Indigenous people’s lives depend on their lands, but threats are growing worldwide – by Barbara Fraser (National Catholic Reporter – May 12, 2021)

The threats facing Indigenous people opposing industrial operations on their lands — discrimination, harassment and assassination — all disproportionately affect women. And the coronavirus pandemic has done little to reduce the danger, say Indigenous and faith leaders.

“Indigenous women human rights defenders are at the forefront of the resistance against the effects of extractive industries and, more generally, the model relying on the exploitation of natural resources, including through mining, logging, [agricultural] monocultures and dams,” Sandra Epal-Ratjen, international advocacy director for Franciscans International, said at a virtual event April 26.

The webinar sponsored by Franciscans International, which brought together United Nations officials with Indigenous leaders from Brazil, Indonesia, Bangladesh and Guatemala, coincided with the 20th session of the U.N. Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, held April 19-30.

The patterns of abuse are similar around the world, Epal-Ratjen said, with “the same attacks on defenders and the same criminalization of the legitimate protests of local communities, and first and foremost, of concerned Indigenous peoples.”

Between 2015 and 2019, such conflicts led to at least 1,323 murders and 106 forced disappearances in 81 countries, said Ilze Brands Kehris, U.N. assistant secretary-general for human rights. More than three-fourths of those cases occurred in Latin America.

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