The struggle for social and environmental justice in the Brazilian Amazon – A Volunteers Story

Here from CAFOD Volunteer Michael Walsh as he tells of his experience of a recent CAFOD event!

On Wednesday, about fifty CAFOD supporters experienced a much-needed antidote to the discouraging news coming out of Latin America in recent months. CAFOD Westminster organised a meeting about its work with indigenous peoples in the Brazilian Amazonian forests. Esther Gillingham – CAFOD’s Brazil Programme Officer – spoke with authority of the outstanding courage of the indigenous people and their organisations in the face of the depredations of mining companies, large-scale agriculture and developers who have already laid waste to vast swathes of the rain forest – the home of about 255 groups of indigenous people. Those same rain forests retain and absorb vast volumes of carbon dioxide. Unstable and extreme rainfall patterns such as droughts and floods are linked to deforestation in the Amazon region, and are widely thought to be a powerful factor in increasing climate change all over the world.

CAFOD Westminster Volunteers

Before the Portuguese first set foot in Brazil, between two to four million indigenous people lived there but smallpox, slavery and slaughter had reduced the number over centuries. Today there are fewer than 900,000 indigenous people living in Brazil (98% of their lands are in the Legal Amazon region), who have been diminished by nearly one fifth as a result of ruthless and mostly unlawful incursions by commercial interests.  For Brazil has a most impressive legal framework protecting the rights and the lands of indigenous people, guaranteed through the 1988 Constitution. The Brazilian Government is bound in particular by its ratification of Convention 169 of the International Labour Organisation proclaiming and protecting the inalienable rights of indigenous and tribal peoples.

The prospects for the free practice of these rights plummeted with the election last year of Brazil’s new government who are proposing to halt indigenous land demarcations, and open up indigenous reserves to mining. The fifty million people in Brazil who live in abject poverty have no reason to hope that the new government will help them to secure a better life in his determination to promote economic development regardless of the immediate and fatal long-term consequences for the national and global environment.

CAFOD stands with all in the forests and favelas in Brazil whose life prospects and freedoms are under threat.  It works with partner organisations who are at the cutting edge of the struggle for fair treatment. CAFOD stands with heroic individuals like Joenia Wapichana, an indigenous lawyer who is the first indigenous woman to be elected to Congress. Through taking part in the Climate Change Campaign and through contributing to the forthcoming Family Fast Day collections this Lent all can join in the struggle for justice, peace and global climate sustainability.

By Michael Walsh Office Volunteer.

CAFOD Volunteer and Sudbury Parishioner heads to Poland to call for action on climate change

A Parishioner from St George’s Parish in Sudbury and CAFOD campaigner volunteer is heading to Poland in December to join thousands of people calling for world leaders to take action on climate change at a major UN conference.

Keith Routledge, who is a volunteer for the Catholic development charity CAFOD, will travel to Katowice, Poland, from the 5-11 December for the 24th Conference of the Parties – known as COP24.

CAFOD Campaign World Hunger COP24
CAFOD Campaign Volunteer Keith during previous CAFOD Campaign combating World Hunger

Passionate about tackling climate change, Keith is making the trip to call on 200 UN member states to ensure the full implementation of the 2015 Paris Agreement.  Campaigners are hoping that member governments will show greater ambition in restricting global temperature rises to 1.5 degrees and take action to have net zero emissions by 2050.

Keith will join campaigners from across Europe to share ideas for bringing about action back home in London to live more simply and sustainably. 

Keith, who supports renewable projects through his background as an engineer, said: “Climate change is one of the biggest threats facing humanity.  Unfettered anthropogenic climate change is already beginning to take effect. If we do not act decisively now, we are facing human suffering on a global scale.”

CAFOD’s Head of Advocacy, Neil Thorns, said: “It is great that Keith is able to travel to COP24 in Katowice to represent Catholics in the Westminster diocese.  COP24 represents an opportunity for CAFOD alongside its partners and sister organisations to ramp up the pressure on national governments to follow through on the commitments they made as part of Paris Agreement in 2015.

“The historic agreement that so many of CAFOD’s supporters, like Keith, pressed to be signed has now been ratified by 183 of the 197 Parties to the Convention.  However, as the recent IPCC Special Report on the impacts of global warming of 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels so clearly illustrates, the current global ambitions are not going to prevent this global temperature rise. 

Keith with CAFOD group with Cardinal Vincent during the CAFOD World Hunger campaign

“This is why CAFOD will push for greater ambitions to be set and an agreed framework that ensures immediate and effective action on climate change at the national level at the upcoming COP, highlighting the need to keep to 1.5, particularly for the poorest and most marginalised people.”

Catholics in England and Wales have shown a widespread response to Pope Francis’s letter, Laudato Si’, which calls on us to care for our common home by pledging to live more simply, sustainably and in solidarity with poor communities.

Find out more at

You are invited to a Retreat with CAFOD this Autumn


Countering Consumerism

Lessons from Gaudete et Exsultate

Have you ever felt a conflict between living out your faith and the pressure of living a busy, modern life? Have you ever thought about what it means to be ‘holy’, to live more simply and in deeper contemplation?

Pope Francis offers some ideas in his new letter, Gaudete et Exsultate (Rejoice and Be Glad). He encourages us to open our eyes, ears and Togetherhearts, to be unsettled by the words of the Gospel and expand our often limited horizons.

This Autumn, you are invited to take time out of your everyday life to explore Scripture and Church teaching together and be inspired by one another and CAFOD’s campaigning and work overseas. The relief and development aid that CAFOD is able to offer, to countless people around the world, on a daily basis is made possible mostly by the efforts of it’s supportPopeAbroaders and volunteers.  That task can appear exhausting and daunting at times. So take this opportunity to enrich your faith and charge up your batteries. Let’s make sure CAFOD delivers for everyone.

The retreats are free of charge and all are welcome. We’d especially like to welcome you if you’re leading campaigns in your parish.

Please join us for the Westminster retreat, at CAFOD either

on Saturday 1st December from 10-4pm, at the Westminster Volunteer Centre, which is above the Church of Christ the King in  Oakwood


On Saturday 24th November at the CAFOD offices, Romero HouseEventbriteLogo.

Book your place here on the Eventbrite website.

Directions: …………………..

LocationMapRomero House, 55 Westminster Bridge Road, SE1 7JB

I wouldn’t recommend driving. The tube is probably the fastest way as Romero House is only a few minutes walk from Lambeth North Underground Station and not much further from Waterloo Main Line Terminus. Click the map for the exact location.

OakwoodMapThe Church of Christ the King, 29 Bramley Road, Oakwood, N14 4HE.

Christ the King is easy to get to. Take the Piccadilly line underground train to Oakwood Station and either walk from there or get a 307 bus towards Barnet Hospital. The bus runs past the door. Click on the map for an enlarged version.