News-Letter Nr. 494

Bishops support Fraternity Campaign and warn of election year

Bishops from the Catholic Church in the State of Maranhão published a document this week declaring their full support for the Fraternity Campaign of 2002, the theme of which is "Fraternity and Indigenous Peoples". The document, addressed to the people of Maranhão, was written after a closed meeting of Northeast Regional Office 5, of the National Conference of Bishops of Brazil (CNBB), held in the city of Pinheiros from January 2nd to 5th. The bishops warn of the social reality in the state, expressing solidarity and concern regarding the plight of the poor, the indigenous peoples, and rural men and women. The document is signed by the Archbishop of São Luiz, Paulo Eduardo Andrade Pontes and 12 bishops from dioceses of Maranhão, including the bishop of Balsas and president of Cimi, Franco Masserdotti.

The document states that despite it being the second most economically viable State in the Northeast Region, 63.37% of the population of Maranhão live below the poverty line, with a monthly income below R$ 80.00. One of the lowest social indicators of the country.

The bishops further declare their concern regarding the status of indigenous peoples in the State that continue in their struggle to demarcate and secure tenure to their lands, to preserve the forests, for education and health assistance, respecting their cultural values. To CNBB Northeast 5, the Fraternity campaign of 2002 is an ideal occasion for reflection and Christian solidarity with indigenous peoples. "It shall also serve as an encouragement to open our hearts to all ethnic minorities and 'oppressed cultures". The bishops declared their support to Cimi, for the missionary work carried out with indigenous peoples. Moreover, they expressed support for the Pastoral Land Commission (CPT), in its struggle to defend the lives of rural populations.

The document makes a somber warning on the corruption and impunity that persists at all levels of government in Maranhão. It calls upon all Christians to promote a critical spirit and one of discernment within their communities so that this year, with its general elections, people are no longer deceived by electoral propaganda and manipulated by the media monopoly. The people of Maranhão are called upon to work on political and social awareness of the people so that the State may choose political representatives that are committed to the common good.

Kaiová people may be evicted from their own land

Some 300 Guarani and Kaiová are apprehensive regarding the possibility of being evicted from the Cerro Marangatu tekohá (indigenous land), which they have occupied since 1998. The indigenous land lies within the municipality of Antonio João, 481 km from Campo Grande, capital of the state of Mato Grosso do Sul. The indigenous groups are camped in an area of 60 hectares, near the Fronteira Ranch, which is on indigenous land. This week, rancher Pio Silva, father of the mayor of the municipality, Dárcio Queiroz, obtained an injunction from the Federal Court for repossession of the area. The deadline for the tribesmen to leave ends on Friday, January 11th. Funai has appealed the decision, but is also trying to convince the groups to leave the land. Upon hearing of the injunction, the tribe members set up barricades and prepare themselves for battle. The Guarani and Kaiová have been fighting for demarcation of the Cerro Marangatu tekohá, from which they were forced to leave in 1959, because it is a sacred site. The "Tekoa Guasu" (great village), is important to indigenous tradition. The land was retaken in order to oblige Funai to begin demarcation proceedings, which has not yet happened.

Brasília, January 10 2002.
Indianist Missionary Council - Cimi

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