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Letter to Peruvian President García

09 June 2009

Geneva, 9 June 2009

Your Excellency,

The World Council of Churches is a fellowship of Churches with 340 member churches worldwide representing over 550 million Christians.

The World Council of Churches expresses its engagement guided by:

  • the recognition of the need to clarify issues of denial, destruction and denigration of indigenous spiritualities and ancestral values;

  • the affirmation of indigenous peoples' right to reclaim what has been denied them and threatened with destruction - their culture, identity, language, cultural symbols, ancestral land, sacred sites;

  • the respect for the indigenous peoples' right to define for themselves their political, economic, cultural and spiritual development;

  • the affirmation of the churches' responsibility to promote awareness of the issues and concerns of indigenous peoples;

  • the affirmation of the important role of education in developing and understanding of a commitment to the struggles of indigenous peoples; and

  • an appreciation of indigenous wisdom and the distinct contribution indigenous peoples can make to the development of new approaches, methodologies and tools of knowledge.

I write to express our deepest concern over the loss of life and violent displacement of the indigenous Awajun and Wambis peoples in Bagua, Peru, 5 June 2009. All life is a gift from God and for that reason we deplore the Peruvian government's inability to resolve the conflict around land use and extractive industries in Bagua justly and peacefully.

We join with the Organisation of American States as well as religious organizations and human rights groups the world over in repudiating this violence and calling for an independent internationally lead investigation. We are also alarmed by reports of attempts to dispose of the bodies and cover up the true extent of the loss of life.

Moreover, we understand this tragic and violent attack to be but one instance of a series of government actions to abrogate the rights of the indigenous peoples of the Peruvian Amazon over land and resources. The events of 5 June were in response to peaceful protests over the application of Decree 1090 which authorizes the sale and exploitation of millions of hectares of government controlled Amazonian forest to private companies.

The World Council of Churches has stood in solidarity with the world's indigenous people and in promoting and supporting the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Decree 1090 and the recent attacks in Bagua contravene the spirit and letter of the UNDRIP and the provisions of international law including ILO Convention 169.

Your government should respect and fulfil all the obligations arising from the International law instruments to which it is a signatory.

Thus, I respectfully urge you and the Peruvian Congress to:

  • Order an immediate cessation of violent repression against indigenous people, who are peacefully seeking to restore their rights,

  • Suspend the state of emergency,

  • Start a sincere and faithful and meaningful dialogue with indigenous leaders to peacefully and justly resolve the conflict and move towards a full application of the UNDRIP and ILO Convention 169 in all the laws and practices of the Republic of Peru.

Together with the prophet Isaiah and in accordance with the values for which your Government stands, we urge that justice is ensured to the indigenous peoples and their legitimate rights and aspirations are upheld. As Christians we believe that "for as the earth brings forth its shoots, and as a garden causes what is sown in it to spring up, so the Lord God will cause justice and praise to spring up before all the nations" (Isaiah 61:11).

Sincerely yours,

Rev. Dr Samuel Kobia
WCC general secretary