Thousands Join Walking Martyrs for Those Killed Fighting for a Fairer Brazil

Every five years, thousands of people gather in a rural area in the state of Mato Grosso, Brazil, for a pilgrimage devoted to the memory of those who were killed defending life.

It is a gathering aimed at celebrating causes: the causes of indigenous people, black men and women, marginalized women, street boys and girls, workers. The participants in the march renew their commitment to Life and Justice.

The latest Pilgrimage of the Walking Martyrs (Romaria dos Mártires da Caminhada) took place in the city of Ribeirão Cascalheira, state of Mato Grosso, on July 15-16.

Family members of some indigenous people who were killed in the struggle for their land participated in the Pilgrimage. The wife and children of Xicão Xikuru and Galdino Pataxó Hã-Hã-Hãe traveled from states of Pernambuco and Bahia to take part in it.

José Tiago and Zezinho Bororo, the latter of whom was shot during the same violent action of farmers which led to the death of Simão Bororo and father Rodolfo Lunkenbein in 1976, came from the state of Mato Grosso to take part in the gathering.

It was also attended by Estevão Taukane from the Bakairi people, who took part in the pilgrimage to honor the memory of father João Bosco Penido Burnier, who was murdered 30 years ago because of his work among the Bakairi. The Pilgrimage of the Martyrs particularly recalled that 30 years have gone by since Burnier was killed.

On Saturday night (the 15th), the indigenous people carried torches that lit the fire which was used to light the candles placed along the six kilometers through which the 4,000 participants in the Pilgrimage walked, according to the figures reported by the organizers of the event.

On Sunday morning, an open-air mass was celebrated with the presence of Marcos Xukuru. When father Pedro Casaldáliga asked the chief about the results that the march was supposed to produce, he replied:

"Each man and woman should have an ideal and fight for popular causes. They should take from here not only a T-Shirt, a memory, but the strength given by Tupã and Tamaim in their chest.

"And they should pray and do something not only for indigenous peoples, but also for black people, for landless people. We, indigenous peoples, don’t want to have all Brazil. We just want a land of our own to live in this pluriethnic and pluricultural country," he said.

"Indigenous peoples have grown in numbers. They have grown in awareness, in their organization. They have grown in their solidarity toward one another, from the same trunk in relation to its branches, and from people to people.

"There are important indigenous sectors which are aware of Amerindia, of the whole continent. It is not the cause of one people or one village any longer. It is the cause of a world, the indigenous world," Casaldáliga said in an interview while answering questions about the changes he witnessed during the 30 years in which he has been heading his Prelacy.

There he helped to create a Church that is committed to the struggle of indigenous people, half-breeds of whites and indigenous people and riverine populations, since when Mato Grosso began to be invaded by large landowners who embraced the development and integration-oriented ideology.

The Pilgrimage relied on the participation of people from all over Brazil and from countries such as Nicaragua, Argentina, Italy, Spain and Germany.

Cimi – Indianist Missionary Council – www.cimi.org.br

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