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Faith Community and Mining Industry Engage in a Day of Courageous Conversation October 23rd, 2015

Fr Seamus in BishopscourtThe process of engagement between the mining industry and faith community took a very different and innovative step on October 9th when the Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town, Archbishop Thabo Makgoba, hosted a conversation that focused on mining in southern Africa and even more specifically on South Africa. This event was preceded by three previous Days of Reflection; two hosted at the Vatican by Cardinal Peter Turkson, and one at Lambert in London hosted by the archbishop of Canterbury and the President of the British Methodist Conference. The conversation was bathed in the traditional prayer moments of Evensong and Morning Eucharist. The event opened in the cathedral of St George the Martyr in downtown Cape Town and the morning Eucharist was celebrated in the historic church of The Good Shepherd Protea, located at the edge of Kirstenbosch and near Bishopscourt, the residence of the archbishop.

The day of courageous conversation was intended to provide a safe space for a multi-perspective examination of the issues, opportunities and challenges that mining in South Africa presents, and to explore what initiatives might be undertaken to address these realities.

In both the opening prayers and his opening address, Archbishop Magoba did not shy away from the harsh and painful realities that the industry has encountered and caused. In the opening service the following prayer was offered. The archbishop composed the prayer during the protracted strike at Marikana, a site of major confrontation between miners and police in August 2012 when over 40 people died.

Cathedral of St George the Martyr

“Lord we are still mourning and grieving. We are still searching for the full truth about Marikana. We can’t kill and maim to sustain inequality. Lord, there is something amiss in this economic system and we know it. May owners, investors and shareholders feel the pain and longing for peace. May workers and mine owners find one another. May further hurt, pain and killings be averted, and may politics serve the people for the sake of peace.

 

In his opening address the archbishop recounted his own connections with the mining industry. He talked about how his father, “a self-supporting church minister”, traveled as a clothing salesman through the mining towns west of Johannesburg. He also spoke of his own experience as a psychologist working with miners who had suffered spinal cord injuries.

He recognized that one of the important steps in a day of courageous conversations is the recognition of shortcomings ArchbishopMakgobaand failures and he listed some of the ways in which the “churches have failed the mining industry”. These included “how risky mining is economically”; how we have not understood “the aspirations of people who want to earn R12,500 a month (about $920 US dollars) for working in conditions of extreme heat on stopes (cut out open spaces) lying kilometers down in the earth”; or the “constraints on managers facing the relentless pressure of meeting shareholders’ expectations for better results every quarter”.

He suggested that the process for the conversation be one “of lamentation in the sense of the Book of Lamentations in the Old Testament,” where we move beyond navel gazing and exposing one’s vulnerability but “exposing it as a tool for leadership, because you can’t say let us move forward together without acknowledging the failures of the past”. He further explained that the objective for the day would be achieved if each participant brings “their own unique concerns and contributions to this conversation, and what is of overriding importance is that each one of us tries to put ourselves in the shoes of those with whom we are in dialogue”.

Archbishop Makgoba listed the following concerns that were on his mind: mine health and safety issues, environmental degradation, social cohesion and wealth disparity. He called on labor to look at models for working jointly with management and asked management to “look at the huge disparity between executive pay and that of workers”.

SouthAfricaMining

Throughout a series of panels and small group discussions, the 30 plus participants followed the advice of the archbishop and were frank and attentive in their remarks and in their listening. Among the additional issues raised were concerns about “collective wealth and income inequality”; the inadequacy of the percentage of profits that are returned to local mine site communities; and the role of government and the loss of their voice in the conversation (the event overlapped with the annual convention of the ruling party). Questions raised for consideration and action included the prophetic and imaginative roles and platforms of the churches; a role for the church in managing conflict when it arises between parties; “when are excessive profits immoral”; increased transparency by the industry, especially with local communities; and development of an agreed upon set of best practice principles for community engagement.

The day concluded with a number of pledges for action being offered and accepted by both industry and the church. These embraced very specific projects at local mine site community levels, as well as developing a strong capable institute that could serve as an impartial resource and party to wrestle with many of the issues that could only be identified and briefly considered during the course of the day. This included issues and concerns that are very local and immediate, as well as the broader cross cutting issues of employment, energy, technology and environment that are present in communities across the country and the world.


