Saturday, December 15, 2007

Brazil Bishops call for fast and prayer to protest river project

Brazil's council of bishops called on Christians to unite for a day of fasting and prayer in solidarity with a Roman Catholic bishop who is on the 17th day of a hunger strike to protest a river diversion project.

The government says the US$2 billion (¤1.38 billion) project to divert the Sao Francisco river is needed to irrigate the Brazil's arid northeast but critics contend it will to irreversible environmental damage and mainly benefit large agribusiness interests.

«We invite Christian communities and people of good will to unite in fast and prayer with Dom Luiz Cappio, for his life, his health and in solidarity with cause he defends,» said a statement from the Council of Brazilian Bishops issued late Thursday.

The council set Dec. 17 as the date for the planned protest.

The statement was issued after President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva rejected to calls from bishops to permanently stop work on diverting the Sao Francisco river, Brazil's fourth largest.

On Monday, a federal judge issued an injunction ordering the government to suspend work on the project on the grounds that the National Water Resources Council had ignored several important technical criteria in approving it.

The injunction did not mention the hunger strike.

The government is appealing that decision.

Cappio, who went on an 11-day-long hunger strike in 2005 to stop the project, said he was prepared to die if the government does not stop work on the project.

He ended the earlier hunger strike after the government promised to promote a wide-ranging debate on the project, a promise the Bishop says the government has not kept.

The government estimates the plan will benefit about 12 million people in the desperately poor region.

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