Dios region in August.
As Laura Vargas, IRI Peru coordinator, explained: “our objective is to unite indigenous knowledge with different communities of faith in the Ucayali region with a view to developing a common agenda in defence of the Amazon”.
The IRI was first launched in Norway in 2017 to ”provide a platform for religious leaders to work hand-in-hand with indigenous peoples, governments, civil society organisations and business on actions that protect rainforests and safeguard the indigenous peoples that serve as their guardians”. As the website states: “it represents a first-of-its-kind summit of Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Buddhist, Hindu and Taoist religious leaders, climate scientists, rainforest experts and indigenous peoples’ representatives from Brazil Colombia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Indonesia, Meso-America and Peru.”
IRI Peru was founded in December 2018, when it announced that it would work in defence of Mother Earth and her rights; promote solidarity with and support for peoples’ struggles and their criminalised defenders; denounce the model of civilisation centred on extractivism, confronting both ”new and old colonialisms”; promote the avoidance of forced contacts with peoples in voluntary isolation; and demand that the state and the private sector end all forest concessions that generate deforestation. IRI receives support from the Norwegian government and the United Nations.
The creation of Amazonian observatories in rainforest regions in Peru reflects the emergence of a new actor and ally in defence of the rainforest and its inhabitants, especially the indigenous peoples. It comes as preparations are being made for the synod of Catholic bishops on the future of the Amazon rainforest.