Display options Mobile website

General News of Friday, 20 September 2013

Source: Vatican Radio

Mining fails to produce rural devt - Cardinal Turkson

,

(Vatican Radio) “The hunger and insecurity which recent Popes have
denounced is a scandal, an offence against our generous Creator and his
poor sons and daughters. Even those who live on the land have to
struggle for their daily bread.” Speaking at the IV World Congress on
Rural Life in Rome on 25 June, Cardinal Peter Turkson, the President of
the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, says we must do more to
meet the challenges posed by the modern world.

Cardinal Turkson began his intervention with a look at his own country
of Ghana, where gold-mining has failed to improve the condition of most
of the population. “My story about Ghana is, sadly, representative of
many rural communities in our world not only wounded by sin but also
being rapidly transformed by the ambiguous process of globalization.”

Cardinal Turkson says the Church must respond to the problems facing
rural life: “No matter how complex such problems are, the Gospel
requires the Church’s creative, collaborative, and determined response.”
He points to the social teaching of Pope Benedict XVI, especially in
Caritas in veritate, as a starting point for the Church’s response to
those problems. In that Encyclical, the Holy Father reminds us that
“Integral human development is primarily a vocation, and therefore it
involves a free assumption of responsibility in solidarity on the part
of everyone” (Civ 11). Cardinal Turkson points out, “On the one hand,
those in rural life make a vital contribution to the integral human
development of all humankind; at the same time, those in rural life want
opportunities to develop integrally themselves, their families and their
communities. Only if we have both, are we fulfilling God's design for
his sons and daughters. And only if we take an integrated view of the
challenges and marshal our expertise and good intentions in an
integrated manner, can we hope for improvement in the most needed areas
without deterioration in others.”

Below, please find the full text of Cardinal Turkson’s speech to the IV
World Congress on Rural Life.

IV WORLD CONGRESS ON RURAL LIFE

“Evolution and problems of the rural world facing the challenges of
globalization”
(Rome, 25 June 12)

FOR THE INTEGRAL HUMAN DEVELOPMENT OF GOD’S LAND AND PEOPLE

Introduction: Signs of Yesterday and Tomorrow

Your Eminence, your Excellencies the Minister, the Director General of
the FAO, (the Mayor of Rome), the President of ICRA, distinguished
participants in the IV World Congress on Rural Life; dear brothers and
sisters in Christ: In the name of ICRA and of PCJP, I welcome you warmly
to the IV World Congress on Rural Life.

We gather in Rome fifty years after the First International Meeting of
Catholics in Rural Life held in September 1962; fifty years after Pope
John XXIII’s encyclical Mater et Magistra, one-quarter of which was
devoted to land tenure and agriculture. Fifty years ago, oriented by
Vatican II, the Church looked ahead, towards our present day:

The 1960s bring promising prospects: recovery after the devastation of
the war, the beginning of decolonization, and the first timid signs of a
thaw in the relations between the American and Soviet blocs. This is the
context within which Blessed Pope John XXIII reads deeply into the
“signs of the times” [cf. Pacem in Terris]. The social question is
becoming universal and involves all countries: together with the labour
question and the Industrial Revolution, there come to the fore problems
of agriculture, of developing regions, of increasing populations, and
those concerning the need for global economic cooperation. Inequalities
that in the past were experienced within nations are now becoming
international and make the dramatic situation of the Third World ever
more evident. (Compendium, 94)

We are, thank God, beyond colonial times and the Cold War. But the signs
of those times have become the agenda of today in the context, which
Pope John virtually foresaw, of globalization: signs like agriculture,
developing regions, population increase and decrease, and inequalities
growing in scope and intensity. The problems in these areas will
continue to worsen in the absence of global responsibility.

My words of greeting begin in Ghana, where I ask: who is paying for the
real cost of gold? I will then consider the rural sector in its global
context, to which, thirdly, the Church responds with analysis and
teaching. I would then hearken to our faith foundations, and conclude
with a new mandate to tackle the challenges in a truly faith-based
holistic manner.

I. Land: to Whose Benefit?

Let me begin in my home country of Ghana (formerly, Gold Coast) with its
long history of mining, especially gold. What happens to inhabitants
when open-pit mining takes over forest reserves and rural farmland? The
consequences can be far-reaching. In Ghana farmers have been arrested in
their fields because a ministry of the government ceded their land to a
mining company without their knowledge, not to mention compensation.
Once the mine is operating and some of their land is gone, the villagers
continue to suffer losses. The explosions that expose the ore also
damage houses and destabilize their foundations, forcing villagers to
relocate, again without compensation. To process gold ore requires
cyanide, a process that can pollute local drinking water, kill fish and
sicken villagers who, of course, have no ready access to healthcare.
Mining has not improved the lives of many Ghanaians.

