Vatican City, 17 July 2015 (VIS) – This morning in the Holy See Press Office Cardinal Peter Kodwo Appiah Turkson, president of the Pontifical Council “Justice and Peace”, presented the dicastery's initiative “A day of Reflection: united with God, we hear a cry”, to be attended by various representatives of communities affected by mining activity in Africa, Asia and America who will gather in the Salesianum Congress Centre in Rome from 17 to 19 July.
Cardinal Turkson explained that the aim of the meeting was to take stock of the situation of these communities, recalling that in 2013 Justice and Peace organised a day of reflection entitled “Mining for the common good”, upon request of the directors of various mining companies, in order to evaluate the human, economic and environmental implications of this activity. A report of the event was distributed to the Episcopal Conferences of the countries involved. A second day of reflection will be held in September, entitled “Creating a new future, Reimaging the future of mining” and so the current initiative, aimed at giving a voice to the communities affected by the mining industry, is intended as preparation for this second meeting.
“There is no lack of reasons and motives for the decision of the Pontifical dicastery”, said the Cardinal. “With the Encyclical 'Laudato si'' the Holy Father urges us to 'hear both the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor'. We cannot remain indifferent to this cry, as the need to her it is 'born of the liberating action of grace within each of us, and thus it is not a mission reserved only to a few: the Church, guided by the Gospel of mercy and by love for mankind, hears the cry for justice and intends to respond to it with all her might'”.
“Many of us are aware of this harrowing cry from those areas where mineral extraction is carried out”, he continued. “To give just a few examples: the 'Africa Progress Report' by the former secretary general of the United Nations, Kofi Annan, the OECD directives on the issue, the numerous reports on the rights of indigenous populations, the 'Publish what you pay' initiative, legislation on the traceability of minerals currently being developed by the European Parliament, in cinema with films such as 'Blood Diamonds' or 'Avatar', and so on”.
“The Church, on various occasions and for many years, has closely followed mining activities. At national level, the documents of the Episcopal Conferences which denounce human rights violations, illegality, violence and the exploitation of deposits causing pollution and problems for the safety of local produce. … At regional level, it is considered by the Continental Episcopal Conferences, the Pan-Amazonian Ecclesial Network, and so on, and at transnational level, by Franciscan networks, the CIDSE and Caritas. All these voices follow the same direction: faced with these situations, we cannot allow indifference, cynicism and impunity to continue to prevail. A radical paradigm change is needed in the interests of the common good, justice, sustainability and human dignity”.
In these three days the representatives of the communities affected by mining operations in different ways will act as spokespeople for those who are unable to come to Rome and whose voice frequently goes unheard by experts and commentators. “I must emphasise that some people who are attending the meeting have experienced pressure and intimidation in recent days, for example after having requested a passport. The Pontifical Council has heard testimonies of threats, violence and murder; of retaliation, of compensation never received, and of unkept promises”.
“Therefore”, he continued, “there are individuals who work without a truly human aim. There are denials of the primacy of the human being, insensitivity to the welfare of the social and natural environment and the full experience of fragility, abandonment and rejection. Those responsible are investors, businesspeople, politicians and governors of the countries where the deposits are found, or rather the countries where the headquarters of the mining multinationals reside”.
“On the other hand, exploited and poor countries are above all in need of honest governments, educated people and investors with an acute sense of justice and the common good, as it is morally unacceptable, politically dangerous, environmentally unsustainable and economically unjustifiable for developing countries to 'continue to fuel the development of richer countries at the cost of their own present and future'”, he concluded.