Brumadinho, Brazil: 1,826 days of struggle for justice in the aftermath of Vale tragedy

It has been 1,826 days since the fateful catastrophe unleashed by the Vale mining company on January 25, in which 272 people lost their lives, including three who are still missing. Those responsible for this crime continue to go unpunished, generating an incessant demand for justice.

Throughout these five years, the Brumadinho Victims’ Association (AVABRUM) has brought together the affected families on the 25th of every month in a commemorative ceremony, remembering the tragic event and demanding justice. This meeting takes place at the entrance to the city at 12:28 p.m., the same time the tragedy occurred.

This year 2024, on the 1,826th anniversary of the event, the Archdiocese of Belo Horizonte organized the Vth Pilgrimage to Brumadinho. All the sisters of our community, together with many people from the Social Movements in which we participate, were present.

The program included a warm welcome with breakfast, a Eucharist and a pilgrimage to the site of the celebration, carrying with them the image of Our Lady of the Abbey, whose name means “Our Lady of the dirty waters”, patroness of the victims of mining. This experience is not unique in our State of Minas Gerais.

The Eucharist, presided over by Dom Francisco Cota, Bishop of Sete Lagoas and president of the Commission on Ecology of the National Conference of Bishops of Brazil, was the focal point of the day. During his homily, Dom Francisco strongly criticized the government of Minas Gerais for negotiating with blood-stained funds from Vale’s indemnities, while those affected do not participate in the negotiations that are being held behind closed doors. This demands justice!

After the Eucharist, presided over by a large cross with the names of the 272 victims, we walked to the place of the celebration, where various activities of denunciation and calls for justice took place. In this march, several indigenous communities of the region also joined in, dancing to the rhythm of their own music.

At 12:28, 272 red balloons were released, symbolizing hope and affection; 1,826 black balloons, representing pain and persistent injustice; and 3 yellow balloons, representing the three people whose remains have not yet been found. Each balloon contained a sunflower seed to sow in the place where they descended.

We were struck by the number 1,826, which coincides with the founding date of our congregation. Sr. Idalina understood better why she was transferred to the inter-congregational community of Brumadinho, whose main mission is to provide support, listen to the pain of those affected and accompany the communities. Sr. Idalina is also actively involved in various struggle collectives, especially in the “Sowers of Laudato Si”, and every 25th of the month she is present at the event in memory of the victims of the catastrophe.

We return home grateful for the experience and commit ourselves to pray for all families facing depression and a loss of meaning in life. We ask the congregation to join us in prayer.

Srs. from Belo Horizonte and Brumadinho