May the Dawn Come: A Response to the Crime of Extractivism

October 2, 2019

By Sister Ana Siufi

In Buenos Aires, from August 20 to 22, I had the joy of participating in the Fourth General Assembly of the Churches and Mining Network. There were about 45 of us, from various South and Central American countries, Mexico and Great Britain along with eight Argentinians. We shared our hardships, hopes, strategies and ambitions in confronting the great challenges posed by extractivism in our regions.

We clearly saw how the neoliberal system presents extractivism as the only possible solution for our peoples’ progress, bringing investments for development and work. This is how looting is presented as a necessity and a great economic-political achievement, while its destructive impacts on ecosystems and communities are minimized, undermining all their rights and normalizing the idea that these are “areas of sacrifice.”

Learn more about Mercy's commitment to  stand in solidarity with communities harmed by extractivism.
Learn more about Mercy’s commitment to stand in solidarity with communities harmed by extractivism.

With hope we listened to the network’s report on activities over these past two years, and we met in groups focused on five work and planning topics: eco-theology and eco-spirituality; the network’s influence on companies and governments; influence on churches; disinvestment (in which I participated); and communication.

I must admit that I am still looking forward to the Institute of the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas joining the more than 100 religious institutions that have already disinvested in mining and fossil fuels as a way of publicly denouncing their environmental and social crimes. The network will persist with this call to churches.

The Vale mining company’s crime that led to the collapse of a dam in Brumadinho, Brazil—killing 272 and leaving more than 30 missing—weighed on our minds and inspired our reflections. The harrowing testimony of that diocese’s bishop along with other heartbroken people from that area moved us and we shared their tears, which became a prayer and Eucharist. The bishop confided that he had not been able to go a day without crying since the crime occurred. But he also felt strengthened and enlightened by the words and example of Nora Cortiña, a mother from Plaza de Mayo with whom we march on Thursdays in the plaza, demanding truth and justice with admirable perseverance, an event that has taken place for the past 43 years.

We were also distressed by the crime of the intentional fires set in the Amazon rainforest and the systematic deforestation carried out in each of our countries, due to the boundless pursuit of exploitation and profit, which includes criminalizing or killing the defenders of common goods. Finally we organized National Network Hubs, each planning methods of action, influence and struggle to fight extractivism in their country.

I feel that it was a sacred time to deeply share our concerns, frustrations, powerlessness and also our strength and light to walk on in times of darkness. In a Mayan ritual, conducted by a religious indigenous representative and Jesuit Eleazar López, an emissary of indigenous theologies, we closed with this rallying cry: MAY THE DAWN COME!

May the blood of so many martyrs infect us with courage, love and commitment so that, in the face of a system of death, we may respect and care for life so that THE DAWN WILL COME!

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  1. Sister Natalie Rossi

    Thank you for keeping us updated

  2. Sister Lucy Calvillo

    Thank you for standing up for the people and the land. May God’s grace continue to sustain you. You are all in my prayers.

  3. Angela Reed

    I really appreciate this reflection.thankyou

  4. Mary Pendergast

    As Romero said, “May our blood be a seed of liberation!”

  5. Rose Martin

    Thank you for writing this article. I found it very powerful and it awakened me to the importance of our commitment as Mercy to resist extractivism.

  6. Doris A Gottemoeller

    Thank you, Ana. We also have to press our health systems to disinvest in these companies.

  7. Mary Louise Yurik

    Thank you so much for your continued passion in the work for the poor of your country and this very important issue of justice.

  8. Sheila Murphy

    Thank you Ana for this powerful and insightful important to ponder as we respond to our Critical Concerns

  9. Fran Repka

    Thank you, Ana, for your well-written and insightful article! May we respond to the call.

  10. Rita Torres

    So enlightening! I believe your piece is worthy to be published in the NY Times, the Washington Post and other widely-read newspapers around the country and the world. Getting the word out is crucial to make a positive change.

  11. Marianne Comfort

    Thanks so much, Ana! It is a blessing to hear your wisdom on these issues as we journey together with our Mercy justice extractives working group. I am grateful that you have shared some of your reflections with a wider audience.

  12. Cecilia Baranowski

    Thank you, Ana. You are an inspiration.

  13. Jeanne M Christensen

    Ana, my friend, thank you for all your work in addressing this issue. You and others have been working for a long time. Blessings and prayers as you continue.

  14. Suzanne Gallagher

    May Your courage, love and commitment infect Mercy, Ana! Find myself asking the question- what will I do to respond to this crime?

  15. marilyn brewer

    Thank you for reminding us of what industry is doing our people and land.
    Marilyn Brewer

  16. Sister Mary Schmuck RSM

    Is total divestment from fossil fuels the only effective response to the damage and control exerted by fossil fuel companies and our complicity in not reducing our use of fossil fuel products?
    Does not Mercy Investment Services also provide sustained and often (but not always given the nature of things) success in countering the practices of fossil fuel companies?

  17. Sister Rose Marie Tresp

    I don’t believe that divestment is an effective tool to improve our environment. Rather, aggressively using shareholder resolutions as a method can lead to better behavior on the part of extractive industries to treat workers more fairly, clean up thoroughly, and use more environmentally friendly ways of mining and energy production. How is divestment is an effective tool, that is, which leads to improvement in our environment and/or better behavior on the part of fossil fuel/extractive companies? We will continue to be dependent on the extractive industries for a number of years into the future even as we make the transition to cleaner energy production. Renewable technologies also depend on the extractive industries for the materials to produce energy-storage batteries, windfarms, geothermal energy, and solar panels. We continue to use the products of these industries in our daily lives as we heat and air-condition our homes and workplaces, drive, fly, and use computers and smart phones. Not using the shareholder resolution is to throw away one of the few tools we have left in the U.S. as our government becomes less responsive to environmental concerns. Pope Francis has called on industry to make the necessary complex decisions based on” creating a harmony of interests, involving investors, managers, workers, their families, the future of their children, the preservation of the environment on both a regional and international scale, and a contribution to world peace.” Pope Francis calls for dialogue, which can include shareholder resolutions and engagements. Climate Action 100+ is an investor initiative to ensure the world’s largest corporate greenhouse gas emitters take necessary action on climate change. This group has been hailed as one of 12 key global initiatives to tackle climate change.

  18. Sr Jean Strawbridge

    I am grateful for the contributions to the discussion by S Mary Schmuck and S. Rosemarie. Working within the corporate structure to bring about change.
    Good to be informed about Climate Action 100+