Should we imagine that the scientists and engineers, who do know how to
blast an open pit and use cyanide to extract gold, do not know how to
avoid ruining houses and poisoning water? Of course not. But the
corporations and government-agencies in charge typically respond that
the wealth created for the many outweighs the unfortunate consequences
for a few. Would that this were true! In spite of its mining wealth,
Ghana remains largely underdeveloped, with about 80% of its 24 million
people living on less than US$2 a day. In 2001, Ghana became one of the
Highly Indebted Poor Countries and benefited from massive debt relief.
But the HIPC initiative drew attention to how the country had failed to
turn its mineral wealth into economic assets that would help the
populace emerge from economic hardship and under-development. What HIPC
did not make manifest is that the bulk of the profits goes abroad, to
owners and shareholders. As little as 10% of mining profits remains in
Ghana.

All of us here know this to be true. Economic statistics and social
studies teach us such facts, which our own encounters with rural people
make personal. My story about Ghana is, sadly, representative of many
rural communities in our world not only wounded by sin but also being
rapidly transformed by the ambiguous process of globalization, to which
we now turn.

II. The Rural Sector in the Global Context

Psalm 24 affirms that “the earth is the Lord’s and the fullness
thereof,” but with Pope Benedict we observe and decry a far different
situation: “Life in many poor countries is still extremely insecure as a
consequence of food shortages, and the situation could become worse:
hunger still reaps enormous numbers of victims.” (Civ 27)

The hunger and insecurity which recent Popes have denounced is a
scandal, an offence against our generous Creator and his poor sons and
daughters. Even those who live on the land have to struggle for their
daily bread. Since the Green Revolution of the 1960s, corporate
agriculture has been claiming it can meet the world's needs – yet 2
billion are still food insecure. Prospects of long-term integral human
development seem very remote.

Globalization, increasingly powered by communications technology, has
further complicated the challenges facing rural communities. Our present
global economic crisis was caused by unregulated and risky financial
speculation, especially in the so-called derivatives market. Financial
speculators, wary of the risk and potential loss of profit, turned to
other global markets to “hedge,” that is, to protect their investments.
One such market was agricultural commodities futures. When billions of
dollars flood in and out of this market every day, such speculation
causes food prices to spike. In 2008, this led to an explosion of food
riots around the world. Food prices, no longer set by the usual criteria
of supply and demand in their complex interplay, fell prey to market
speculation. Far removed from the land where people live and grow food,
traders peer into computer screens and bet on the future prices of
crops. Later in 2008 began the full-blown financial and monetary crisis.

Global oil prices also influence food prices; first, because petroleum
products are a major requirement in agriculture; and second, because of
the growing demand for biofuels. This so-called ‘green’ solution
promises to wean us from our dependence on petroleum oil. It has
resulted in ‘land grabs’ of unprecedented proportions, forcing many
small subsistence farmers off their land and flooding the cities with
large populations of internally displaced persons.

On these upheavals, Pope Benedict has reflected in Caritas in veritate:
“Nature, especially in our time, is so integrated into the dynamics of
society and culture that by now it hardly constitutes an independent
variable.” (Civ 51) That is, nature cannot be properly understood as
standing apart from human culture and society. As Pope John Paul II said
earlier, “we cannot interfere in one area of the ecosystem without
paying due attention both to the consequences of such interference in
other areas and to the well-being of future generation.”

The effects of unmanaged globalization are multiple: on food production,
on rural life, on the natural environment. How are farming communities
to contend with such practices? Let us turn to Pope Benedict's social
teaching which not only assigns responsibilities where they belong but
provides a comprehensive approach to the challenges posed by
globalization to the rural world.

III. The Church Responds

No matter how complex such problems are, the Gospel requires the
Church’s creative, collaborative, and determined response. In Caritas in
veritate the Holy Father begins with food insecurity, to articulate the
long-term institutional responses that are needed under both normal and
emergency circumstances:

Hunger is not so much dependent on lack of material things as on
shortage of social resources, the most important of which are
institutional. What is missing, in other words, is a network of economic
institutions capable of guaranteeing regular access to sufficient food
and water for nutritional needs, and also capable of addressing the
primary needs and necessities ensuing from genuine food crises, whether
due to natural causes or political irresponsibility, nationally and
internationally. The problem of food insecurity needs to be addressed
within a long-term perspective, eliminating the structural causes that
give rise to it and promoting the agricultural development of poorer
countries. (Civ 27)

The Holy Father notes that, in addition to institutional change and
over-arching policies, particular streams of investment are needed:

This can be done by investing in rural infrastructures, irrigation
systems, transport, organization of markets, and in the development and
dissemination of agricultural technology that can make the best use of
the human, natural and socio-economic resources that are more readily
available at the local level, while guaranteeing their sustainability
over the long term as well. (ibid.)

