Indigenous rights defender Bruno Pereira and English journalist Dom Phillips were honored on Saturday, July 16 in an multi-faith ceremony carried out at the Sé Cathedral of the city of São Paulo, Brazil. Bruno, an Indigenous rights leader and Dom, a journalist, were killed on June 5 while they were on an expedition in the region close to the Vale do Javari Indigenous territories in the western Amazon. Three suspects have been arrested, and the police are still investigating possible links between drug trafficking and environmental crimes in the region.
Thousands of people, including Indigenous leaders, Beatriz Matos, Bruno Pereira’s widow, and Alessandra Sampaio, Dom Phillips’ widow participated in the act in the center of São Paulo. Musicians Chico César and Daniela Mercury also were in attendance.
The event was attended by people of all faiths including Catholics, Anglicans, Methodists, Pentecostals, Jews, Muslims, Bahá’ís, Buddhists, Kardecists, people observing traditional religions of African descent, and members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Dom Pedro Luiz Stringhini, bishop of Mogi da Cruzes, represented the Catholic Church. The Ialorixá Omi Lade spoke on behalf of religions of African origin.
The ceremony also paid tribute to Dom Claudio Hummes, archbishop emeritus of São Paulo, who died on July 4. Hummes was known for his defense of Indigenous peoples and for opening the doors of the church to militants persecuted by the forces of the Brazilian military dictatorship of 1964 to 1985.
Alessandra Sampaio spoke at the action. “First of all I would like to express my true gratitude for the Indigenous and traditional communities of this country,” she said. “Who keep our forests standing.”
Beatriz Matos also dedicated a good part of her speech to honor and thank the Indigenous communities “for all the strength they have”. She ended her speech by demanding that “people so dedicated to fighting to better our lives” should no longer be allowed to “meet this tragic end”.
Taking the stage, singer Daniela Mercury asked Alessandra Sampaio and Beatriz Matos to join in as well. “I’m now going to do a song suggested by the two of them that Bruno and Dom really liked.” The three sang Mercury’s “O Canto da Cidade”.
“My song today is for the Indigenous peoples. We are here because of all that has already been said in this tribute. Our responsibility is to end this cycle of violence in Brazil. Democracy needs all the Brazilian people,” said the artist before she started singing.
Chico César, who went on stage earlier, dedicated his performance. “for Bruno and Dom, for Alessandra and Beatriz.”
The event was organized by the Dom Paulo Evaristo Arns Inter-religious Front for Justice and Peace, in partnership with the Justice and Peace Commission of São Paulo, the Arns Commission for Human Rights, the Vladimir Herzog Institute, and the São Paulo section of the Brazilian Bar Association (OAB).
Murder in the Amazon
Last week in Tabatinga, the Federal Police (PF) arrested the man known as “Colombia”, suspected of involvement in the deaths of Bruno and Dom. While he is yet to be officially identified, local Indigenous leaders believe him to be a possible suspect for the murders of the Indigenous rights defender and the British journalist. The PF have not publicly confirmed the man’s guilt.
Since the disappearance of Bruno and Dom, Indigenous people familiar with the illegal activities in the region have said that Colombia is one of the main financiers of illegal hunting and fishing in the Javari Valley. According to them, the deaths were a reprisal for the financial loss caused by Pereira, who mapped the illegal activities and reported them to the authorities.
The superintendent of the investigative body in the state of Amazonas, Alexandre Fontes, said that the man denies having involvement with illegal fishing and the murders, but admitted to maintaining legitimate business related to fishing with Amarildo da Costa Oliveira, also know as the “Pelado”, who was arrested on suspicion of having shot the victims.
Brasil de Fato was unable to locate the lawyer of “Colombia”.
This article was originally published in Brasil de Fato.