Riverbank dwellers defend their land
Through the following narrative, Sister Elenice Buoro of the Province of São Paulo told the story of a mission developed in the 80’s, and said that it was a sign of the struggle for life, justice and peace.
The small town of São José dos Bandeirantes along the Araguaia River, which separates the States of Goiás and Mato Grosso in central west Brazil, began to be discovered as a tourist attraction because of its beautiful river banks. This village, distant and isolated, was just a place for riverbank people, as the population living in the vicinity of rivers and surviving by family farming and fisheries is called. With the arrival of tourists, the lands, with undocumented ownership, began to be the object of greed. Knowledgeable about the laws of the land inhabited by the poor inhabitants, ambitious people forged documents, stealing land through the land registry as if they were the owners. The riverbank dwellers, who had lived in this area for decades, were surprised by the bad news that tourists had become the ' owners ' of their land, from which came their survival.
There was a community of Sisters of Saint Joseph in Bandeirantes. Faced with this situation, Sister Júlia Cordeiro and I started to make the riverside communities aware, gathering them and arousing them to defend their rights. Accustomed to praying with regard to their pressing needs, the people were called to see their situation through the word of God. The text of the vineyard of Naboth (1kings 21:1 -25) fit into this reality of land usurpation, and the group was further strengthened in their resistance.
We Sisters launched the Commission of Justice and Peace of the Diocese and put the people in touch with legal practitioners. On several occasions, we accompanied them to the city for their defense, about three hours away. Multiple trials ran on for years. Many obstacles hampered the fight, but people never gave up until they regained their rights to the stolen land.