07/17/2015, 00.00
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Vatican calls for an end to violence, corruption and pollution in mining

Organised by the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, the conference ‘United with God - listen to the cry’ brought together representatives of communities affected by mining activities from Africa, Asia and America. “Investors, business people, as well as political and government leaders in countries with mines and the headquarters of multinational mining companies are responsible” for this.

Vatican City (AsiaNews) – In addition to causing often irreparable damage to the environment and to the traditions of those who live on exploited lands, mining and related activities in Africa, Asia and America are responsible for “situations of violence and intimidation, illegalities and corruption, pollution and human rights violations,” as well as “murders,” said Fr Dario Bossi, who spoke today at the presentation of a meeting titled ‘United with God - listen to the cry’ that will be held over the week-end at the Salesianum in the Vatican.

"The primacy of human beings is being denied,” said Card Peter Turkson, President of the Pontifical Council. “The welfare of social and natural environments is [also] callously denied [. . .]. The responsibility for this lies with investors, business people, as well as political and government leaders in countries with mines and those with multinational mining companies are headquartered”.

The three-day long conference is being held behind closed doors. Top officials from several mining companies, eager to look critically at the world’s mining industry, will be present as will be representatives of communities affected in various ways by mining operations.

"I want to note,” Card Turkson said, “that some people participating in the meeting came under pressure and intimidation recently; for example, when they applied for their passport”.

For the prelate, there is a general move “towards the same direction. In light of such situations, we cannot allow indifference, cynicism and impunity to continue. What we need is a radical change of paradigm, [to develop one] centred on the common good, justice, sustainability, and human dignity."

"The meeting should be a venue for reflection, sharing of experiences, and collection of proposals for future actions by the Church and the communities themselves”, said Fr Dario Bossi, a Combonian who spoke about his experience in Brazil.

"It is important to work with the support of the Church on measures that ensure that companies respect community rights,” he added.

“Based on communities’ actual experiences, various future proposals will be taken into account at the Pontifical Council meeting. They include respect for communities’ self-determination, and for a process for free and informed decisions by communities, enshrined in international law.”

“Correctly applied international rules are also needed. The work underway on a United Nations human rights treaty binding on companies is an example of this.”

“The Holy See has always been a strong backer of such a treaty, and has issued a statement in favour of a legal instrument during the 2014 session of the United Nations Human Rights Council when it was decided to impose such a measure."

One poignant story is that of Prassant Kumar Paikray, who hails from the Diocese of Cuttack-Bhubaneswar, India.

“I promote peace and harmony in Odisha by keeping out the steel company,” he said. “I have done this for ten years.”

“When a company comes in the community with a memo of understanding (MOU) the community becomes divided with pros and cons regarding the company. We have sustained this effort for ten years by peaceful demonstrations near the border of the proposed project areas. The companies not only want the land but also the water, which we have for drinking and for irrigating the fields.

Yesterday, “16 July 2015, the company said it was temporarily suspending the project due to lack of progress and the drop on steel prices.”

However, “This success did have a cost. There have been 370 criminal cases against the people by the government, police and by the companies which are false. [Some] 2,500 persons have been under warrant, 500 of them are women. 700 persons have been in jail and four persons have died.”

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