News-Letter Nr. 499

Fraternity Campaign is launched in Brasília

The 2002 Fraternity Campaign (CF) was officially launched this Wednesday , the 13th, by the secretary-general of the National Conference of Bishops of Brazil (CNBB), dom Raymundo Damasceno. The topic of the 39th Fraternity Campaign is "Fraternity and indigenous peoples" and its motto is "For a land without evil." Sitting next to the executive secretary of the Cimi, Egon Heck, dom Damasceno explained that the overall objective of the campaign is to pay off the social debt of the Church in relation to indigenous people and invited all those attending the ceremony to show solidarity toward them and to fight prejudice and the marginalization of indigenous peoples, defending their rights.

This year, the message of pope John Paul II, who traditionally sends greetings from the Vatican to be read in the opening ceremonies of all fraternity campaigns, underlined a sentence from the 2nd Letter of Saint Paul to the Corinthians: "Now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation", to warn Christians that Lent is a time to renew our alliance with God. "The Church will always be there to assist all those who suffer the consequences of poverty and marginalization, and will continue to lend its maternal hand to all indigenous peoples and work with them in building a society where every individual, created in the image and likeness of God, will have his or her rights respected and appropriate living conditions as children of God and brethren in Jesus Christ," the pope stressed.

The CF 2002 has six specific objectives: support the demarcation of indigenous lands and the approval of the Statute of Indigenous Peoples; demand concrete actions in favor of indigenous peoples from the federal administration; fight the prejudice that marginalizes indigenous citizens and humiliate them; create a space for reflection and discussions about our diversity and wealth; promote a dialogue with other churches that work with indigenous peoples and, finally, enhance the involvement of international groups that are responsive to the indigenous cause.

Based on these principles, the campaign intends to encourage Christians to learn with the cultural wealth and wisdom of indigenous people, for whom community values and solidarity are a way of life and who respect the earth as a source of resources for the survival of human beings.

Health threat

Egon Heck mentioned how it is taking a long time for the government to demacate indigenous lands. Although the constitucional deadline has expired, of the 756 indigenous lands existing in Brazil, only 236 have been fully demarcated. The demarcation of indigenous lands is a fundamental requirement for the indigenous population to multiply and keep their customs and traditions alive.

Cimi's executive secretary also reported that the health system available to indigenous peoples has been deeply affected by changes in the governmental policy in relation to the Special Indigenous Sanitary Districts (DSEIs). Cuts in the budget for joint activities with indigenous organizations and NGOs may lead to the adoption of standardized salaries and to the dismissal of middle-level technicians (nursing assistants, microscopists, health agents) who will not be able to be hired again in the future.

In a public note, Cimi points out that the dismantling of the DSEIs "is part of the strategy of the government, which expects to kill many rabbits with one stone: discrediting and demobilizing indigenous organizations, accusing them of improper handling of resources, as a result of which they will not act as inspectors of the obligations of the government any longer and will begin to be inspected by it in a complete inversion of roles. The perverse and cynical conclusion one could reach is that this 'evidence' that indigenous people cannot manage health actions confirms that the DSEIs are not feasible." Situations like this will be denounced throughout the fraternity campaign with the hope that, together with indigenous peoples, we will be able to move on to conquer a "Land Without Evil".

Brasília, February, 14th 2002.
Indianist Missionary Council - Cimi

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