January 24, 2011

Global Action Lived Locally: A Case Study from Peru

The Sisters of Mercy in Newfoundland are a Congregation of 124 sisters involved in global action in Canada, Peru, Kenya and Zambia.

Newfoundland’s vision for Global Action stems from their Chapter Proclamation of 2009 as follows:

  • We believe that the Mercy charism embraces the interconnectedness of women, suffering people and Earth. We commit ourselves to explore this interconnectedness, to accept responsibility for care of Earth, and to venture new ministries among women, youth and suffering people.
  • We believe that the Mercy charism embraces right relationships with God, self, others, Earth and the life-enhancing nature of diversity. We commit ourselves to deepen our relationship with God, to nurture the quality of relationships within our congregation, to work in partnership with others, and to grow in our understanding and acceptance of diversity in all of life.
  • We believe that the Mercy charism embraces the energy and influence of mercy presence in the church, in the world and in all creation. We commit ourselves, in our leadership for mission, to be a personal and corporate presence in struggles for justice and equality.

                                                                                                                      Sisters of Mercy of Newfoundland (2009)

The following profile features an example of Sisters of Mercy of Newfoundland embodying their vision in Peru.

Sr. Marion Collins works in Ichocan, Peru, supporting local communities working to protect their environment against encroachments of the mining industry.

While half of Peru's population lives in poverty, the Peruvian government receives more than $2 billion per year from extractive industries, such as gold and silver mining, and the construction of natural gas pipelines. Mining companies have been given extensive concessions by the government who have done so without consulting with the local communities in the areas of the concessions. These are environmentally sensitive areas with many farms that rely on water coming from the mountains in the mine area. The mines are situated at the source of the water supply for the rich agricultural valley, and the companies contaminate that water with the materials they use to extract the minerals. As well, in their extraction methods, they use large amounts of water.

In a country where so many are poor, money is a critical factor. Mining companies pay people in the villages to do community work, they offer social projects, they promise work and better opportunities, they offer gifts at Christmas time to children and families, all done to brainwash the people into believing that, if they accept the company, life will be better. As a result, the companies divide communities and families. The companies try to make the campesino (farm workers) invisible by saying that no people live in those mountains. The government also minimizes the numbers of the rural population. Protest organizers are being prosecuted in retaliation for their leadership of the opposition to the mining project. The latest tactic is to criminalize the protesters and tag them as terrorists who are only interested in social conflict. There is also an infiltration of pro-mining people in many of the protest groups.

This is an example of how lack of consultation and poor oversight of gold mining can lead to undesirable outcomes for local people and the environment, and infringe on people's rights to a sustainable livelihood and determine the course of economic development in their communities.

The Sisters of Mercy in the Cajamarca region of the northern Andes have been actively involved for the past three years in the anti-mining movement against the work primarily of the Brazilian multinational mining company Misqimayo. There are two main dimensions of their work:

  • Conscientisation of themselves and others in the area. Conscientisation refers to a type of learning which is focused on perceiving and exposing social and political contradictions and includes taking action against oppressive elements in one's life as part of that learning.Training of Leaders. One of the Sisters meets once a month in San Marcos in the Cajamarca region with a group whose objective is training leaders who can go back to their communities and help their people be more aware of the extent of mining concessions and the impact on their particular area. They help people be more aware of their rights and the legal aspects involved in the struggle. In their work, they use audio visuals to help people realize the extent of the contamination and the destruction of the environment. They also use the public media through Radio Campesino which airs a number of programs related to the issue, but they face difficulty in counteracting the expensive spots on television funded by the mining companies. In the words of the people, “It's like fighting a monster.”

Here we see how dramatically both the environment and the lives of the people are negatively affected by the work of multinational corporations and the complicity of the government. The response in ministry must be the intersection of ecology and justice, each bringing the richness of its own perspective and the two together creating the response that empowers persons and communities to safeguard their own lives and protect their fragile environment.

Messages to Mary Kay Dobrovolny rsm - Assistant Director Heritage & Spirituality

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