Thursday, June 27, 2013

La Ceiba, Honduras, Diocese on mining

Diocese of La Ceiba [Honduras]

The diocese of La Ceiba [Honduras], fulfilling the mandate of the diocesan Assembly held June 1, 2013, in the parish of San Isidro with the presence of 120 pastoral workers from all the parishes, to make a statement on the problem of Mining in the department and in particular in the sector Florida, of the parish of Nuestra Señora del Pilar in Arizona, lets it be known to all the People of God, to all people of good will, to the authorities and the citizenry in general, that

1 – Our earth is the creation and gift of God. Therefore we have to treat it with respect. We human beings, created in the image of God (Gen 1: 26), are called to be responsible administrators of the gods of creation, and we are called to “keep and cultivate [it]” (Gen 2:15).

2 – Jesus announced with his words and deeds that God is the God of Life (John 10: 10). Fidelity to the Gospel demands that we contemplate life as a gift of God in all creation. This integral and interdependent dimension of all that is created places a commitment on human responsibility.

3 – There is a close link between following of Jesus and mission. “The evangelizing mission cannot be separated from solidarity with the people and their integral promotion” (Document of the Latin American Bishops Conference in Aparecida [DA], 545). Thus, “the living conditions of many abandoned, excluded and ignored in their misery and their sorrow contradicts the project of [God] the Father and calls from believers a major commitment in favor of the culture of life. The Reign of Life which Christ came to bring is incompatible with those inhuman conditions. If we try to close our eyes in the face of these realities we are not defenders of the life of the Kingdom and we place ourselves on the road of death (DA 358).

4 – To live according to the Spirit of Jesus calls us to reaffirm the option for the poor, the vulnerable, and the excluded, who are the preferred recipients of the Kingdom and the primary victims of the negative effects of the socio-economic model now in place and of natural disasters provoked as a consequence of global climate change.


5 – We do not have the right to exploit the resources of the earth, “irrationally devastating the sources of life” (DA 471).

6 – The Social Teaching of the Church emphasizes the “a correct understanding of the environment cannot reduce nature in a utilitarian way to a mere object of exploitation” (Compendium of the Social Teaching of the Church [CDSI] 459). This implies also the responsibility so that future generations can inherit a land that is habitable.

7 – Reaffirm the need to preserve the planet earth as the “common house” of all living beings. Blessed Pope John Paul II advised us of the risks that are involved with considering the planet solely as a source of economic resources: “The environment as ‘resource’ puts in danger the world as ‘home’ ” (CDSI 461). For this reason there is a need to evaluate the long-term environmental cost of extractive [mining] activities.

8 - In regard to the activities of the extractive activities and to the use of natural non-renewable resources, it is necessary keep in mind the principle of the universal destiny of the goods of creation, especially the resources of vital importance such as water, air, and earth. This is the fundamental principle of the ethical-social order (Laborem Exercens, 19).

9. Another fundamental principal of Social Teaching which guides the Church in its commitment to promote integral and sustainable development is the principle of the common good. “To desire the common good and strive towards it is a requirement of justice and charity” (Caritas in veritate, 7). Likewise, recall that “the church has the responsibility in regard to Creation and senses the duty to exercise it also in the public environment to defend the earth, the water, and the air, gifts of God the Creator for all, y to protect the human person” (World Peace Day Message, 2010, 12).

3. We are concerned… and we reject…

10. The avalanche of mining projects in our department of Atlántida, which according to the data are several dozen, and try to exploit zones of a high ecological value. Atlantida has an unrivaled natural beauty with twelve protected areas as natural parks which represent 40% of its territory and is a region a the country with a major production of water, possesses a coastline apt for tourism with a series of coral reefs. Do we want to put all this beauty and richness in danger?

11 – The environmental impact that all these projects would bring on and the negative consequences for the life of the communities. Until now we do not have clear proof and evidence of the realization of any studies of the environmental impact which were carried out with the participation of the people affected. The lack of information in this respect makes us suspect the lack of credibility and the technical quality of these supposed environmental impact studies. We cannot begin a path in the name of development which will bring more damages than benefits.

12 – The lack of transparency and the secretive nature in these processes of concessions without informing and behind the backs of the communities which will be gravely affected. The wish is to impose the realizations of these projects on the communities without them having been consulted and with the excuse that “there are permissions” and “it is legal.”  Can these projects be implemented without having taken into account the opinion of the communities? As the Church we say that it is not possible and reject this assault on personal and collective human rights.

