The Brazilian Conference of Bishops (CNBB) has given its support to a constitutional reform bill that would make slave labour illegal. A debate over the law began in Congress, in 2001, and would need two rounds of voting in each of the two Houses of Congress, however the process was placed on hold four years ago. In the rural areas of Brazil, inhumane and degrading working conditions are typical. "The time has come to declare the second abolition of slavery in the Brazilian fields, through the PEC's approval," the Brazilian Bishops' Conference said. "The Brazilian Government recognized the gravity of the situation when, in 1995, the Mobile Group of the Labour Department was established in order to supervise and face up to this criminal practice. Likewise, August 2003 saw the foundation of the National Commission for the Eradication of Slave Labour (CONATRAE), an organization linked to the President's Special Secretary for Human Rights whose main function is to monitor the execution of the National Plan for the Eradication of Slave Labour." "Despite these new instruments, this shame of our nation has still not been eradicated," the Bishops' document said. In 2007 CPT registered 265 cases of slave labour across Brazil, involving 8,653 workers. Of these cases, the Labour Department, with its overseeing agents, rescued 5,974 workers. From 1995, when the Mobile Group was established, until 2007, 26,951 people have been freed. During this time period, the Land Pastoral Commission registered law-suits that involve over 50,000 workers that, according to the Brazilian Bishops, are "held prisoners with promises, obliged to work on ranches, in carbon plants, and sugar plantations, where they are treated worse than animals and are unable to break the contract with the employer." The Bishops mention the approval of PEC 438/2001 is " an ethical and moral imperative for the conscience of citizens and for Christians, it is a demand out of coherence with the Gospel teachings." Thus, the CNBB is reaching out to the entire nation in calling for an end to this aggression towards the human person. "We place our confidence in the spirit of the National Congress and in the sense of justice and the value of the human person of our representatives in Parliament," the Bishops affirmed. They also mention that "the approval of PEC 438/2001 would be an excellent opportunity to eliminate this national shame that so dishonors Brazil." The Brotherhood campaign this year told us to choose life. So, choosing life "is what we expect of every member of Parliament," the Bishops' message stated. Source: Fides
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