H.E. Luís Inácio Lula da Silva
President of the Federative Republic of Brazil
Geneva, 13 December 2007
I am addressing to your Excellency the present appeal, inspired by what we had the honor to hear from you during the 9th Assembly of the WCC, held in Porto Alegre, Brazil, 14-23 February 2006. In your message to the Assembly, you had strongly affirmed the role of the WCC and the need to continue together our journey in the path of social justice and the quest for human dignity: "I wish to highlight here the important role that the WCC has in combating hunger and poverty throughout the world; this means that we are continuing today as closely as we did in the past, in the quest for social justice, struggling for freedom, democracy and human dignity. All of us here believe that spiritual strength is indispensable in order to foster indefatigable individual and collective militancy, in solidarity, for the common good. Minds, hearts and willing hands that share values of love and respect for others are certainly essential for building a kingdom of justice in this world of inequalities." (cf. Official Report of the Ninth Assembly of the World Council of Churches, 2007, p.356).
Inspired to a very large extent by your message, the Assembly adopted a statement entitled "Water for life" which said that water is a symbol of life. The Bible affirms water as the cradle of life and expression of God's grace in perpetuity for the whole of Creation (Gen. 2: 5).
Furthermore, before the Assembly, the WCC together with the National Council of Christian Churches of Brazil (CONIC) and the Roman Catholic Conference of Brazilian Bishops (CNBB) invited together with the Federation of Swiss Protestant Churches, WCC participants for a meeting on water struggles in Brazil. Brazilian and Swiss churches had issued a joint ecumenical declaration on the right to water the year before and were eager to share this excellent example of ecumenical co-operation (please find the text of the Declaration here). During this meeting information on the diversion of the São Francisco River was also received.
As access to water is at the heart of an important dissension in today's Brazil, we are deeply saddened by the impasse that has led to the hunger strike currently in process by the Roman Catholic Bishop Luiz Cappio and are extremely worried about his deteriorating health. We wish to express our solidarity to Bishop Luiz Cappio who after two years of frustrated attempts to establish a dialogue between social movements and the Brazilian government to discuss the controversial São Francisco River diversion project has chosen this radical non-violent action and has resumed his hunger strike on 27 November. This is the way of protesting against the river diversion project which entails serious ecological and social consequences.
We therefore join the concerns expressed by the WCC's member churches and ecumenical partners in Brazil, and we amplify the voice of the National Council of Churches in Brazil (CONIC) as we appeal to your Excellency personally to withdraw the Brazilian army from the project's construction site and re-establish a dialogue between social movements, churches and the government. We appeal for a democratic discussion on the São Francisco River diversion project and for the consideration of a number of effective alternatives, as those proposed by a study carried out by the National Water Agency (ANA).
The world-wide fellowship of churches constituting the WCC lift their prayers for Bishop Cappio, the people of this Northeast section of Brazil as well as for the political leadership that must bring arbitration to resolve this dilemma.
We pray that all hearts will be softened to be open to the needs of the most affected and vulnerable populations.
Rev. Dr Samuel Kobia