13 – The intervention of the Police and State security forces biased in favor of those who manage capital, influences, and wills.  We do not believe that the police acts in this case to protect the population, which has always been peaceful, but acts in favor of a part arriving to transgress legal limits and the police’s motto of “protect and serve.” Why is there the presence of the Cobra elements [an elite police force] in the zone with a provocative attitude toward the population which has lived peacefully without police presence?  We reject that the State be the provocateur with its forces to the population of this sector. We are unsettled by the motto of these Cobra forces “to conquer or die.” Conquer whom?

14 – The intervention of the local authorities that do not act with transparency, denying the people the right to decide.  Why has it not been possible to organize a popular consultation so that it would be the population who decide? Why have permission to operate been given without taking into account the opinion of the communities directly affected? Why do our public authorities turn their back on the people whom they ought to serve seeking the common good? Why this distance and failure of fluid communication with those whom they represent?


15 –Fulfilling its mission to work for reconciliation and unity, for respect for the dignity of each person and for the common good (cf. Lumen Gentium 1), the Church continues promoting an open and transparent dialogue between the different actors in the society who are involved in the socio-environmental conflicts. In this way the Church wishes to help in each case to put the breaks on the escalation of conflicts, to avoid violent outcomes and to find a just and sustainable solution.


16 – The diocesan church of La Ceiba calls the State, before authorizing the initiation of whatever mining activity:
• Guarantee consultation with the people beforehand, facilitating the participation representatives of the peoples and communities affected in decision making about the possible realization of said projects.
• Environmental Impact Studies which are serious and trustworthy  with the participation of the affected communities.
•The Church also demands that the state, though its mining authority, adequately inform the population on the results of the study.

17 – That a dialogue be opened in the sector and in the whole department to arrive at a consensus on the routes to an equitable, human, and true development.  We support the vocation of Atlantida as a tourist site, as much for its beaches ad for its mountains, the investment in forestry systems, fishing, agriculture and cattle farming, craftswork… Is mining the future of Atlantida? We believe that it is not and we know that other more human and sustainable alternatives must be sought in a form of consensus.


18 – The inhuman pressure that is being exerted on the communities of the sector of Florida and especially the community of Nueva Esperanza, in the Tela municipality in the parish of Arizona, Atlantida.

19 – The introduction of high caliber weapons in the sector. All this is permitted and with the connivance of the police in the zone for the purpose of squelching the voice of the communities which resist the imposition by force of a project which threatens their future.

20 – The presence of highly armed men in the zone, brought in from the outside the sector who are threatening all those who oppose the project with the practice of hired assassinations.

22 – The strategy of [sowing] division and confrontation among the people settled there. The mafia strategies of sowing chaos and lack of trust among the people with “informers.” “spies,” etc.

23 – The slander and threats against Father César Espinoza and the missionary team of Arizona, by some unscrupulous businessmen and those groups that come under their influence. As the Church of La Ceiba we support the pastoral work which is being done from the parish of Arizona rooted in a commitment to the poorest, in accord with the rich social teaching of the Church, accompanying the people who struggle for the right to life and the common good of the population.


24 – We don’t want this to come to violence in the zone… but if it comes to be, from today we deem responsible the impetuous businessmen who urgently are disposed to whatever may be in order to exploit the zone against the will of the people settled there, thus showing their imprudence and arrogance, as well as those responsible for State security forces who give orders which violate the security and the lives of a simple and peaceful people, and the police who follow orders to act against their own people in the service of private interest, and the local authorities for not having informed and consulted the people in a transparent manner.

8. WE OFFER...

25 – As Church to go forward strongly in the process of dialogue between the parties and to base ourselves in the just which does not always coincide with the laws which are passed.

We ask St. Isidore the Farmer, lover of the land and patron of our diocese, and St. Francis of Assisi to illumine everyone to find a wiser solution to the problems we confront. To them we entrust ourselves.

Promulgated in the city of La Ceibe, June 26, 2013

Signed by Monseñor Michael Lenihan, OFM (bishop of the diocese), Father Francisco Sánchez Argueta (vicar general), Father René Flores Pineda (chancellor), and Father Victor Cámara Cámaro (episcopal vicar).

The parts highlighted in black are highlighted in the original Spanish.

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