Thursday, July 14, 2011

Standing alongside Brazil’s rainforest peoples

Friday, July 8, 2011
Source: Independent Catholic News

CAFOD’s representative in Westminster Diocese is about to travel to Brazil’s Amazon rainforest to highlight illegal rainforest destruction and associated human rights violations. Tony Sheen, a 47-year-old from the Parish of Our Lady of Mount Carmel & St George, Enfield, will visit the state of Pará, where CAFOD partner, the Pastoral Land Commission (CPT), an organisation of the Brazilian Bishops´ Conference, assists local people who have been threatened and intimidated. He will also join a special ‘Martyrs Pilgrimage’ at São Féliz do Araguaia, in neighbouring Mato Grosso State, on 16 July, which will include a torchlight procession in memory of murdered Jesuit priest Joao Bosco Burnier. Fr Burnier was murdered in 1976 when he and Bishop Pedro Casaldáliga of São Felix do Araguaia visited police headquarters in a remote area to inquire about two indigenous women being detained and tortured.

Pará and Mato Grosso are states where indigenous communities and small–scale farmers have struggled to protect the forest and their livelihoods from large-scale cattle ranching and mining. Six murders have taken place in the past month in the region, amid conflicts over land and logging, adding to the 34 murders related to land violence in Brazil over the last year. “I am naturally apprehensive about visiting such a dangerous area,” says Tony, “but I feel it is important to stand alongside the poor in Brazil whose rights are often trampled upon by rich landowners”.

CAFOD is supporting the Brazilian Bishops’ Conference which is alarmed about increasing forest clearances and the surge in violence against social and environmental activists. It supports their demand that proposed change to the country’s Forest Code is vetoed because it will give a green light to developers and loggers to fell more of the Amazon Rainforest and attack opponents. A petition is circulating in Catholic parishes throughout the country at the moment. CAFOD also supports the call for the Brazilian government to bring to justice the individuals who have ordered the recent killings of those standing up for social and environmental justice.

Tony will be taking gifts from the Catholic Community in England and Wales. These include a St Cuthbert's Cross from Holy Island and an ICON of Mary - Mother of the Poor, to be given to Bishop Pedro" \o "Pedro Casaldáliga" Casaldáliga of São Felix do Araguaia.

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