Oblate Shrine hold workshop on Encyclical Laudato Si for Hispanic Community October 22nd, 2015

This week Fr. Chava Gonzalez, OMI of the Shrine of Our Lady of the Snows in Belleviile, IL led a workshop on Pope Francis’ latest encyclical Laudato Si. This workshop is one in a 4-part series and offered in Spanish for participation by the Hispanic community. The series was organized after parishioners expressed strong interest in discussing the encyclical, which focuses on the environment.

FrChavaGonzalesOMI's LaudatoSi

Fr. Chava Gonzalez, OMI of the Shrine of Our Lady of the Snows in Belleviile, IL (front) with his study group.

 

 

 

 


Renewed Call to End the Death Penalty. July 21st, 2015

During the 10th Anniversary of Catholic Campaign to End the Use of the Death Penalty, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops renewed push to end the death penalty. Accompanying their message, “A Culture of Life and the Penalty of Death, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) issued a statement saying,

Since that time, significant gains have been made, several states, including New York, New Jersey, New Mexico, Illinois, Connecticut, Maryland and most recently Nebraska, have ended the use of the death penalty, and other states have enacted moratoria. Death sentences are at their lowest level since the reinstatement of the death penalty in 1976.”

“Our Catholic faith affirms our solidarity with and support for victims of crime and their families. We commit ourselves to walk with them and assure them of the Church’s compassion and care, ministering to their spiritual, physical and emotional needs in the midst of deep pain and loss. We also acknowledge the inherent human dignity of those who have committed grave harm, affirming that, even as they repay a debt to society, they too should receive compassion and mercy.”

Full statement here


Missionary Oblates join faith,business & human right groups to urge Congress to Support U.S. Embassy in Cuba. July 20th, 2015

TheIMG_1213 Missionary Oblates joined more than 28 diverse organizations including our partner organization,Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA) in issuing a joint statement urging Congress to support the establishment of a U.S. embassy in Cuba.

The statement reads, “The establishment of embassies is not an endorsement of a foreign government. It is simply a platform from which to engage host country government officials, members of civil society and business groups.”

Read the statement here: Support for a US Embassy in Cuba FULL HOUSE and SENATE (1)


Church representatives vow to defend Latin American areas with mines December 11th, 2014

Thanks to Catholic New Service for this article, which was written by Lise Alves 

open-pit-mineSAO PAULO (CNS) — Christian leaders from 14 Latin American countries gathered in Brasilia in early December to discuss ways to reduce the impact of mining activities in their communities, especially the contamination of rivers and lakes.

“There is no large-scale industrial mining without water,” said Bishop Guilherme Werlang of Ipameri, president of the Brazilian bishops’ social justice and charity commission. But the bishops say materials used in mineral extraction contaminate groundwater, rivers and lakes in mining regions.

“It has been proven that these toxic materials will remain in the soil and in the water during many centuries,” said Bishop Werlang.

A three-day conference dubbed “Church and Mining: An Option in Defense of Communities and Territories,” was the first of its kind in the region. The conference had the support of the Brazilian bishops’ conference and the participation of the Latin American Council of Churches as about 90 participants tried to define strategies and alliances to reduce the impact of mining activities.

“We discussed the threats, challenges and insecurities that local and indigenous communities throughout Latin America are experiencing where mining companies are operating,” said Oblate Father Seamus Finn of the Oblates’ Washington-based Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation Ministry.

Click here to read more »


Catholic Social Ministry Gathering, Feb. 2-5 January 6th, 2014

csmg-montage-2The 2014 Catholic Social Ministry Gathering in Washington, DC, will reflect on Pope Francis’ vision of Becoming “a Church that is Poor and for the Poor.” The gathering is scheduled for February 2-5 at the Omni-Shoreham Hotel. There is still time to register if you want to attend.

The organizers at the USCCB have developed an exciting program around a theme that takes its inspiration from the words and vision of Pope Francis: Becoming “a Church that is Poor and for the Poor”.

Online registration closes on Friday, January 24, 2014.

For more information and to register, visit the USCCB website…

 

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