Catholic Bishop Erwin Kräutler has accepted the Right Livelihood Award, known as the ‘Alternative Nobel Prize’, for his work defending the rights of Brazilian tribes.
He was honored ‘for a lifetime of work for the human and environmental rights of indigenous peoples and for his tireless efforts to save the Amazon forest from destruction’, at the awards ceremony held yesterday at the Swedish parliament. In a hard-hitting acceptance speech, Bishop Kräutler highlighted the Guarani Indians’ ‘pain, despair and insecurity’ and said they are ‘confined to small areas, their young people see no prospect for their future and the suicide rate among them is alarmingly high… The current government is ignoring this cruel genocide in progress before their eyes.’
Bishop Kräutler has long fought for the rights of the Indians of the Xingu region of the Brazilian Amazon, who are now threatened by the Belo Monte mega-dam.
The Bishop described Belo Monte as ‘a project that never took into consideration the legitimate rights and preoccupations of the population of the Xingu.’ Indigenous peoples ‘know very well that they will not survive if Amazonia continues to be disrespected and razed. And they know that planet Earth will suffer irreversible consequences by this cruel destruction. This will be the true apocalypse.’
He stated that ‘the principal problem [in the Amazon] has to do with the ownership and use of land’, and that ‘rural violence is linked to the concentration of land ownership and the most shameful impunity with which the criminals are honoured. They kill and nothing happens!’
Survival International’s director, Stephen Corry, said today, ‘Bishop Kräutler routinely puts his life at risk by speaking out for Indians in Brazil. They need friends like him, just as the churches too need more like him to carry forward the tradition of working for the oppressed. His winning the alternative Nobel prize is fantastic recognition for a great unsung hero.’
Bishop Kräutler is Bishop of the Xingu region and President of the Indigenist Missionary Council (CIMI) of the Catholic Church in Brazil.
Previous winners of the Right Livelihood Award include Survival International and the Bushman organization the First People of the Kalahari.