Pope pledges support for Brazilian Indians’ campaign to save Amazon home

Pope Benedict XVI met with two Brazilian Indians at the Vatican this morning, and pledged his support for their struggle to defend their Amazon home. He said, ‘We will do everything possible to help protect your land.’

The tribes of Raposa Serra do Sol are under attack from Brazilian farmers who have shot and wounded ten people, burned bridges and thrown a bomb into an Indian community. Shocking video footage shows the moment gunmen hired by the farmers attacked an Indian village in May.

The Brazilian government officially recognised the indigenous territory of Raposa Serra do Sol (‘Land of the Fox and Mountains of the Sun’) in 2005, after a long campaign supported by the previous pope, John Paul II. But powerful farmers and the government of Roraima state are trying to get the legal recognition overturned, so that the farmers can take a large piece of the Indians’ land.

The two Indians, Jacir José de Souza and Pierlangela Nascimento da Cunha from the Makuxi and Wapixana tribes respectively, have organised an emergency tour of Europe to seek support for their campaign to defend their land. So far they have visited Spain, the UK, Belgium, France and Italy. In the UK they met with British MPs and peers, and in France they met with Danielle Mitterand, wife of the late President François Mitterrand and founder of the human rights organisation France Libertés.

Survival’s director Stephen Corry said today, ‘We’re delighted that Pope Benedict XVI has pledged his support. This is a key battle for Brazilian Indians and for the Amazon – if Raposa Serra do Sol is lost, Indians all over Brazil could see their land stolen too.’

Photos of the Indians' meeting with the Pope are available. For further information please contact Miriam Ross on (+44) (0)20 7687 8734 or email [email protected]

Visit Survival’s web page on the Indians of Raposa Serra do Sol, and watch the video of the attack on an Indian village

Read the Indians’ letter to the Pope (in Portuguese)