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Bishops go to Parliament to urge care for the Earth

September 21 2007:

“Please help us to stop destructive mining in our country; it is a lie to say that poor people are being helped by it,” said Bishop Juan de Dios M Pueblos of Batuan in the Southern Philippine island of Mindanao.

This article is taken from the Sound of Many Waters website, set up to support a year of Catholic environment action and awareness starting in September 2007.

By Ellen Teague

Bishop Chris Toohey, who is touring the UK in support of Sound of Many Waters , joined two bishops from the Philippines at Westminster’s Houses of Parliament on 17 Sept. They explained their environmental work and urged greater care for the natural world. Clare Short, former British Minister for International Development, chaired the meeting.

“People in so-called ‘developed’ countries have missed the plot on the long-term future,” Bishop Toohey told the gathering of more than 50 representatives of Christian organisations including the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales. The Chair of Catholic Earthcare Australia explained how global warming has contributed to severe water shortage in his diocese and he encouraged his listeners to reflect upon how western lifestyles have contributed to increasingly heavy carbon emissions. “Jesus never said the way to holiness was through excessive consumption”, he pointed out.

Father Robert King, the Clifton Diocese Interfaith Officer, attended the event. He said, “Bishop Chris' explanation of the Hebrew used in the Genesis 1 account of creation made clear the great trust God has given His people as 'servants' of His creation. I look forward to hearing Bishop Chris at the launch of the Sound of Many Waters in Clifton Cathedral on September the 29th, when we embark upon a year of reflection on the respect with which we serve God's creation.”

“Please help us to stop destructive mining in our country; it is a lie to say that poor people are being helped by it,” said Bishop Juan de Dios M Pueblos of Batuan in the Southern Philippine island of Mindanao. “The small islands in the Philippine archipelago can easily be destroyed” he added, calling for “genuine development that upholds human dignity, is compatible with the ecological integrity and ensures the well-being of future generations”.

He reported that large-scale mining has given the Philippines a “scarring” experience with toxic poisoning from mine tailings and flooding of villages. Mining activities have depleted natural resources, posed ill effects on health and led to increased militarisation. “My plea is for Christian globalisation,” he added, “and you people can help us protect our country through challenging British investment in destructive mining companies”.

Bishop Dinualdo Gutierrez of Marbel in Mindanao explained how the Catholic bishops of Mindanao have joined forces to stop the open-pit copper and gold mining operation of Xstrata, an Anglo-Swiss company. The bishops recently led some 8,000 protesters who staged a rally in front of the mining office in the town of Tampakan, and reiterated the call of the entire Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines for the repeal of the 1995 Mining Act, which opened the country up to foreign mining companies.

He showed images of people covered in sores and fish stocks poisoned to show the links between leaks of toxic mine wastes, such as cyanide, and the loss of health and livelihoods of local communities. Both bishops were wearing Episcopal crosses made of bamboo instead of metal mined underground. Bishop Gutierrez too stressed the importance of “networking with foreign advocates”.

Clare Short, who chairs the Working Group on Mining in the Philippines - which includes the Columban Missionary Society, the Ecumenical Committee on Corporate Responsibility, Philippine Indigenous Peoples’ Links and IUCN- CEESP – urged the gathering to work together for sustainable development that takes human rights and the welfare of the natural world into consideration.

This will mean, “working for the transformation that this agenda throws up,” including personal lifestyle changes and putting pressure on politicians and business leaders to respond to unsustainable development and climate change. She thanked all three bishops for their leadership in offering a Catholic response to the world’s environmental challenges.

Link here for the programme for Sound of Many Waters.

Link here for a story on UCA News, the world's largest Asian church news agency.

Link here for an alert about Mindanao mining from IUCN.

Link here for a blog about the fact-finding mission to Mindanao in 2006.

Ellen Teague is on the Media Desk for Columban Faith and Justice

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