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.”
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!