On May 10, 1986, Fr. Josimo Morais Tavares, parish priest of São Sebastião, coordinator of the Pastoral Commission of the Land in the diocese of Tocantinópolis, Brazil, assassinated by ranchers because of his support of the rights of rural workers. He was only 33 years old.
Shortly before his death, after an earlier assassination attempt, he said in April 1986:
“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 calibre 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.”
The blood of the martyrs in Latin America in the last fifty years cries out to heaven and to the powers of this earth that God is a God who takes the side of the poor, of the landless, of those at the margins.