Faith Leaders & Civil Society United for Resistance in Latin America
From 4 to 9 November, Lima hosted three international events on the impact of large scale mining projects and the conflicts they are increasingly causing all over Central and South America due to deleterious effects on indigenous people and local communities who are repressed when they seek to resist.
The first meeting gathered thirty religious and lay people representing nine countries. Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Chile, Brazil, Argentina, Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala are countries where local communities and indigenous people’s are increasingly becoming displaced as a result of land grabbing in relation to larg scale mining projects, vital ecosystems are being destroyed, and human rights violations such as violent persecution and repression of human rights defenders are ocurring. The meeting gathered both lay and religious working in the countries affected to share grassroots experiences from the communities they work in, from a human rights based approach. Participants sought to identify and develop short and medium term strategies in response to the complex reality of large scale mining projects. Both national and international NGOs were present, including the Observatorio de Conflictos Mineros de América Latina (OCMAL), CEHPRODEC from Honduras, and GRUFIDES from Perú Justiça nos Trilhos from Brazil. From New York VIVAT International, Franciscan International and Mercy International were present, all of which have special consultative status at the UN. Misereor from Germany which has been supporting Catholic Church in Latin America on mining issues was also represented.
Upon conclusion, participants presented a request to the Bishop’s Conference of Brazil (CNBB)- represented in Lima by Bishop Guilherme Antonio Werlang, President of the Episcopal Commission for Charity, Justice and Peace of CNBB – to organize a broader and more inclusive Latin America meeting in 2014 on “Churches and Mining”. Furthermore, Fabio Ferreira, a Franciscan Minor Friar based in Rome indicated he would relate to the Vatican the concerns discussed. Participants hope that Cardinal Peter Turkson of the Pontificial Commission for Justice and Peace will meet with victims of mining operations and call on religious congregations to strengthen the existing efforts that they are already undertaking at the grassroots level to accompany and assist victims of large scale mining projects; these are the “new poor”.
A meeting coordinated by Mining Watch, a Canadian NGO, also took place in Lima, bringing together leaders of 25 NGOs and social movements. In this forum participants analyzed key aspects of large scale multinational companies that are currently on the frontline of exploring, extracting and trading raw minerals in Latin America.
The third meeting held in Lima was convened by OCMAL, an international network of social movements, organizations and community leaders, fighting against the destructive impact of mining. The 5th OCMAL biannual meeting was attended by 70 participants from nine countries in Central and South America. Participants discussed the need to ensure that mining induced conflicts are known internationally and that communities and human rights defenders who are persecuted or at risk because of their resistance work receive the necessary support.
While the meetings in Peru were underway, participants learnt of the deaths of another two human rights defenders in Ecuador and Colombia that resulted from violence carried out by mining companies and Governments as they advocated for their communities.