Pope backs fight for Amazon land


Pope backs fight for Amazon land

Pope Benedict XVI with Jacir José de Souza from CAFOD partner CIR (Indigenous Council of Roraima) [Fotografiafelici/Survival]
Pope Benedict XVI has added his support to the campaign by two Brazilians trying to save their Amazon home
Representatives from two indigenous communities have won support from the Pope after travelling to the Vatican to make a desperate plea for help to save their Amazon home.
Jacir José de Souza and Pierlângela Nascimento da Cunha are from the Makuxi and Wapixana tribes in Brazil whose territory, known as Raposa Serra do Sol, has been illegally occupied by a group of powerful farmers.
Even though Brazil's President Lula has officially recognised this land as belonging to the indigenous peoples, the local state government supports the farmers and is calling on the Brazilian Supreme Court to give them a large piece of the land.
The Makuxi and Wapixana, along with three other indigenous communities, are urging the Supreme Court to guarantee their land rights and remove the illegal farmers immediately - they are asking people across Europe to back their call.
Jacir, a founder of CAFOD partner the Indigenous Council of Roraima (CIR), and Pierlângela gave the Pope gifts of indigenous crafts, as well as a letter accompanied by two maps that show the disputed territory.
The Pope listened to their plea and affirmed that the Church "will do everything possible to help to protect your land".
This trip is latest stage of a decades-long struggle to secure Brazilian government protection for Raposa Serra do Sol. During this time, indigenous people have faced violence and threats as they have tried to claim their rights over traditional lands.
Simon Giarchi, CAFOD Plymouth diocesan manager, met Jacir and Pierlângela when he visited Brazil in November 2006, and says: “I’ve seen bullet holes in people’s bodies, brands on peoples’ backs from scorching hot irons and have met people whose brothers and friends were beaten to death.
"This has to stop."
Shoulder to shoulder
We are standing shoulder-to-shoulder with CIR to show the British Government that people living in England and Wales do care about what is happening on the other side of the globe and they should too
Clare Dixon, CAFOD
Jacir and Pierlângela, joined by three CAFOD diocesan managers, have already met Liberal Democrat MP Martin Horwood at Westminster and officials at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to ask them for help.
CAFOD’s head of Latin America, Clare Dixon says: "CAFOD has been supporting indigenous groups in the Roraima region for many years to defend their lands, their culture and their livelihood. Now things have reached crisis point.
"We are standing shoulder-to-shoulder with CIR to show the British Government that people living in England and Wales do care about what is happening on the other side of the globe and they should too."
Survival International and Amnesty International are also supporting the visit.
Survival director Stephen Corry says: "This is an absolutely crucial battle for Brazilians and for the Amazon. If the farmers and politicians succeed in stealing Raposa Serra do Sol, people all over Brazil could see their land stolen too. (Cafod)
"We cannot allow this to happen." You can sign a petitition in solidarity with the Indians on the CAFOD website: http://www.cafod.org.uk/

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