An additional element is involvement and empowerment of those who are
directly affected, and respect for their traditional knowledge:

All this needs to be accomplished with the involvement of local
communities in choices and decisions that affect the use of agricultural
land. In this perspective, it could be useful to consider the new
possibilities that are opening up through proper use of traditional as
well as innovative farming techniques, always assuming that these have
been judged, after sufficient testing, to be appropriate, respectful of
the environment and attentive to the needs of the most deprived peoples.
(ibid.)

Thus the three dimensions spelled out by Benedict XVI are the needed
institutions, the well-focused investments, and the broad participation
of rural peoples. Obviously in touch with competent research and expert
analysis, the Church makes use of these within its holistic, long-term
view of human needs and potential. Moreover, the Holy Father is unafraid
to speak of human ideals as well as human failings, thanks to our
Catholic faith and tradition, to which we now turn.

IV. Foundations in Faith and the Church

The Church has long opted for the rural world. This extends back to the
people of Israel whose life on the land became the setting of Israel's
experiences of God's blessings and curses: fertility of the land and
abundant harvest represented divine blessing, while drought and poor
harvest signified divine curses.

Later, the prophets often spoke of salvation in natural, rural and
agricultural terms, for example, “As the rain and the snow come down
from the heavens and do not return without watering the earth, making it
yield and giving growth to provide seed for the sower and bread for the
eating, so the word that goes from my mouth does not return to me empty,
without carrying out my will and succeeding in what it was sent to do”
(Isaiah 55: 10-11). Our Lord Jesus uses similar imagery to proclaim our
Father's generosity. Yet today, “hunger still reaps enormous numbers of
victims among those who, like Lazarus, are not permitted to take their
place at the rich man's table, contrary to the hopes expressed by Paul
VI” and indeed by our Lord himself when he told the cutting parable of
luxury enjoyed in full view of starvation.

The Church blesses the land – before planting, during its growth, and at
harvest time. During the holy Mass, gifts of bread and wine are blessed,
recognizing the work of the Creator and human hands. This makes the
Eucharist a cosmic action, a prayer of thanksgiving for our salvation.
We Catholics in particular are a profoundly sacramental people, not only
in our sacramental celebrations, but also in seeing the entire created
world as mediating God’s bountiful love and care.

A proverb of the Akans in Ghana says: Adwen nnyi baakofo tsirmul:
“Knowledge cannot be in only one head.” Accordingly, our Church and
related organizations have shared useful knowledge with men and women in
rural communities. They have increased awareness of basic rights to
information and even property, and developed leadership and practical
skills. It is with both faith and competence, with hard work and
liturgical celebration, that we want to embrace what God and the Church
ask of ICRA and PCJP at this Congress.

V. In Conclusion, a New Mandate

Excellencies, esteemed delegates, dear brothers and sisters: from 1962
to today, Mater et Magistra has provided fundamental guidance for ICRA.
During these same first fifty years, Catholic Social Teaching has
deepened and developed remarkably, culminating for us in Caritas in
veritate of 2009. We thank God for the knowledge he has put in our
heads. Building on it, may I now propose that Caritas in veritate
provide the overarching orientation and basic criteria for many years to
come.

One sentence serves to draw my reflections to a challenging conclusion:
“Integral human development is primarily a vocation, and therefore it
involves a free assumption of responsibility in solidarity on the part
of everyone” (Civ 11). On the one hand, those in rural life make a vital
contribution to the integral human development of all humankind; at the
same time, those in rural life want opportunities to develop integrally
themselves, their families and their communities. Only if we have both,
are we fulfilling God's design for his sons and daughters. And only if
we take an integrated view of the challenges and marshal our expertise
and good intentions in an integrated manner, can we hope for improvement
in the most needed areas without deterioration in others.

May this IV World Congress on Rural Life help us faithfully to discover
our vocation, freely to take up our responsibilities, and joyfully to
strengthen our solidarity on the long way ahead.

Comments:
This article has 11 comments, give your comment