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Mourning an indigenous leader

NEW YORK (SE): The worldwide Church has been asked to pray for the martyrs for the environment and on March 3, Berta Cáceres, from Honduras, was added to the ever-growing list of those who have lost their lives for their work in the defence of nature and the life-giving energy of God’s creation.

“We are shocked and saddened to learn of the assassination of Honduran environmental advocate and indigenous leader of the Lenca people, Berta Cáceres,” the Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns in New York said in a statement on March 3.

Cáceres was murdered in her own home.

The office describes Cáceres as being a faithful leader of the Council of Indigenous Peoples of Honduras, saying that she reflected not only her dedication to nonviolent resistance to illegal logging and mega-projects that devastate the environment, but also her deeply felt belief in the rights of indigenous communities to their land and livelihoods.

“Cáceres organised communities in peaceful protest against illegal logging and violent oppression from the Honduran police forces, most recently in the Gualcarque River Basin,” the Maryknoll office says.

“Cáceres was awarded the Goldman Prize after she led a peaceful campaign to stop one of the world’s largest dam builders from constructing the Agua Zarca Dam, which would have cut off the Lenca people from water, food and medicine,” it continues.

In his recent encyclical, Praise Be: On care for our common home (Laudato Si’), Pope Francis highlights the sacred nature of land for indigenous peoples and the importance of local ecosystems to cultural identity.

The pope names environmental exploitation and degradation as not only being harmful to creation, but also to social structures.

“Large-scale hydroelectric dams and other large-scale development projects often cause irreversible harm to the Earth and impoverished communities,” the office says. “The proposed Agua Zarca Dam is no different.”

Less than two weeks after the assassination, another member of the same organisation, Nelson Garcia, was murdered.


Both were members of the Council of Indigenous Peoples of Honduras.

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