The Cerrejón open pit coal mine in La Guajira, Colombia, can be seen from space. It’s a vast hole three miles across covering 270 square miles. Thousands of indigenous people have been displaced over several decades to make way for the mine, losing their forest cover, villages and livelihoods. Columbans have long supported their struggle with the mine.
CAFOD is currently highlighting the plight of more than 20 communities who have been dispossessed by the mine. Wayúu people, who have a deep connection to their land and water, have reported the pollution of the whole environment of the region, including water sources, to the United Nations. Livelihoods have been lost and young people are moving away from the region. The Wayúu say that the companies involved – originally UK-based company BHP and London-listed Anglo American and Glencore until 2021, with Glencore recently taking full ownership – have failed to deal with the complaints of local people.
CAFOD reminds us that Pope Francis calls on us to strengthen national and international legislation to regulate the activities of companies and provide justice for the people they affect. More than 100 bishops worldwide have called for an end to corporate abuse. CAFOD is urging the UK government to introduce a new Business, Human Rights and Environment Act to hold business to account when it fails to prevent human rights abuses and environmental harm.
In Britain too, hardship for the poorest people is increasing. Prices are rising at the fastest rate in 30 years, and energy bills alone are going to rise by 54% in April. According to the Caritas Social Action Network, many communities in Britain face a steep rise in the cost of living, particularly from April 2022. People who were already poor and most affected by Covid-19 will also be hit hardest by price rises. The Joseph Rowntree Foundation estimates that a further four million UK households could end up below the poverty line in 2022, adding to 14.5 million UK households already in poverty.
However, there is a growing movement of people and communities focusing on the causes of poverty and finding long-term solutions. Bookings are now being taken for the July 2022 annual conference of the National Justice and Peace Network of England and Wales (NJPN). It takes the theme: ‘Hope is a verb with its sleeves rolled up’. It inspires participants to look for Signs of Hope in our world, and to see how, as people of faith, we can use these to transform ourselves and our communities, nation and world through a series of talks and workshops over the weekend, as well as a parallel programme for children and young people.
NJPN’s six hopes for society:
- A just economy that enables the flourishing of all life
- A world that actively works for peace
- A society that welcomes the stranger
- A society where the poorest and most marginalised are at the centre
- A planet where our environment is renewed
- A politics characterised by listening, kindness and truthfulness
This year commitment is so important, a commitment to new things, with new time and energy. In the post emergency time we must enable each other in our country and beyond to go forward with Hope in everything we do.