the “grand projects” of international companies, such as mining companies. In order to effectively confront these kinds of threats, groups like the CPT require a “greater level of organization and articulation.”
Religion and faith for the movements and the CPT
All three of the older CPT staff have a religious background—two received theological training to become priests, and one was a leader in the Church youth group for many years. They are also from rural or land-working families, and got involved with the Church at a time when it was very present in the countryside and was still working closely with people in the rural zone. All three turned to the CPT as a way to continue focusing on social issues, since the Church had started to become more conservative by the time they were looking for permanent work. The youngest CPT leader, who became connected to the CPT not through other religious work but through working with land reform and production assistance organizations, actually spoke most specifically to the “religiosity” of the CPT staff, saying that they have a certain “character” connected to spirituality that will always inform their work. He as well as one other staff person pointed out that the CPT is, after all, a “pastoral”—an organization dedicated to guidance and care (in this case, for the land) on the basis of spiritual faith. One caveat presented is that today, this faith isn’t specifically Catholic, since other Churches as well have become involved with the CPT and support its work.
The interviewee from Copserviços, who was once a priest in the region, made a complicated statement on the relevance of faith or religion for progressive Church workers today. For CPT people, bishops, and other leaders, he said, there is never a question of whether faith matters or exists, and there is always faith- based motivation for their work. However, this faith has transformed somewhat, and doesn’t have the same weight anymore. This man also described himself and others as “fish out of water,” given that they came from religious backgrounds but ended up leaving those connections behind somewhat for more directly active work. This idea of alienation from the Church was supported in an assertion by the union president from Rondón that today, the CPT people support the workers not just because of religion, but because they know that the support and juridical assistance is needed by rural workers.
Asked about religion in the context of the movement’s work, the MST leader first mentioned the superstitious nature of many farmers, citing this as an important factor in their decisions about, for example, when and how to plant crops. She also said that religion does have an “inspirative” role that touches people deeply, connecting faith in God to hope for survival and a better future. This leader had a religious background similar to that of one of the CPT leaders, working with the youth organizations in the Catholic Church.
One CPT leader said that faith has specific significance in land reform work, for the members of these movements, in that the earth is thought of as a divine inheritance, and keeping the faith is thus directly related
to the fight for land. This leader also said that faith is very important in the encampments—places where Sharp 15