Brazil – The Sons of Don Bosco active in the protection and promotion of the rights of indigenous peoples

18 June 2024

(ANS - Campo Grande) – "We have made a choice of Congregation: we will never abandon our presence among the original peoples." With these very clear words, pronounced on the sidelines of the 150th Salesian Missionary Expedition (2019), the Rector Major of the Salesians, Ángel Fernández Artime, today a Cardinal, established in a clear and compelling way the perennial commitment of the Sons of Don Bosco in favour of indigenous peoples. This is particularly true for Brazil and the Campo Grande Missionary Province of Brazil (BCG), where engagement with indigenous peoples is a fundamental part of Salesian work.

In the Brazilian State of Mato Grosso there are 47 indigenous peoples with about 26,500 inhabitants. The native ethnic groups of Mato Grosso have been living for more than a century in a context of struggles for the conservation of their territories, whose biodiversity is increasingly threatened by intensive crops and the consequent indiscriminate use of pesticides and the extraction of various natural resources by landowners, breeders and miners. These invasions compromise access to critical resources such as food, health, and education. Indigenous peoples practise subsistence agriculture, hunting, fishing and handicrafts.

Created in 1972, when Brazil's military dictatorship took the assimilation of ethnic minorities into the majority society as its only perspective on the indigenous question, the Consejo Indigenista Missionario (CIMI) is an organisation linked to the National Conference of Bishops that immediately began working through rights awareness, promoting large assemblies with the original peoples, where the first contours of the struggle for the guarantee of the right to cultural diversity were drawn.

The Salesians have been in Mato Grosso since the end of the 19th century and have been active in CIMI since its foundation. Now, since 2022, they manage a valuable project that aims to contribute to the strengthening of the processes of autonomy of indigenous peoples, supporting their original rights to territory and identity, economic sustainability, education, health and their own forms of organisation, in complete adherence to the CIMI guidelines.

The project is structured to directly benefit 80 leaders (men and women) and 5,870 people belonging to 10 indigenous communities settled in the heart of Mato Grosso (Bororo, Kayabi, Apiaká, Munduruku, Xavante, Chiquitano, Rikbaktsa, Nambikwara, Myky and Enawenê-Nawê).

Articulated in various training, awareness and appreciation activities, the project fully involves all members of the 10 communities, from village leaders to ordinary people. The initiative aims to improve participation and the exercise of rights for indigenous peoples, strengthening the social and economic fabric of these communities for the conservation of their natural and cultural heritage.

Indigenous peoples face prejudice and discrimination, and need assistance in the recognition of their rights. The growing number of indigenous professionals and the strengthening of the Indigenous Movement are potential resources for the defence of rights.

This is why Salesians never tire of standing by the side of indigenous peoples and working for their full recognition and emancipation.

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ANS - “Agenzia iNfo Salesiana” is a on-line almost daily publication, the communication agency of the Salesian Congregation enrolled in the Press Register of the Tibunal of Rome as n 153/2007.

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