Posted by: becketfund | March 23, 2009

Angola: Reclaimed Church Land Leaves Thousands Homeless

LUANDA – Pope Benedict XVI said on March 23 that his heart cannot be at peace while people are homeless, and critics of the Angolan government have used his African pilgrimage to highlight the plight of thousands whom the Angolan government has violently evicted from land owned by the Catholic church, the AP reported on March 23. Amnesty International appealed to Benedict during his visit to the southern Africa country to press the Angolan government for full compensation for the families who have been forced from church land since 2004. More than 2,000 families have been evicted since Angolan authorities began returning land to the church that had been seized by the former Marxist state, according to Muluka Miti, a researcher for Amnesty International. The London-based human rights group said people were detained and arrested arbitrarily, and subjected to torture in some cases. Mateus Damiao and his eight family members were evicted from their land in 2007 on the outskirts of southern Luanda in Wenji Maka, where a new Catholic church is planned. In an interview Monday, he described repeated attacks by police since 1998, sometimes with bulldozers, sometimes forcing people at gunpoint to leave. “I hope that the pope’s message will be heard by our leaders and by the pope’s priests and bishops so that no more people are left homeless as I was,” said Damiao, who has received no compensation since authorities forced him from his land.

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