We, members of the Special Pastoral Episcopal Commission for Combating Human Trafficking (CEPEETH) of the National Conference of Bishops of Brazil (CNBB), held from March 1st to 4th, 2018, in the cities of Boa Vista and Pacaraima (RR) , the “Brazil/Venezuela Borders” mission. It aimed to know in loco the situation involving current immigration on the border between Brazil and Venezuela, in particular to verify the occurrence of human trafficking and to be a solidary and prophetic presence.
Visits were carried out on the Brazil/Venezuela border, in the Warao indigenous shelters in Pacaraima and Pintolândia, and Tancredo Neves in Boa Vista, a shelter for Venezuelans; hearings with the Federal Police and the State Governor; meetings with the bishops of Roraima, Monsignor Mário Antônio Silva and the Bishop of Santa Elena de Uiarén-Venezuela, Monsignor Felipe González González and with the parish priest of the Sacred Heart of Jesus Church in Pacaraima, Father Jesús López Fernández; with the Social Pastorals, the State Committee to Combat Sexual Exploitation and Trafficking in Persons, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and other civil society organizations. Unfortunately, we were unable to dialogue with the mayor of the municipality of Boa Vista.
We also participated in interviews on radio and television programs. On the occasion, we celebrated with the communities of the Parish of Nossa Senhora da Consolata and the Cathedral of Christ the Redeemer.
These activities put us in contact with a cruel and inhuman reality that cries out for quick, effective and articulated responses from churches, the state and society in general.
Our eyes have seen: long lines of immigrants and refugees in search of documentation, transport, food and work; hungry, malnourished, sick, out of school children; unemployed youth with no prospects for the future, exposed to drug addiction and all kinds of vulnerabilities; women victims of violence, sexual exploitation and work; unscrupulous people exploiting the misery of immigrant and refugee brothers and sisters at work and altering the prices of food and other commodities. We were particularly impressed by the visit to the Tancredo Neves shelter, known as “Tancredão”, due to the state of total abandonment and degradation of human dignity.
Our ears heard: laments of pain and denunciations of serious situations of violation of rights and lack of elementary public policies such as food, health, hygiene, safety, education; complaints of police violence, violence against women, sexual and labor exploitation, drug and human trafficking and complete omission by the public authorities.
Our hearts felt: deep indignation in the face of this inhuman and unjust reality when we noticed the absence and lack of commitment of the constituted powers in providing answers; to find out that the concern with the beauty of the squares is more important than the care for the human person; to listen to discriminatory expressions in relation to migrants and refugees and to understand how much we need to live the Project of God that makes us all brothers and sisters.
In the midst of this glaring reality we have also seen and heard with joy and hope many fraternal and solidary actions of individuals, families, groups, churches and civil society institutions; support from international institutions and great openness and dedication on the part of the local Church, giving priority to the service of immigrants and refugees.
This desolate scenario challenges us to take personal and collective actions and positions of acceptance, solidarity and political incidence in an articulated way at the local, state and national levels.
Therefore, in the name of CEPEETH, we make a strong appeal to the churches and society for greater concern for our brothers and sisters, immigrants and refugees. In this regard, we urge everyone to:
– Greater awareness and involvement with our brothers and sisters, through voluntary service practices;
– Effective and generous participation in the CNBB solidarity campaign in favor of Venezuelan immigrants and refugees;
– Mobilization and political advocacy with public, national, state, municipal bodies so that they assume their role in making public policies viable and guaranteeing the rights of our brothers and sisters;
– Carry out and/or participate in permanent educational campaigns on migration and human trafficking in all church organizations and society.
The Word of God, in affirming that “we are all brothers and sisters” (cf Mt 28,7) urges us to live fraternity as a way of overcoming all violence and inequalities. We recognize and appreciate the greatness of spirit of the many people who, sensitive to the pain of our immigrant and refugee brothers and sisters, are already making their contribution.
May Our Lady of Aparecida intercede with God for all of us so that we may firmly commit ourselves to this mission of “welcoming, protecting, promoting and integrating” our brothers and sisters immigrants and refugees in our homeland.
Dom Enemésio Lazzaris
Bishop of Balsas (MA) and President of the Special Pastoral Episcopal Commission to Combat Human Trafficking/CNBB