Professor seeks to reveal Brazil's 'true history' on human rights

(Photo: Peter Williams / WCC)Dr. Magali do Nascimento Cunha of the World Council of Chruches' central committee speaks at a gathering in Geneva, Switzerland on Feb. 19, 2011.

What role did churches play in challenging human rights abuse during Brazil's military dictatorship decades ago?

That's the question Dr. Magali do Nascimento Cunha will seek to answer as she joins on official panel in Brazil investigating human rights violations, including cases of people who went missing decades ago during a military dictatorship.

Dr. Cunha, who is a professor at the Methodist University of Sao Paulo, says she joyfully accepted the opportunity to join Brazil's National Truth Commission.

The group is looking into violations from 1948 to 1988.

"It is with joy that I accept this great challenge as being part of this exciting research," she said in a statement released by the World Council of Churches on Thursday.

She participates on the WCC's main governing body, its central committee.

Cunha, whose appointment was first announced March 12, said the goal of Brazil's Commission is "to make the true history of Brazil known, a history that has been silenced by those in power who in fact instigated human rights violations."

"The commission's work is part of the efforts to heal wounds of the past that are still open, and to reconcile Brazil with this past," she said.

The commission was established in May 2012 and is expected to work for a term of two years.

The group Cunha will work with will focus on the activity of churches during those decades. The WCC notes both Christian and lay leaders went missing during that period.

There were also Christian clerics who collaborated with the regime and refused support to people in their own churches, the WCC added.

The ecumenical body has been an active participant in the effort to document Brazil's human rights history. It delivered relevant archived documents to the Brazilian government in 2011 it collected with help from various Brazilian ecumenical churches about human rights violations during the dictatorship years.

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