Hundreds of indigenous Guarani-Kaiowá and Terena people have been violently evicted from their homes in the central western state of Mato Grosso do Sul. The vacated land is being used for agricultural businesses, including soya plantations and cattle raising. Now, the Igreja Episcopal Anglicana do Brasil (IEAB – Episcopal Anglican Church of Brazil) is joining with other churches to in a co-ordinated ecumenical campaign to fight for the rights of indigenous peoples.
Brazil’s Indigenous Council reports that 390 Guarani-Kaiowá and Terena people have been brutally murdered and more than 500 committed suicide in the past 12 years as part of the campaign to remove indigenous families from their homelands to make way for agri-businesses.
“On 14 June this year, near the village of the Guarani-Kaiowá in the municipality of Caarapo, indigenous community health worker Achilles Clodiodi Rodrigues de Souza, 23, was shot dead and another five Guarani were treated for severe gunshot wounds,” the IEAB said in a statement. “Residents in the area reported seeing men in trucks, tractors and motorcycles shooting from all sides.
“After the incident, a large group of indigenous people dispersed and occupied land in order to protect themselves. This generated conflict with the owners of those lands.
“Clodiodi was buried at the site of the attack and his grave has become a symbol of the struggle of the Guarani-Kaiowá and Terena people to regain their land.”
Last month, members of the IEAB joined Christians from other churches in a public demonstration outside the Mato Grosso do Sul state parliament to express their “total support for the indigenous cause” and to demand “an immediate end to the killing and resolution of the conflict.”
As a result of the protest, the state’s attorney general met with church leaders and representatives of the indigenous communities. “The indigenous leaders took the opportunity to bring their grievances, and the ecumenical mission committed itself to following up the process,” the IEAB said.
“As a church, we commit to advocate for the indigenous people in Brazil and abroad. We hear the plea of people who are Brazilian – a plea which bounds us to the struggles of all humanity to preserve our style of life, our lands, and our beliefs.”
The IEAG is being supported in its campaign for the indigenous people of Brazil by the Anglican mission agency USPG. “We are standing shoulder to shoulder with our brothers and sisters in Brazil,” USPG said. “Please join us praying for an injustice in Brazil that viewers of the Olympic Games are not seeing.”
USPG is providing funds to train community activists who have been advocating successfully for land rights in the country.