From the Worldwide Faith News archives

LWF: Brazilian church critical of government's vote on salaries

Date 05 Apr 2000 15:08:15

SAO LEOPOLDO, Brazil/GENEVA, 4 April 2000 (lwi) - The Evangelical Church
of the Lutheran Confession in Brazil (IELCB) has sharply criticized a
recent vote by the government to increase the salaries of its officials
and called for the reversal of this "shameful decision."

The opinion of the church representatives was contained in a message
issued at the end of the annual IELCB "Ecumenical Campaign for Brother-
and Sisterhood" conference. In the statement, the synod pastors and
church leaders said the vote to raise the earnings of members of
Brazil's executive, legislature and judiciary can only be seen as
disastrous and completely wrong, particularly at a time when
negotiations are ongoing for a new national minimum wage that is only a
fraction of the new scale for the high-ranking public servants.

The 15 - 18 March meeting was convened under the theme, "Peace and Human
Dignity: A New Millennium with No-one Left Out". The church leaders
pointed out that increasing the salaries of elected representatives to
R$ 11,500 (USD 6,400) in addition to the possibility of doubling their
pensions assures the public servants of increased privileges out of all
proportion to the nation's capacity to carry the load. "How can one not
be indignant, when at the same time a new minimum wage is being
negotiated in terms of R$ 150 - 160 (USD 83 - 89)?" the IELCB
representatives asked.

In the statement, the Lutheran church leaders underlined that they
shared their indignation with the majority of Brazilians and wondered
how the people can defend themselves "when even their elected
representatives turn against them and refuse to hear their cry."

"It is unworthy of institutions of government to legislate thus to their
own advantage," the church representatives said and argued that there is
no excuse not to be willing to establish a just minimum wage for all
Brazilians, a country with an annual per capita income of around USD

The IELCB leaders pointed out that the government's vote on salaries is
like a slap in the face in the South American country which has about
eight million people unemployed, three million children under 14 working
instead of "learning and playing", some 330,000 indigenous people
demanding the right to live on their own land, and not to mention the
many elderly, ill and abandoned persons as well as victims of violence.

They added that in the spirit of the eve of the new millennium, "with
all its hopes for peace and respect for human rights, we must condemn
the highest representatives of our three branches of government for
seeking their own mutual advantage, and guaranteeing Brazil the
continued dubious honor of being among those countries with the most
unjust distribution of income.

"Is this the way we should celebrate the 500th anniversary of the
'discovery' of our country - in the same spirit of exploitation as the
many adventurers and discoverers?" the church leaders asked in reference
to the discovery of Brazil in April 1500 by Portuguese seafarer Pedro
Alvarez Cabral and subsequent colonization by Portugal.

The IELCB representatives said rescinding the vote on the salaries of
members of the government would be a mark of greatness, and a sign of
the political leaders' readiness to "restore human dignity and social
peace in our beloved and troubled country."

With a population of over 156 million people, Brazil has immense natural
and economic resources, but many of its people still live in poverty,
plagued by hyperinflation, poor planning and corruption. The IELCB has a
membership of 700,000. The country's diverse population is 90 per cent
Roman Catholic.

(The LWF is a global communion of 128 member churches in 70 countries
representing 59 5 million of the world's 63.1 million Lutherans. Its
highest decision-making body is the Assembly, held every six or seven
years. Between Assemblies, the LWF is governed by a 49-member Council,
which meets annually, and by its Executive Committee. The LWF
secretariat is located in Geneva, Switzerland.)

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Lutheran World Information
Assistant Editor, English: Pauline Mumia

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