The Lenten Campaign - Fastenopfer

The Lenten Campaign - Fastenopfer

The Lenten Campaign - Fastenopfer


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Introduction to the theme<br />

<strong>The</strong> right to food and mineral<br />

exploitation in the Democratic<br />

Republic of Congo<br />

It has become a commonplace that: “the<br />

Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is<br />

a geological scandal involving more than<br />

1100 different mineral substances”. Although<br />

these minerals are highly prized on international<br />

markets, they do not generally<br />

provide any benefit for the Congolese.<br />

<strong>The</strong> DRC possesses one third of the<br />

world’s known reserves of cobalt, 10% of<br />

its copper reserves and 80% of its coltan<br />

reserves. It is one of the world's major<br />

suppliers of diamonds. And yet “its”<br />

mineral wealth does not bring the DRC<br />

much in return: it ranks among one of<br />

the poorest countries.<br />

<strong>The</strong> impact of mineral extraction<br />

on food security<br />

<strong>The</strong> Congolese do not seem to realise that<br />

their agricultural and natural resources<br />

would bring them equal benefits. <strong>The</strong><br />

chance to earn a small sum of money in the<br />

mines has a negative impact on education<br />

and on agriculture. One of the first consequences<br />

is a reduction in the supply of<br />

food products. Price rises logically result<br />

from this, as well as food insecurity. If noone<br />

cultivates the land, how can sustained<br />

access to food be possible?<br />

<strong>The</strong> State has obligations with regard to the<br />

2<br />

right to food of its citizens. Agricultural<br />

activities have been abandoned because<br />

the land was sold either by agreement or by<br />

force to the mining companies. Losing access<br />

to the means to produce their food, men and<br />

women are driven to work in the mines.<br />

<strong>The</strong> ones who gain from the mineral exploitation<br />

are the mining companies themselves,<br />

who generally export the raw materials. <strong>The</strong><br />

Congolese State profits from this through<br />

the various taxes it collects from the companies.<br />

But as corruption has become “a<br />

way of life”, the tax revenue is insignificant<br />

and the mining sector’s contribution to<br />

the national budget is purely symbolic. <strong>The</strong><br />

Congolese population hardly benefits from<br />

the mineral exploitation.<br />

<strong>The</strong> theological, social<br />

and ethical perspective<br />

<strong>The</strong> dignity of Congolese men and women<br />

must be restored by helping them to go<br />

from a less to a more human condition.<br />

Without the ethical reference, without the<br />

moral values of those engaged in the mining<br />

sector, no social, economic, environmental<br />

or cultural well-being can be guaranteed.<br />

From the theological perspective, “Man<br />

is truly human only if he is the master of his<br />

own actions and the judge of their worth,<br />

only if he is the architect of his own<br />

progress. He must act according to his<br />

God-given nature, freely accepting its<br />

potentials and its claims upon him” (Populorum<br />

Progressio, 34). Progress must<br />

not be understood as the growth of the mining<br />

sector, although this is an important<br />

activity, often the only source of income for<br />

the poor. “<strong>The</strong> Glory of God is Man fully<br />

alive” (St. Irenaeus of Lyon), that is, able<br />

to live with dignity.<br />

In the Bible, several words are used to<br />

define the mandate given to Man by God.<br />

He gave Man, who is the summit of his<br />

intrinsically “good” creation (cf. Gen. 1.31),<br />

the obligation to “take care of it” responsibly<br />

(cf. Gen. 2.15).<br />

My view is inspired by the Church’s vision<br />

of a person created in the image of God and<br />

of a society where love, justice, peace and<br />

solidarity reign. It is borne along by the<br />

notion of the “integral human development”<br />

of all, according to the phrase used<br />

by Pope Paul VI in Populorum Progressio.<br />

This implies that the exploitation of our<br />

natural resources should be methodical,<br />

monitored, transparent and carried out for<br />

the benefit of the people.<br />

Extracts from the introductory text by<br />

Ferdinand Muhigirwa Rusembuka, Director<br />

of the Catholic Institute CEPAS (Study<br />

Centre for Social Action) in Kinshasa,<br />

DRC.<br />

Photo: © Patricio Frei, Action de Carême

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