The Church should not allow itself to be bought
Tuesday, April 7, 2015
An open letter from the group Churches and Mining about the seductiveness of mining companies. Churches and Mining is a Latin American network of Christian communities and religious who, with the support of various bishops, the Pan-Amazon Ecclesial Network (REPAM), the Department of Justice and Peace of the Latin American Episcopal Conference (CELAM) and the Latin American Council of Churches (CLAI), was organized two years ago to confront the impacts of mining. Attached is the final document of the last meeting of Churches and Mining, held in Brasilia in December 2014. About 100 representatives of affected communities were present, along with partners from North America and Europe.
We know close up the suffering of many communities and traditional peoples, as well as violations of the rights of the environment and of future generations, provoked by the big mining projects that are expanding on our continent. These business undertakings violate the American Convention on Human Rights and the UN principles for multinational corporations and Human Rights.
Various bishops and some Episcopal Conferences have declared their support for the affected communities and denounced the conflicts which are provoked by mining companies and many times have the approval of national governments.
The pastoral activity of the churches and their official stance in favor of the communities have been effective in showing the contradictions of the extractivist economic model and the damage it causes to human life and to the Planet. They have also helped strengthen the people in their struggles and resistance, and have promoted the search for alternative models.
The biggest mining multinationals are organizing strategies to oppose these activities and accusations. But while they have increased their presence in the communities, the companies have not been able to seduce the leadership and the people who are more aware, many of whom are organized around their Christian communities.
Because of this, the companies have added an institutional approach: senior executives and big investors of various mining companies requested a day of “retreat” at the Vatican (October 2013) and a day of reflection at Canterbury in order to come closer to the Anglican Church (October 2014). At both of these events they experienced an attitude of listening and an openness to dialogue. However, they were not able to co-opt the Churches nor were they able to receive a blessing on their operations, since the mining companies are generally concerned with promoting their own economic interests and, in the majority of cases, their formal declarations are not accompanied by an effective practice of listening and respect for the communities at the grassroots.
A third seductive initiative was recently launched. We want to spread awareness of this initiative, and make clear our profound repudiation of the same.
The initiative is called “Mining in Partnership”. It proposes “to help theological seminaries in their training of pastors and other church leaders to serve communities affected by mining projects”. It points out the benefits that this initiative would bring to both the companies and the churches. It also proposes that the churches “think theologically, ethically and liturgically about mining in the locality and internationally.”
We would like to present our position on this initiative:
- We reject the invitation for the church to enter into partnership with the mining companies.
A re-reading of the document produced after the “retreat” at the Vatican provides a clearer picture of how the companies understand partnership: they raise the question “how can the mining industry give a better impression?,” and one of the executives shares the expectation that “a leader of public opinion of the stature of the Catholic Church (...) could help to inform people around the world of the significant progress made in the mining sector”.
- It is not the role of churches to convince the faithful about the goodness of an undertaking. It is also absurd to think that churches are simply called “to serve communities affected by mining projects.” The Church (cf. GS1) takes on the dramas, hopes and demands of the poorest and of the victims of an economy that increasingly discards people (EG 53) and jeopardizes the balance of Creation. It is the obligation of companies, under supervision of the State, to obtain the prior consent of communities before installing themselves in a place; to guarantee adequate conditions for getting a license; to avoid social and environmental damage; and to pay taxes to the State to cover social policies and fines for every violation. It is by doing these things, and not by suggesting other types of funding or partnership, that the companies will receive our recognition as responsible actors.
- We recognize the importance of dialogue between Christian communities and the mining companies. We seek this dialogue every day (often in vain) in the most diverse local situations of conflict, where the communities denounce concrete violations and present specific demands. This is the place where dialogue should begin, where the true attitude of companies toward the communities can be measured. Pastoral agents do not need formation provided by mining companies to mediate this dialogue competently.
- Funding initiatives for theological seminaries appears to be a strategy for co-opting the Church, for utilizing it to benefit the interests of the mining companies, and to divide it, weakening its role as “advocate of justice and defender of the poor” (Pope Francis). The companies, instead of providing money to repair the damage reported by the communities, invest in publicity campaigns or in activities that provide economic support for leaders of communities, unions or pastoral activity, with the evident objective of reducing criticism not by change, but by co-opting those who raise the problems.
We therefore invite the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, the Episcopal Conferences, our Reformed Sister Churches, theologians, Christian Churches involved in the defense of the communities affected by the violation of their socio-environmental rights, and all people of good will, to join with us in rejecting this initiative of the big mining companies created to co-opt the opposition.
We will continue to walk with the communities humbly and persistently. They are becoming more aware of their situation, protagonists of the process and more deeply rooted in the defense of their lands. It is in this process that the Kingdom of God is being built.
Churches and Mining, April 2015.
