Brazil: Forest Defending Catholic Rural Radio by Father Edilberto Sena in Santarem

For nine years, Father Sena has run a Catholic rural radio station in
his home town of Santarem which reaches at least 500,000 people in the
Amazon. He uses his station to highlight many of his campaigns. “I am
a human being and see what is happening there, and I am a native
Amazonian, so I can’t cross my arms and close my eyes,” he says.

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“I have a duty as a leader, a social leader and have a duty to help my
people fight, and stimulate my people to confront the enemies of our
region.” Father Sena says that the Amazon faces five main threats:
agri-business chiefly from soya farmers, loggers, cattle ranchers;
mineral companies and the Brazilian federal government. He includes
the government in this list because it is planning to build 10
hydro-electric dams in the Amazon region.

“This would cause great devastation to the environment by changing the ecosystem and for the people who live there because they depend on the forest and the river for survival,” he says passionately.

Father Sena, born 60 years ago 45km from Santarem, in the state of Para, is one of 12 brothers and sisters. His father worked for the Ford Company as a researcher into the diseases of rubber trees in Santarem. After studying in the United States at a Franciscan College, in Quincy, Illinois, Father Sena was awarded a scholarship to study radio communication in the Netherlands.

In 1979, he left the Franciscan order and entered the diocesan priest
group in Santarem, after being inspired by the radical South American
movement of Liberation Theology. Liberation Theology was born as a
response to the poverty and the ill-treatment of ordinary people.

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