People are still dying in the struggle to defend their land

April 18, 2016
by 
Geneviève Talbot

Twenty years ago, 19 Brazilian peasants who were members of Development and Peace partner the Landless Workers Movement (MST) were murdered by gunmen hired by big landowners. To commemorate this massacre, the Via Campesina declared April 17th International Day of Peasant Struggles. Twenty years later, has anything improved for the world’s peasants? 
 
Honduras, March 2016.
Two Native leaders were brutally murdered: Berta Caceras and Nelson Garcia.
Colombia, March 2016.
A farmer was killed and three others incarcerated for the “crime” of defending human rights and their land.
Ethiopia, March 2016.
One year after their arrest on March 15, 2015, three defenders of food, land and human rights continue to languish in prison.
Brazil, April 2016.
The Brazilian government announced that it was suspending the agrarian reform process in the country.
Brazil, Avril 2016.
Three landless peasants were killed and seven more seriously injured during an ambush conducted by agents of the Brazilian state.
Philippines, April 2016.
A peasant was murdered and some 12 others seriously injured by police during a demonstration. Farmers blocking a road were calling on the government to support them in their attempt to cope with multiple droughts.

 

And this is but one month in the lives of peasants who are struggling to defend access to their land and their human rights. In a number of regions of the world, peasant struggles are violently repressed, resulting in hundreds of victims. Peasants are marginalized by economic and cultural globalization and the unfettered pursuit of profit with little consideration for human dignity. 

Peasant struggles are as much about land rights as the right to save and exchange seeds. Peasants are fighting for their survival and to maintain a method of agricultural production whose goal is to feed the planet not generate profit. Canada must support the Human Rights Council Advisory Committee in its efforts to draft a declaration on the rights of peasants.

Supporting peasants in their struggles means supporting universal access to healthy, locally-produced food, which also helps to cool the planet. That is why, to mark the International Day of Peasant Struggles, Development and Peace reiterates its solidarity and support for all of its partners who are taking action so that peasants can make a dignified living by working the land.  

 

Laudito Si 94: “The rich and the poor have equal dignity” because “the Lord is the maker of them all” (Proverbs 22:2). “He himself made everyone, great and common alike” (Wisdom 6:7) and “He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good” (Matthew 5:45). This has practical consequences, such as those outlined by the bishops of Paraguay: “All peasants have the natural right to own a reasonable lot where they can build a dwelling, work to support their family and live in safety. This right must be guaranteed so that its exercise is not an illusion but a reality. This means that in addition to ownership title, peasants must receive technical education, credit, insurance and marketing assistance.” [77]

 

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