Pope Francis hears the cry of PCPR

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YESTERDAY the NGO Promotion of Church People’s Response (PCPR) issued a press statement denouncing the “the filing of trumped-up charges by State forces against Church human rights and peace workers who are active in supporting the rights of the indigenous peoples openly campaigning against large-scale mining and environmental plunder by multinational corporations.”

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“We are both saddened and enraged by these malicious attacks against clergy and other human rights advocates as well as leaders of progressive organizations who work in solidarity with the marginalized and oppressed. We demand that Pres. Simeon Benigno Aquino III stop these deplorable attacks and serious harassment against those who are working for the rights of the people.”

PCPR said Philippine National Police, a local unit of the Philippine Army, and their “assets” in the local government and the community filed trumped-up charges against Church leaders in Davao City and in two towns in Saranggani province apparently to limit the accused Church people’s work for the wellbeing and advocacy for the rights of indigenous peoples and internally displaced persons.

PCPR said that “in Davao City, the Rev. Jurie Jaime of Promotion of Church People’s Response, Sr. Stella Matutina, OSB of Panalipdan, and Sr. Restita Miles of the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines, as well as nine other human rights defenders and ‘John Does’ are also included in fabricated charges of kidnapping, serious illegal detention, and violations of the Anti-Trafficking Act.”

In the Saranggani province towns of Malapatan and Alabel, PCPR also said, “three clergy from the United Church of Christ in the Philippines—namely, the Rev. Allen Bill Veloso, Chairperson of Karapatan-SoCSKSarGen, and Pastor Sadrach Sabella, Secretary General of Karapatan-SoCSKSarGen, and the Rev. Roger Rafalez—as well as nine others” are among those falsely charged with |attempted murder, inciting to sedition, violations of the law for the protection of children, and International Humanitarian Law.”

Karapatan is the most nationally active human rights organization. With branches in all provinces, its workers are often by police and military officers of being members or supporters of rebel communist groups.

“We are appalled that State forces have chosen to thrust ‘fascist fists’ toward these clergy and religious human rights advocates. Do the Armed Forces of the Philippines believe that they can cover up their human rights violations and militarization of indigenous people’s communities by filing cases against the human rights defenders, who have been standing in solidarity with those speaking out against AFP violations? We should be thanking these Church people for doing what they could in order to uplift people who have long been marginalized and beaten-down through government neglect,” PCPR said.

The group reminded the public that “at least six Church workers are facing charges and expressed alarm over the blatant harassment of Church people.” It said, “This obviously systematic harassment is indicative of the human rights violations that have been perpetrated under the Aquino administration.”

Pres. Aquino is to deliver his last State of the Nation Address (SONA) on Monday, July 27. PCPR, saying “human rights violations… continue with impunity [under Aquino], asked: “Will he say that he is unable to prevent State forces and authorities from committing such violations? He cannot excuse himself from accountability…[and defend himself]by saying that these are isolated cases. State policy under ‘Oplan Bayanihan’ has been to attempt to silence dissenting voices against the government’s anti-poor and anti-people policies and programs; violating human rights to this end is an established pattern of State forces under the Aquino administration.”

PCPR called on “ the faithful to remain steadfast in keeping the flame of TRUTH burning bright as we stand in solidarity with communities in their struggle for JUSTICE. We must hold fast to what is honorable as we perform our prophetic and priestly ministries in service to the poor, oppressed, and marginalized. We must never surrender to the crooked and deceptive path of Aquino, whose legacy is forever tarnished by his administration’s miserable record of widespread, vicious, and insidious violations of human rights.”

Vatican gives a voice to people harmed by the mining industry
IN Rome on Friday morning (Friday afternoon here in Manila) a conference on the theme — “United to God We Heed a Cry,” began. It ends today. Ghanaian Cardinal Peter Kodwo Appiah Turkson, head of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, said it is “dedicated to giving a voice to the communities adversely affected by mining operations.”

This Pontifical Council organized the conference in collaboration with the Latin American Churches and the Mining Network.

Cardinal Turkson said this event brings together about 30 representatives of communities affected by mining activities, especially from Africa, Asia and America. The conference will examine the situation of these communities.

In 2013 The Ponitifical Council for Justice and Peace also organized conference titled “Mining for the Common Good,” on the request of mining company directors. It aimed to evaluate the human, economic and environmental impact of mining.

Another conference, “Creating a New future, Reimaging the Future of Mining,” will be held in September.

Pope Francis, on Friday, sent a message to the delegates to the conference. It sounds as if he had heard the PCPR’s laments before he sent the message. Below is Zenit.org’s translation of the message.

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To the Venerable Brother Cardinal Peter Kodwo Appiah Turkson President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace

I am happy to express my greeting and my encouragement to the participants in the meeting of representatives of communities concerned with mining activities, organized by the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, in collaboration with the Latin American Churches and the Mining network on the theme “United to God We Heed a Cry.”

You come from different situations and you experience in diverse ways the repercussions of mining activities, whether they are carried out by large industrial companies, by artisans or by informal operators.

You wished to meet in Rome, on this day of reflection that is linked to a passage of the Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium (cf. nn. 187-190), to echo the cry of numerous people, families and communities that suffer directly or indirectly from the too often negative consequences of mining activity. A cry because of lost lands; a cry because of the extraction of riches of the soil that, paradoxically, has not produced wealth for the local populations which have remained poor; a cry of pain in reaction to the violence, threats and corruption; a cry of anger and help because of the violations of human rights, blatantly or discreetly trampled with regards to the health of the populations, the conditions of work, at times the slavery and traffic of persons that fuels the tragic phenomenon of prostitution; a cry of sadness and of impotence for the pollution of the waters, of the air and of the soil; a cry of incomprehension because of the absence of inclusive and supporting processes on the part of those civil, local and national authorities, which have the fundamental duty to promote the common good.

Minerals, and more generally the riches of the soil and subsoil are a precious gift of God, of which humanity has made us for a millennium (cf. Job 28:1-10). Minerals, in fact, are fundamental for numerous sectors of life and of human activity. In the Encyclical Laudato Si’ I wished to address an urgent appeal to collaborate in taking care of our common home, opposing the tragic consequences of environmental degradation in the life of the poorest and excluded, and advancing towards an integral, inclusive and sustainable development (cf. n. 13). The entire mining sector is undoubtedly called to carry out a radical paradigm change to improve the situation in many countries. The Governments of countries of origin of the multinational societies and of those in which they operate, entrepreneurs and investors, the local authorities that supervise the development of mining operations, the workers and their representatives, the providers of international supplies with the various intermediaries and those that work in the markets of these materials, the consumers of merchandise for whose realization use has been made of minerals, can make their contribution. All these people are called to adopt behavior inspired by the fact that we constitute one human family, “that everything is in relation, and that the genuine care of our life itself and of our relations with nature is inseparable from fraternity, from justice and from fidelity in our dealings with others” (Ibid., 70).

I encourage the communities represented in this meeting to reflect on how they can interact constructively with all the other actors involved, in a sincere and respectful dialogue. I hope that this occasion will contribute to greater awareness and responsibility on these subjects: it is beginning from human dignity that the necessary culture is created to address the present crisis.

I pray to the Lord that your work these days may be rich in fruits, and that those fruits may be shared with all those that are in need of them. I ask you, please, to pray for me and I affectionately bless you, the communities to which you belong and your families.

From the Vatican, July 17, 2015
FRANCISCUS PP.
[Translation by ZENIT]

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