over 520 settlements of land occupied and reclaimed by small posseiros (Wandeberg 2007). MST work and happenings in the general landless movement appear frequently in the Brazilian news, and though coverage is almost always negative, land reform and its proponents receive a significant amount of attention in the media and the government. The fight is by no means over, but today it involves facing new kinds of threats and taking on challenges beyond the realm of land possession alone.
Both movement leaders and Church members agree that the Catholic Church and organizations affiliated with it helped give the first impetus to these serious and effective land justice movements in the 1970s and 80s; what remains unclear is the nature of the role today. Because these movements and organizations are the primary defenders of human rights in this part of Brazil, researching the changing role of religion in their work is important to understand how marginalized people can most effectively organize for social justice. Liberation theology was the driving force beyond Church support, and as such is a relevant part of the story of how oppressed these movements can succeed. But given its loss of hierarchical support from the Church, is it a relevant part of the history, or the story today? What is the significance of religion in the fight today—of religion, and of those who organize in its name?
2. Research Question and Objectives
This study seeks to understand how the Catholic Church has changed since the 1980s, and how this has influenced their use of liberation theology in work with rural movements in the south of Pará. It focuses on the past and current work of the CPT, the arm of the Church geared specifically towards faith-based movement support, as well as the concurrent changes and present-day realities of leaders of Church and the movements themselves.
Specifically, this study explores the following questions:
What was the relationship of Church figures with movements in the past, and how did they use liberation theology in this relationship?
What is the Church’s relationship with movements today, and how do they use liberation theology?
What is the CPT’s relationship with movements today, and how do they use liberation theology?
If changes have occurred in these relationships, why did the changes happen?
What is the significance of faith and religion in the work done by the CPT today?
What is the significance of faith and religion in the work done by the movements?
If there have been changes in Church work, what are the effects of these changes on the CPT’s work?
What are the effects of Church changes on the movements in this area? This study is geared toward expanding our understanding of social movements and religion through the
lens of these organizations and this part of Brazil. It seeks to understand how the popular Catholic Church, as