Asuncion (Agenzia Fides) - "We demand respect for the rights of indigenous peoples and the laws that govern them; we demand that priority be given to the right to land and property for all Paraguayans; we recommend the urgent need to strengthen, defend and promote the common good as the basis of social peace". These are the requests contained in the "Open Letter" addressed to the powers of the State by the Permanent Council of the Episcopal Conference of Paraguay, sent to Fides.
"We turn to you to express our deep concern over the forced evictions and threats of expulsion of indigenous and peasant communities in various areas of the country - the Bishops write -. Recent episodes arouse outrage, so we ask urging the national authorities to protect the rights of the indigenous peoples of our country and the right to land of our compatriots". Recalling the fundamental principles of the national Constitution on justice, equality before the law and the rights and duties of citizens, the Bishops ask that "the procedures implemented be reviewed" and above all, that "the lives of the most vulnerable be protected, ensuring that, in their legitimate claims or in conflicts of ownership, they are not harmed or delayed for the benefit of the economic power of others".
The Bishops consider that it is necessary to raise your voice "to recall that the law binds the legislator as much as all those who are under its jurisdiction", and that any act which undermines "the meaning and application of the precepts of the national Constitution and the validity of the body of the law, desacralizes the faith deposited in the laws and their authorities". They therefore express their requests to the authorities to respect the rights of indigenous peoples, in order to "guarantee equality and non-discrimination, autonomy, access to justice with respect to indigenous customary law, the protection of their territories and natural resources for their livelihood". They call for agrarian reform, the promotion of peasant family farming and initiatives aimed at ensuring the protection of the environment in a healthy, sustainable and united economy. "It is time to put an end to misery, extreme poverty and practices that harm social cohesion, the common good and health in our common home", they denounce. They then address the legislators: "rather than criminalizing, they demand and guarantee access to resources and opportunities, in accordance with the dignity of all citizens. In this regard, we consider it prudent to assess the need to repeal the recent amendment of the Criminal Code or to review it with mechanisms of control and dialogue".
Finally, the Letter of the Bishops reiterates that "we must grow in a political and social culture of dialogue between brothers and sisters, and encourage the encounter that helps to seek consensus and agreements that guarantee a just, harmonious and full society, where there is no exclusions or unfair differences".
In these days when we celebrate the Virgin of Caacupé, Patroness of Paraguay, the Bishops urge the authorities "to become aware of the many needs we have experienced in the context of the pandemic and to take appropriate decisions to help all Paraguayans". (SL) (Agenzia Fides, 30/11/2021)