Martyr in the struggle for land

On May 10, 1986, thirty-three year old Fr. Josimo Morais Tavares was killed in Imperatriz, Brazil. The parish priest of São Sebastião, he was the diocesan coordinator of martyr of the Pastoral of the Land. He himself came from a  poor family, raised by a single mother, and worked with the poor and the landless in their struggles to obtain land.

As in much of Latin America, the struggle for the land is ongoing and the stakes are high, as those who seek a little land to grow what they need face large powerful land-owners who often are connected with political and military leaders. Father Josimo survived an attempt on his life in April 1986 but continued his ministry. He shared his thoughts after this at the diocesan assembly:

“I understand that this attempt on my life must be understood within the social context of the region and the struggle for possession of the land….Large landowners and their vigilantes in the region, considering the real possibility of a distribution of the land in favor of the squatters, led by the Federal Government, are arming themselves with high caliber weapons and [are] trying to destroy the rural workers’ movement….so this is simply an attempt at carrying out one of the numerous death threats I have received in the last several months. These threats have come from the large landowners and politicians by word of mouth and even in magazine articles, meetings, and public speeches. In spite of everything, I want to and will continue to struggle, trying to bring together the need for peace and the Christian mission of creating a fraternal and just world, moving from the situation of the impoverished and oppressed. May my faith be penetrated by political clarity and impregnated by that courage which is a witness of the resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ.”

So too here in Honduras the campesinos, the people from the campo, the those countryside, continue to live without sufficient land and the struggle for land continues. Pray and struggle that those who work the land have sufficient land and resources to live their lives as children of God.

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