And the Lord said, “What have you done? Listen! Your brother’s blood
cries out to me from the ground. Genesis 4:10
“Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves,
for the rights of all who are destitute.” Proverbs 31:8
The suffering and indignant cry of the Guarani and Kaiowá people resounded powerfully and led the Ecumenical Caravan [organized by the Ecumencial Coodination of Service (Coordenadoria Ecumênica de Serviços: CESE), the Ecumenical Centre for Biblical Studies (Centro de Estudos Bíblicos: CEBI)/Mato Grosso do Sul and the Indigenous Missionary Council (Conselho Indigenista Missionário: CIMI)/Mato Grosso do Sul] to visit Brazilian cities near to the border with Paraguay in lands repossessed by the Guarani and Kaiowá indigenous people. We went to areas marked by hunger and every kind of violence (from ranchers, from bandits, as well as official violence practiced by the State of Mato Grosso do Sul) in the cities of Amambai, Coronel Sapucaia (on the border with Capitan Bado – Paraguay) and Dourados.
The activity brought together representatives from the Anglican Episcopal Church of Brazil (Igreja Episcopal Anglicana do Brasil: IEAB), the United Presbyterian Church of Brazil (Igreja Presbiteriana Unida do Brasil: IPU), the Roman Apostolic Catholic Church (Igreja Católica Apostólica Romana: ICAR), the Alliance of Baptists of Brazil (Aliança de Batistas do Brasil: ABB), the Alliance of Presbyterian and Reformed Churches of Latin America (Aliança de Igrejas Presbiterianas e Reformadas da América Latina: AIPRAL), the ACT (Brazil) Ecumenical Forum (Fórum Ecumênico ACT Brasil: FEACT), the National Council of Christian Churches of Brazil (Conselho Nacional de Igrejas Cristãs do Brasil: CONIC), the Lutheran Foundation of Diakonia-Council of Mission among Indians-Centre for the Support and Promotion of Agroecology (Fundação Luterana de Diaconia – Conselho de Missão entre Povos Indígenas – Centro de Apoio e Promoção da Agroecologia: FLD-COMIN-CAPA) and the National Human Rights Council (Conselho Nacional de Direitos Humanos: CNDH) from Minas Gerais, Rio de Janeiro, Santa Catarina and Bahia.
The Ecumenical Caravan started in Campo Grande in Mato Grosso do Sul on 20 July, setting out from the Federation of Education Workers of Mato Grosso do Sul (Federação dos Trabalhadores em Educação de Mato Grosso do Sul: FETEMS) with the celebration of a rite of welcome for the group, accepted as an important mouthpiece for indigenous people.
“We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us.” (1 John 1:3)
In visits to the repossessed areas of Jopara (Coronel Sapucaia), Guapo’y (Amambaí) and Aratikuty (Dourados), we heard similar reports from the mouths of the indigenous themselves about their situation: the persecution and murders of leaders (three killings in 2022 alone); violence and illegal evictions practiced by the Mato Grosso do Sul Military Police, with the approval and apparatus of the State Government of Mato Grosso do Sul; ambushes; women raped, included underage girls; random shots fired in order to intimidate; the curtailing of the right to come and go; the persecution of indigenous people when they are outside the repossessed land; the state denial of medical attention, the supply of medication, the provision of regular education and the prohibition of school transport; the absence of a minimum water service, despite the presence of two water tanks from the Mato Grosso do Sul Sanitation Company (Mato Grosso do Sul Sanitation Company: SANESUL) in an area next to the repossessed land in Dourados; a lack of electricity, and other forms of oppression and intimidation.
Throughout the caravan the delegation was very well received by these indigenous people and was able to feel the strength and hope of the Guarani and Kaiowá in these areas, marked by tragedy. Their intense, truthful and almost desperate reports were, at the same time, powerful and warrior-like, and compelled us to action and to denounce the State, which should provide security and protection, but which acts oppressively against its own people. They also denounced the greed of agribusiness, which invades their territories and pushes them into misery, indigence and extreme poverty.
Faced with extreme food insecurity, the caravan delivered food baskets to communities in the three repossessed areas and undertook commitments in the face of urgent requests. More lasting measures will have to be taken through action by the organizations and churches that formed the caravan, through contact with other partners in Brazil and in other parts of the world, particularly measures of a legal nature, including the urgent need for the recognition of all the rights of these indigenous peoples.
The ecumenical public act in the main square in Dourados, which brought the caravan’s visit to an end, was marked by an outpouring from Guarani and Kaiowá survivors. The significance of the caravan in solidarity with and support to the Guarani and Kaiowá people was highlighted at this moment, especially for the families of Vitor Fernandes, from Guapoy and Amambaí, Alex Recarte Vasques Lopes, from Jopara in Coronel Sapucaia and Márcio Moreira, from Amambaí , young lives that have been cut down by the barbarity of police persecution and the actions of bandits ordered by ranchers. Indigenous representatives cried out: “Brazilian State, stop killing us. We are a people of peace”. Their cries also resounded in demands for justice and calling for their lands to be demarcated as quickly as possible. This experience of deep communion was marked by an indigenous ritual, blessing the religious leaders present.
The cries of pain from our Kaiowá and Guarani brothers and sisters silenced us. As Christians, as organizations that fight for the defence of human rights, we express our indignation at the neglect and deliberate actions by the Brazilian government against indigenous peoples rights. We also denounce the dismantling of indigenous and socio-environmental policies that have transformed Mato Grosso do Sul into a territory for the persecution of leaders of indigenous peoples and of traditional communities. The racism and all violence against women, children, young people, adolescents and the elderly in the communities we visited is degrading. We are committed to ensuring the voices of resistance resound and we place ourselves at their service, so all may live a dignified life. We return to our places of origin, to our churches and to our organizations, with a commitment to ensuring that the cries of pain, indignation and resistance of the Guarani-Kaiowá warriors sound out.
May the Divinity, who goes by so many names – the Holy Spirit, Nhanderu – continue to inspire us on our prophetic journey and renew in us the commitment to denounce all the injustices of this world. And also to renew in us the courage to stand always at the side of the impoverished and violated. This helps us believe that a new world is possible, bringing us closer to the Kingdom of God – to a Land without Evil.
Dourados, Mato Grosso do Sul, 22 July, 2022.