Franciscan-led team spearheads fight against mines in Honduran province

GUALACO, Honduras – In the remote rural swathe known as the Wild West of Honduras, said to be a bandits’ hideout where it is “easy to get in, tough to get out,” the Church finds itself once again at the forefront of a movement for justice.

Only this time, 45 years after two priests were among a massacre of peasants demanding land and human rights, the focus has a decidedly green hue.

“Don’t sell your conscience for 200 lempiras,” (US$9) was the message of Franciscan Father Avelino Verdúo, a leader of the local Franciscan Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation committee, to the population of the neighboring San Esteban municipality.

The people are being courted by the representatives of 89 mining concessions that have mushroomed since 2017 in the department of Olancho; the concessions cover almost 5% of Honduras’s largest department. But these are not typical large international mining companies, they are small-scale mines registered mostly by Honduran individuals unknown to the local communities.

Before a November 2019 information meeting in which mining representatives wooed the community of San Esteban, the population reported being offered bribes to support the project to mine barium sulphate, used to produce barium for medical uses and mudflaps on vehicles. But then Father Verdugo, other committee members and representatives of the Tegucigalpa-based Honduran Centre for the Promotion of Community Development, known by its Spanish acronym as CEHPRODEC, presented the other side of the story. And when they left the meeting, they were followed by two vehicles, losing their pursuers only when they drove 85 miles per hour.

“As Christians, we are called to promote the values of justice, peace, truth, love and solidarity – ‘peace and all good,’” Father Verdúo said. “We have an ethical and moral responsibility to work against the anti-values of those who damage the environment.”

For the JPIC committee, this means telling people the truth about mining and its impact.

 

This article was published on Crux on February 16, 2020 by Catholic News Service. Read the rest of the story on: cruxnow.com

 

(Credit: CNS photo/Mary Durran.)