On August 16th, Benki Piyãko was invited to speak at a high-level dialogue with indigenous leaders across the Amazon Basin during the 2023 Parliament of the World’s Religions in Chicago, USA. The event, “An Urgent Call to Protect the Amazon: An Interfaith Rainforest Initiative Dialogue with Indigenous Peoples,” was delivered as a plenary session for the more than 7,000 religious leaders gathered at the Parliament. The plenary aimed to raise the voices of indigenous peoples in their fight for the protection of the Amazon and profile IRI – a flagship program of the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) – as a shared platform for religious leaders to work shoulder to shoulder with indigenous peoples to protect forests and the rights of forest guardians, which can be watched here.

“When you talk about the forest and taking away the right to land from indigenous peoples, you talk about killing the Amazon, you talk about killing the planet. I would like all religions around the world to pay attention to this, not just for the Amazon but all the forests around the world. Plant the forests! Plant seeds! Instead of dropping bombs to kill people, drop bombs of seeds from within your hearts, souls, and minds,” underlined Benki, emphasizing  the urgency of the cause.

Benki was joined by a distinguished panel of Amazonian indigenous leaders, including:

Sonia Guajajara, Minister of Indigenous Peoples of Brazil,
Chief Raoni Metuktire of the Kayapo People of Brazil,
Patricia Gualinga, Representative of Mujeres Amazónicas Collective,
Alicia Mojomboy and Miguel Evanjuanoy, Union of Indigenous Yagé Doctors of the Colombian Amazon (UMIYAC),
Daiara Tukano, Indigenous Artist and Human Rights Researcher,
Mapu Huni Kuin, President of the Hawa Karu Yushibu Center, and
supported by Native American representative Mona Polacca, a Hopi elder.

The event began with a poignant welcoming prayer and land acknowledgment led by Bodwéwadmi (Potawatomi), indigenous leader and Culture bearer of her indigenous nation in Chicago, and the Iron Bear drum group.

Dr. Charles McNeill, Senior Advisor on Forests and Climate for the Interfaith Rainforest Initiative (IRI) of the UN Environment Program (UNEP), and Mr. Carlos Vicente, National Facilitator of IRI-Brazil, provided a comprehensive overview of the critical need to protect rainforests and uphold the rights of indigenous peoples, as well as the crucial role of religious leaders and communities to support this cause.

Rabbi David Rosen, Co-President of Religions for Peace and Special Advisor to the Abrahamic Family House, delivered insightful remarks, emphasizing the moral imperative of the cause.

The Parliament of the World’s Religions, a founding partner of IRI, issued a resounding Call to Action, urging all its members to rise to the occasion in defense of the Amazon Basin and its indigenous communities.

The event concluded with a prayer led by Daiara Tukano, offering a profound moment of reflection and unity.

This monumental gathering was made possible through the generous support of the Indigenous Medicine Conservation Fund (IMC), Little Tree House, and the Boa Foundation.

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