(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Friday (July 17th) sent a message to the organizers and participants of a Vatican meeting that is looking at the often highly negative impact of mining operations on local communities. Organized by the Pontifical Council for Justice and peace, the 3-day meeting is being attended by representatives from communities impacted by mining operations across the world. In his message sent to the Council’s President, Cardinal Peter Turkson, 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.
A press conference was held in the Vatican earlier on Friday to illustrate the theme of this meeting on the impact of mining operations which is “United with God listen to the cry.”
In his address at the press conference, Cardinal Peter Turkson, President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, said the aim of this meeting was to assess the situation facing these communities impacted by mining operations, saying many people are now aware of the “heart-rending cry” coming from those areas where companies are seeking to extract minerals. Explaining the reason for holding this meeting on mining operations, the Cardinal quoted from Pope Francis’ recently-published encyclical on the environment in which he urged us to listen “to both the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor.” He said “we cannot remain indifferent to this cry” and the Church wishes to respond to “this cry for justice” coming from the communities affected by mining operations.
Cardinal Turkson said the Catholic Church had on numerous occasions highlighted the violations of human rights, the illegality, violence, intimidation, excessive exploitation and pollution that affect communities where mining operations take place. Quoting from a letter from a U.S. Bishop on this issue, the cardinal said some multinational mining operations are associated with “calamitous public health and environmental consequences.”
We cannot, he said, allow “indifference, cynicism and impunity to continue” and what is needed is “a radical paradigm shift in favour of the common good.” Cardinal Turkson revealed that some of the representatives of the local communities attending the meeting in Rome had been pressurized and intimated during recent weeks, such as when they requested a passport to travel to Italy.
Four representatives of communities affected by mining operations in India, Latin America, and Africa gave testimony at the press conference about the violated human rights of the local population and the often devastating environmental consequences of the mining operations, especially on water supplies. The representatives also described how the mining companies and or the local government often criminalize those who seek to halt the mining projects and who stand up for the rights of the affected communities.
Listen to the report on the above by Susy Hodges: