Assembly approves annual report and join forces to fishing communities of São Félix (BA)

Representations of ecumenical organizations, popular movements, the CESE team and its constituent churches visited on Thursday (06/06) fishing communities of São Félix (BA), which live on the banks of the Paraguaçu River. The immersion in the reality of the Bahia Recôncavo allowed them to glimpse the impacts that the inhabitants of the region (who are basically fishing workers) suffer, due to the action of mega-projects; and carry out one of the missions of the annual Assembly of the Ecumenical Service Coordination, which consists of raising awareness and gathering confessions of faith for the struggles for rights of popular groups.

In this edition, the Assembly aligned itself with the agenda of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity 2019, which draws attention to the environmental crimes caused by the economic interests of financial groups that get their wealth from mining – which even killed the  Doce River, the Paraopeba River and  are threats to the São Francisco River.

During the visit to the land and group conversations, the local community reported that water pollution has been caused by the combination of the following elements: disposal of waste in the river by the ETE (Sewage Treatment Plant of Muritiba); release of residues from the tannery (the Mastrotto Reich); and water damming by the Pedra do Cavalo Dam and hydroelectric power plant action.

Moisés Borges, from the Brazilian Movement of Dam Affected People (MAB), reports that in Brazil there are already 1 million people affected. “These companies regard us as ‘drowned’, as if we had no history. This liability [which they entail] has to be paid. Not only money, but also public policies”, warns Moses. “There is a pattern of violation of rights in the construction of dams in Brazil. The MAB comes to add in the fight that you do in this region. When we unify strength and confront them, we get what we are entitled to, our fundamental rights. ”

Romi Bencke, of the National Council of Christian Churches (Conic), stresses that this is not a problem that should be a concern only of the affected populations. “Brazil, Latin America has a lot of water and this will be the war of the 21st century. I really liked what the comrade from MAB talked about, when he said that if a stone hit a fellow here in Bahia, the person all the way in the South should feel it, because water is what unites us. I think water is also going to open a flood against the fundamentalism that so many churches have felt lately. ”

Ana Gualberto from Koinonia, reflects on the ways out she sees for the community problems. “I work in the communities of Baixo Sul, Camamu, which are being impacted by three mining companies. We need to share experiences and join forces, we need to be with those other movements that are fighting for their territories, unifying this fight for water and guaranteeing it as a right. ”

Was also presented during the dialogue, the campaign to preserve the Paraguaçu River Basin which was born in the wake of the death of the Utinga River in 2015, when dozens of riverine people were left 45 days without water for the first time.

The meeting had the presence of diverse cultural expressions, such as the presentation of the   children´s group of “samba de roda”, percussion of the Afro Descendant project, songs, crafts and typical foods fair. Faced with the wealth of the exchanges and the commitments made to strengthen the struggles of fishermen and fisherwomen in the region, Antonio Bastos de Oliveira Neto, better known as Taffarel, say: “your presence here shows that we are not alone and also reverberate to the public power. It also shows to the community that it is possible for us to continue to dream”, evaluates the representative of the Afroamerica  Institute, closing the visit of the CESE Assembly to the city of São Félix.

The Fishermen’s Council (CPP) and the Artisanal Fishing Movement (MPP) also participated in the discussions on Thursday afternoon.


Viewpoints on the report

On the second and last day (7th), the group met at the CESE to evaluate the CESE’s activity and financial report (2018) and to analyze proposals to amend the current Bylaws. All material was approved, without reservations.

A mystic that refers to the water theme as a common good gathered the representations of the churches and ecumenical organizations present, closing the 2019 General Assembly.