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.

All will be welcome at the Westminster Diocese CAFOD Memorial Mass

Remembering past friends of CAFOD…

CandlesDuring November, the month of remembrance, we take time to pray for those who have died and give thanks for loved ones who have made a deep and lasting impression on our lives. 

Over the years, CAFOD has been blessed to work alongside the kindest and most committed friends any charity could hope for. The insight, faith and strength of our founders and early supporters still shape our values and way of working today.

But one of the saddest aspects of growing older, as individuals and as an organisation, is that some of our closest friends have passed away in recent months and years. In our own diocese, we have lost a number of friends who have played an inspirational and important role in our work.

Some may be familiar names, such as inspirational parish priests, or parish volunteers who have organised events and rallied local support for CAFOD campaigns. Many more will be men and women who’ve gone about their busy lives but also quietly found time to offer love, practical support and prayers to the world’s poorest and most vulnerable communities. Ordinary men and women who have made an extraordinary difference to people’s lives.

So, in celebration of our inspiring friends and as a small token of our appreciation for their years of kindness and dedication, CAFOD Westminster is holding a Memorial Mass.

Everyone is welcome

All are welcome to join us, whether to remember fellow CAFOD supporters or members of your own family, friends and community who have passed away. At our Memorial Mass, you can take precious time to remember your loved ones, knowing that you’re among friends.

Add a name to our Book of Remembrance

A Book of Remembrance will be presented and blessed by the celebrant at the Mass. If you would like to add a name to this list you would be very welcome; whether or not you can attend the service itself. Please get in touch with our Volunteer Centre at or by calling 020 8449 6970 if you’d like to know more.

ChristTheKingRefreshments will be provided after the service, so we hope you will be able to stay for a little while to speak with other local CAFOD supporters and staff. It would be wonderful to see you at such a special event.

The Mass is being held on

Wednesday 7 November at 11am

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

OakwoodMapChrist 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.

Papal Blessing given for over 30 years of Volunteering for CAFOD

blessingMary Tempany has received a Papal Blessing, given in Thanks for her CAFOD volunteer activities. For over 30 years, Mary has dedicated her time to helping tcertificatehe most deprived people in the world through her work as part of the CAFOD Holy Family Friday Group, in Welwyn Garden City. They have raised almost £100,000 for CAFOD since they formed in the 1970’s.


Mary’s Parish Priest Fr. NoThreeDaughtersrbert Fernandes was joined by three members of the CAFOD group Bridie Nash, Sandy Leys, and Linda Finn and Mary’s three daughters. Fr. Norbert led a short communion service before Tony Sheen, our Community Participation Organiser, presented Mary with the Papal blessing certificate.

Unfortunately Mary is in I’ll health but our prayers are with her. She was delighted to receive this special blessing from Pope Francis, particularly well earned.