Round table dialogue puts into perspective the importance of ecumenical missions for resistance in the territories

A spiritual moment led by the Guarani Kaiowá indigenous people was the start to the round table dialogue, “The importance of ecumenical missions in strengthening resistance and confronting violations and criminalization in the territories”, held on the morning of 14 March, at the Ondina Campus of the Federal University of Bahia (Universidade Federal da Bahia: UFBA), within the programme of the World Social Forum.  The activity was jointly organized by the Ecumenical Forum of Brazil (Fórum Ecumênico: FEBRASIL ), CESE, the Process of International Networking and Dialogue (Processo de Articulação e Diálogo Internacional: PAD) and the National Human Rights Movement (Movimento Nacional de Direitos Humanos: MNDH).

The aim of the activity was to reflect on the role played by ecumenical missions in the context of violations, criminalization and violence against subjects of rights within their struggles and territories.  In partnership with other organizations, the Ecumenical Forum of Brazil (FEACT) has held four ecumenical missions since 2015: in solidarity with the Indigenous Missionary Council (Conselho Indigenista Missionário: CIMI) and the Guarani Kaiowá from Mato Grosso do Sul (2015); in support of the same original peoples in 2016; the Pau d´Arco Ecumenical Mission in Pará and the Ecumenical Mission in Solidarity of the Kaingang and Guarani Mbya Indigenous Peoples in Rio Grande do Sul, both in 2017.

Lídia Farias de Oliveira from the CIMI Region of Mato Grosso do Sul, remembers the criminalization process that CIMI suffered (in 2015, when a Parliamentary Inquiry Commission was opened against the organization) and the current President’s actions against original peoples.  “Temer authorized Judgement 001 2017 [which argues that public administration bodies must apply the Time Limit thesis and the conditions established by the Supreme Court (Supremo Tribunal Federal: STF)], in the judgement about the landmark case for the Raposa Serra do Sol indigenous lands.  The ultimate aim is to paralyse processes for the demarcation of indigenous lands in Brazil, as well as to annul those already made.  “What will happen? Death!”, the missionary declared.  “The Time Limit will be used against seven thousand indigenous peoples to activate evictions against these communities”, she announced.

“Land is our skin, land is life for us”, declared Flávia Arino Nunes, a Kaiowá from the Aty Guassu organization (MS).  “Demarcation is ours too, what we are doing today is self-demarcation.  Because the bodies of our ancestors are buried there.”

Lawyer Andreia Silvério from the Pastoral Land Commission (Comissão Pastoral da Terra: CPT) in Marabá (Pará), reported on the reality of land conflicts in the state.  On 24 May 2017, ten rural workers (one woman and nine men) were brutally murdered in the municipality of Pau d´Arco (in the south east of Pará) on the Santa Lúcia ranch.  The Pau d´Arco massacre is considered the worst massacre arising from agrarian conflicts since the Eldorado dos Carajás Massacre in 1996.  The problem of evictions in the South and Southeast of Pará was also addressed.  At the end of 2017 alone, approximately 600 families were evicted from the Hugo Chávez and Helenira Rezende Encampments.

As well as killings and evictions, another point to emphasize is the symbolic violence expressed through the judicialization of the struggle for land.  “There in the state of Pará, particularly in Marabá, we do not have an area of occupation that is not subject to an ongoing lawsuit, an action for the restoration of land against the workers.  Normally, when there is a lawsuit for the restoration of lands, there will be an eviction.  Because, unfortunately, the judge on the Agrarian Court who deals with this today has a judicial view of the processes, which enables him to authorize the restoration of lands for an area that he knows is public,” the lawyer noted.

Regarding the importance of the Ecumenical Mission in the region, Silvério emphasized that the activity played a strategic role, serving as a measure of protection for local actors who are active within this scenario of conflict.

Isabel Rodriguez from the Landless Rural Workers’ Movement (Movimento dos Trabalhadores Rurais Sem Terra: MST) is one of the survivors of the Eldorado dos Carajás Massacre (1996), when 19 rural workers were killed.  She remembers the first ecumenical mission undertaken in the region in that year, and stresses that the visibility of the killings that took place in the region was one of the high points of the mission: “the massacres continue every day, without dissemination, they are invisible deaths”, she noted.

The round table dialogue continued with participation from the Tupinambás from Serra do Padeiro, in the south of Bahia. Chief Babau was present and encouraged the struggle with words of order. “If those who can do the most win in the struggle for land, the poor population is the greatest. What is lacking is us uniting and being clear about what we want”.

“For those of us who accompany these missions, hearing and seeing these tears moves us.  We know that there is still a great deal of struggle ahead – and not only for the missions, but in turning these struggles into a commitment from Brazilian society,” declared CESE’s Executive Director, Sônia Mota.



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