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Thursday, 06 August 2015 09:44

Churches urged to play role in fight against mining

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mining conference 2015Newly appointed CRA Justice Network Coordinator, Fr Claude Mostowik msc, was a delegate of the Australian Missionaries of the Sacred Heart (MSC) at an international mining conference which highlighted stories of communities affected by mining, a concern reiterated by Pope Francis in his recent message, writes Fr Peter Malone msc.

Environmental activists attending an international mining conference in Manila are calling on church officials to play an important role in the fight against destructive mining.

"The church, especially the Catholic Church, has an important role ... especially in uniting people," said Clemente Bautista of the Kalikasan People's Network for the Environment.

Bautista, one of the organizers of the conference, said it would be "encouraging" if local churches divest their investments in the mining industry, especially after Pope Francis issued his encyclical, Laudato si'.

"[Divesting the church's investments in mining] would be a concrete action consistent with their vow to protect the environment and to the teachings of Laudato si’," he said.

Bautista cited the example made by several Philippine dioceses, including the Archdiocese of Manila, which withdrew their investments in mining companies.

Some 200 residents of mining-affected communities, indigenous peoples, church workers, lawyers, legislators, artists, environmental activists and scientists from 28 different countries attended the International People's Conference on Mining that opened in Manila on July 30.

"My presence here is a blessing," said Philippine Archbishop Ramon Arguelles of Lipa, who has been vocal in opposing mining and coal plant operations in his archdiocese.

The prelate, however, said it is "unfortunate" that while political leaders neglect the destruction brought about by mining, "the great majority of people either don't know enough or they don't care."

Arguelles said the church is "working hard to get the people's support" and described Laudato si’ as "a big vindication and a big help."

"Before Laudato si’, we felt alienated," he said, adding that even other bishops did not support his advocacy.

"Now I feel that the Holy Father and the whole church is behind me," he said.

Sacred Heart Fr Claude Mostowik, director of the Justice and Peace Center of the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart in Australia, said this week's meeting in Manila "will put perspective to stories of people from communities affected by mining."

"The important thing is to hear the stories and relate them to the situation back home," he said.

Mostowik said many Australians have never heard how Australian mining companies were impacting the lives of people in countries like the Philippines.

"I was struck by the contrast between what the companies claim about human values and human rights and the protection of the environment, and you look at the affected communities and it's a mess," he told ucanews.com.

The conference this week comes on the heels of the recent pull-out of Anglo-Swiss mining firm Glencore, the biggest mining corporation in the world, from the Tampakan mining project in Mindanao.

"The meeting will be a stage for the celebration of such victories," said Bautista, adding that they aim to gather "inspiration and lessons from such successes."

Pope Francis sends message to communities affected by mining operations worldwide

Pope Francis sent a message to the participants of a Vatican meeting on the impact of mining operations on local communities, organised on 17-19 July by the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace in collaboration with the Churches and Mining Latin American Network – an ecumenical coalition of 70 organisations (which Pax Christi International has joined recently).

In his message, the Pope spoke of the cry for justice coming from these communities for their lost lands, the violence, threats, corruption, the trampled human rights, the dire working conditions, and sometimes the slavery and human trafficking as well as the pollution of water, air and soil. The Pope urged the entire mining sector to carry out a radical paradigm shift to improve the situation in many countries. He said all parties needed to adopt a behaviour that is inspired by the fact that we make up one human family and engage in a sincere and respectful dialogue to deal with this crisis.

This article was first published on 6 August 2015 at the website of the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart Australia.