Comissão Pastoral da Terra (CPT)

Awarded 1991

Brazil

For their dedicated campaigning for social justice and the observance of human rights for small farmers and the landless in Brazil.

The Comissão Pastoral da Terra (CPT) is a Christian principled organisation struggling with social justice and human rights in the Brazilian countryside. It offers advice and support to small farmers and landless people, addressing unjust land distribution and violence problems.

Its members contribute to building a real democracy through genuine land reform, respect for the environment, and help the peasants organise themselves to get their voice heard. Liberation theology is a key inspiration for CPT, although its staff works on an ecumenical basis.

Founded in 1975, CPT’s specific objectives are to interlink, advise and support all those involved in the service of landless workers and peasants to organise themselves and exercise basic rights such as those to land, freedom, justice; to contribute to the building of a real democracy through genuine land reform, respecting the environment.

We are witness to our people's creativity in the search for alternatives and their wanting to relate lovingly to the land. Because for them land is not a piece of merchandise.

Jorge Marskell of Comissão Pastoral da Terra, 1991 Laureate

CPT was founded as and remains a Roman Catholic institution, linked to the National Conference of Brazilian Bishops. However, it has also always had an ecumenical basis and works especially closely with the Lutheran Church, two ministers of which sit on its Executive Board. Liberation theology is a key inspiration for CPT workers, to the development of which they have also greatly contributed.

CPT is organised into a National Secretariat in Goiania and has branches spread over 20 states. Since its inception, CPT has helped to organise more than 350 rural unions and is advising more than 500. Lawyers associated with CPT have been involved in thousands of court cases in favour of rural workers.

In 1983 CPT was a founder of the National Campaign of Land Reform. In 1985 the new civilian government of José Sarney passed a National Plan of Agrarian Reform with radical proposals for the expropriation and redistribution of land that was not 'fulfilling its social function'. But the land reform law has been watered down and timidly enforced.

Other CPT activities have included:
-Support for sustainable development projects;
-A unique database about land-inspired human rights violations in Brazil;
-Popular education and mobilisation, including a mass signature campaign and pilgrimages in favour of land reform;
-Two alternative tribunals highlighting the crimes of big landowners;
-Support for the encampment and settlement of landless peasants on unproductive land.

Experience has shown that only the mobilisation of the rural poor - as fostered in Brazil by CPT and the Movement of Landless Workers, MST (also a 1991 Right Livelihood recipient) - holds out any real prospect of change against the entrenched landowning elite.

Since 1985, the Comissão Pastoral da Terra (CPT) has annually released the report "Conflicts in the field," which presents data on conflicts and violence suffered by indigenous people, women, workers and traditional peoples in the Brazilian countryside.

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