Ação Franciscana de Ecologia e Solidariedade - AFES -
Agenda Latinoamericana Mundial
Amerindia Colombia y Continental
Associação Ecumênica de Teólogos/as do Terceiro Mundo – ASETT -
Associação Madre Cabrini, Irmãs Missionárias do Sagrado Coração de Jesus – Brasil
Asociación Menonita para Justicia, Paz y Acción Noviolenta -JUSTAPAZ-
Caritas de El Salvador, El Salvador
Caritas Jaén, Perú
Centro de Ecología y Pueblos Andinos -CEPA- Oruro Bolivia
Centro de Justicia y Equidad -CEJUE- Puno, Perú
Centro Franciscano de Defesa dos Direitos, Brasil
Coalición Ecuménica por el Cuidado de la Creación, Chile.
Consejo Latinoamericano de Iglesias - CLAI-
Consejo Mundial de Iglesias, Justicia Climática -CMI-
Conselho Indigenista Missionário -Brasil-
Coordinación Continental de Comunidades Eclesiales de Base
Comissão Verbita, JUPIC- Amazonía.
Comitê em Defesa dos Territórios frente à Mineração, Brasil.
Comunidades Construyendo Paz en los Territorios - Fe y Política -Conpaz- Colombia.
Comisión Intereclesial Justicia y Paz -Colombia-
Comissão Pastoral da Terra -CPT- Brasil.
Comunidades de Vida Cristiana -CVX-
Comunidades Eclesiales de Base, Colectivo Sumaj Kausay, Cajamarca, Argentina.
Coordinación Continental de Comunidades Eclesiales de Base.
Coordinadora Nacional de Derechos Humanos, Perú.
CPT Diocese de Óbidos, Pará, Brasil.
Derechos Humanos Sin Fronteras, Perú.
Derechos Humanos y Medio Ambiente de Puno -DEHUMA-, Perú
Diálogo Intereclesial por la Paz en Colombia, DIPAZ, Colombia
Diocesis de Copiapó- Alto del Carmen – Chile
Diocese de Itabira- Fabriciano Minas Gerais, Brasil
Dirección Diocesana Cáritas de Choluteca, Honduras
Equipe de Articulação e Assessoria as Comunidades Negras do Vale do Ribeira, EAACONE, Brasil.
Equipo Investigación Ecoteología, Universidad Javeriana, Bogotá.
Equipo Nacional de Pastoral Aborigen, ENDEPA, Argentina.
Hermanas de la Misericordia de las Américas, Argentina.
Iglesia Evangélica Presbiteriana de Chigüinto, Chile.
Irmãos da Misericórdia das Américas Juventude Franciscana do Brasil – JUFRA-
JUPIC Claretianos San José del Sur Argentina, Chile, Paraguay y Uruguay
Justiça, Paz e Integridade da Criação Verbitas - JUPIC SVD - Província BRN
Mercy International Association at the UN
Mesa Ecoteológica Interreligiosa de Bogotá D.C. – MESETI -
Misioneros Claretianos Centro América y San José del Sur, Argentina
Misioneros Combonianos, Brasil e Ecuador
Movimento dos Atingidos por Barragens no Vale do Ribeira -MOAB- Brasil.
Observatorio de Conflictos Mineros de América Latina -OCMAL-
Oficina de JPIC OFM, Roma.
Oficina de JPIC Sociedad Misionera San Columbano, Chile
Orden Franciscana Seglar, Uruguay
Organización de Familias de Pasta de Conchos, México
Pastoral de Cuidado de la Infancia, Bolivia
Pastoral Indígena, Ecuador
Pastoral Indigenista de Roraima -Brasil-
Pastoral Social Cáritas Oruro, Bolivia
Pastoral Social Diócesis de Duitama Sogamoso, Boyacá, Colombia
Pastoral Social Diócesis de Pasto, Nariño, Colombia
Radio el Progreso Yoro-ERIC- Honduras
Red de Educación Popular de América Latina y el Caribe de las Religiosas del Sagrado Corazón
Rede de Solidariedade Missionárias Servas do Espírito Santo, Brasil
Red Muqui, Perú
Red Regional Agua Desarrollo y Democracia, Piura, Perú
Secretariado Diocesano de Pastoral Social, Garzón Huila, Colombia
Servicio Internacional Cristiano de Solidaridad Oscar Romero -Sicsal-
Servicio Interfranciscano de Justicia, Paz y Ecología -SINFRAJUPE-, Brasil.
Servicio Internacional Cristiano de Solidaridad con América Latina, Oscar Romero, -SICSAL-
Vicaría de la Solidaridad, Oficina de Derechos Humanos, Jaén, Perú.
Vicariato Apostólico San Francisco Javier, Jaén, Perú.
To contact us and learn more about our activities and proposals:
 The library of the Observatory of Mining Conflicts in Latin America has a report on the most recent documents of the Churches of Canada, Brazil, Argentina, Peru and CELAM on this issue: http://www.conflictosmineros.net/?Itemid=203.
 Attached is the text of the complete proposal. It was received by some of our religious congregations in March 2015.
 Address to the communities of Rio de Janeiro, July 2013.