Jesuit on hunger strike over Indian lands

The Yukpa people of Venezuela call him Brother Ajishama, meaning the one who knows the way to the Promised Land. The 81-year-old Spanish Jesuit has spent 45 of his 81 years serving them; now he is ready to give his life for them.

"There is no greater demonstration of friendship," Fr Jose Maria Korta told journalists from the bed where he is lying on the ground floor of the National Assembly in Caracas, "than to give your life for your friend. It's a gift."

Advertisement

The Basque-born founder of Venezuela's Indigenous University and veteran advocate of the rights of native peoples is protesting at the imprisonment of three Yupka leaders, or caciques, over land disputes in the state of Zulia which have led to violent clashes between natives and settlers. 

The Yupkas live in the Sierra de Perija, an area sought after by mining companies because of its coal and uranium deposits. They have been offered only small plots of land in compensation for being dislodged.

Fr Korta's protest is at the failure to implement the country's 1999 Constitution, which on paper recognizes ancestral borders. But not in practice. The Yupkas have been waiting for 9 years for the Government to act.

The Society of Jesus (Jesuits) is backing Fr Korta. In a statement, they said the priest "seeks nothing for himself" but "demands recognition of the rights of the people for which he has fought for over 40 years in Venezuela", adding that the Society supports the principles which have motivated Fr Korta "in defense of the rights to the demarcation of ancestral territories" as well as the right of leaders to "a just trial by the Yukpa community's own courts". 

The Society has called for swift action to enable Fr Korta to abandon his hunger strike, which it says poses a grave risk to his health (he is 81).

Fr Korta's doctor says he is taking only water and saline solution. "He is weak but in good health. He is used to eating very little, like the native people."

 

 

Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.

Advertisement

Don't miss the best from America

Sign up for our Newsletter to get the Jesuit perspective on news, faith and culture.

The latest from america

A boy presents a hat to Pope Francis upon his arrival at the international airport in Trujillo, Peru, Jan. 20. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)
“Just as the apostles faced the storm on the sea, you had to face the brunt of ‘El Niño costero.’”
Gerard O’ConnellJanuary 20, 2018
Pope Francis greets the crowd before celebrating Mass at the Maquehue Airport near Temuco, Chile, Jan. 17. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)
“Pope Francis’ statements...were a source of great pain for survivors of sexual abuse,” Cardinal O’Malley said in a statement released Jan. 20.
Michael J. O’LoughlinJanuary 20, 2018
 Pope Francis and Peruvian President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski stand outside the presidential palace in Lima, Peru, Jan.19.(CNS photo//Mariana Bazo, Reuters)
“The degradation of the environment...cannot be separated from the moral degradation of our communities.”
Gerard O’ConnellJanuary 20, 2018
The U.S. bishops had an unusually busy year issuing positive and negative statements about the new president, but some hoped for more decisive action against his policies.
Michael J. O’LoughlinJanuary 19, 2018