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Oblates Give Miners A Voice March 23rd, 2017
(Originally published on OMIUSA.org)
By Mike Viola
The Missionary Oblates are expanding their role as advocates for the rights of miners around the world.
Father Seamus Finn, O.M.I. of the U.S. Oblates’ Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation Office, participated in a day of reflection on the mining industry sponsored by the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace.
Mining CEOs, representatives of the Pontifical Council and religious congregations from around the world examined ways mining companies can improve their record on human and environmental responsibilities while also achieving their business objectives.
Father Finn said the day of reflection showed mining executives that their success should not be judged only in monetary terms, but also by the impact their companies are having on the lives of people.
“I now understand better the meaning of a people-directed engagement approach,” said David Noko, Vice President of Sustainability for AngloGold Ashanti, one of the world’s largest gold mining companies. “I am more empowered to include in my business strategy a new way of engagement founded on solid principles of social good and environmental sustainability.”
Father Finn also attended a dialogue in Lima, Peru on the impact of mining in local communities in Latin America. He is helping to develop strategies and networks to address the destructive impacts of mining. “Extractives, mining oil and gas exploration play an important role across the world while also imposing great disruption and damage in local communities and on the environment,” said Fr. Finn. “The search for a way forward that addresses the most serious of these negative impacts has been taken up by a number of different initiatives.”
Father Gilbeto Pauwels, O.M.I. Director of the Center of Ecology and Andean People in Oruro, Bolivia knows firsthand the devastating effects mining can have on communities. The Oblates in Bolivia have been fighting against this injustice for more than 50 years.
In 1960 the Oblates started Radio Pio XII to broadcast support for Bolivian tin miners. The station still broadcasts today despite strong opposition to its message.
Father Roberto Durette, O.M.I. has been the Director of Radio Pio XII for nearly 40 years. Despite having survived several assassination attempts, Fr. Roberto is undeterred in his passionate fight for the rights of the miners.
Father Finn said the day of reflection deepened his awareness of the need to advocate on behalf of miners. “The roundtable at the Vatican was not just a one-time event,” he said. “This is an ongoing project.”
The 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.
“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 and 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”.
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.
Vatican Radio interviews Fr. Séamus Finn on the impact of mining operations on local communities October 9th, 2015
Father Séamus Finn, OMI recently moderated a conference in the Vatican for Church representatives and Chief Executive Officers (CEOs) of major mining conglomerates to discuss the impact of mining operations on local communities.
After the conference Devin Watkins of Vatican Radio spoke to Fr. Séamus in a wide-ranging interview about the goals of the meeting. Listen to the interview at this website.
Engaging for Impact March 2nd, 2015
Why Do Faith-based Shareholders Engage Mining Companies?
The Rev. Seamus Finn, OMI was interviewed recently by SUSTAIN, a publication of the International Finance Corporation, a lending arm of the World Bank that focuses exclusively on the private sector. The IFC is interested in how the Church has engaged in recent years with the extractives industry. Fr. Finn has been centrally involved in high-level meetings called by the Vatican and the Archbishop of Canterbury with mining CEOs and faith-based representatives to discuss ways to increase respect for the rights of, and lessen the impact of mining operations, on local communities. He is Director of Faith-Based Investing for the Oblate International Pastoral (OIP) Investment Trust, and Executive Director of the International Interfaith Investment Group (3iG)
Some of the questions asked in the interview are: “Why should the church care about extractives?”, “Why social justice through investment?”, and “Is there a way to secure societal fairness? Is it always a dynamic or is there a sweet spot?”
A See, Judge, Act Reflection on the Impacts of Mining from Rome February 2nd, 2015
We all use things that are made with minerals drawn from the earth – from cell phones and computers to automobiles and airplanes. But the mining often happens in places far from our own communities, so we don’t experience the impacts of mining operations personally. Concerned about the information they collected in a 2013 survey on the impacts of mining, the Rome-based Integrity of Creation Working Group of the USG-UISG’s Commission on Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation (JPIC) has created a powerful resource to share this. The booklet created y the group is intended to serve as a general introduction to understanding the impact of mining industries on the community and the environment.
Using the Pastoral Cycle or the See-Judge-Act Process model, the booklet is divided into three main sections: Part One (“See”) provides an overview of some features of mining industries, as seen through the lens of equity; Part Two (“Judge”) presents theological, scriptural and ethical reflections; and Part Three (“Act”) offers practical suggestions for changing personal and communal behavior, which include ways of working for appropriate national and international legal frameworks, and implementation to ensure a sustainable future for the Earth Community. The booklet also suggests resources, experiences and prayers, including questions for you and your community.
Fr. Seamus Finn, OMI on Ford Foundation Mining Panel December 17th, 2014
Learn more though the following links:
Watch their video: A New Vision of the Mining Company of the Future, which explains the current problems with mining and efforts to engage stakeholders to create a new approach.