Salvatorian nuns build houses for war victims, widows in Sri Lanka

Sr. Dulcie Peiris, superior of a Salvatorian convent in Kurunegala, Sri Lanka, with Dilrukshi Fernando and her daughters. The nun was on a follow-up visit to Fernando's home, which was built by the Salvatorian Sisters with support from Share Global.
Sr. Dulcie Peiris, superior of a Salvatorian convent in Kurunegala, Sri Lanka, with Dilrukshi Fernando and her daughters. The nun was on a follow-up visit to Fernando’s home, which was built by the Salvatorian Sisters with support from Share Global. (Thomas Scaria)

Kandy, Sri Lanka — Kapila Suranga never imagined that his request for a roofing sheet he saw lying discarded in a convent garden would make his dreams come true.

The Hindu daily wager in Kandy, Sri Lanka, noticed the sheet as he was cutting grass in the garden of the Salvatorian convent in Kandy. He told Sr. Dulcie Peiris, the convent superior, that the sheet would help repair his house’s leaking roof.

The nun responded that they did not want to give him a damaged sheet; instead, she would visit his house.

“What we saw there was very touching. There was no house at all, and what they had were a few iron sheets and abandoned billboards molded in like a hut, where his wife and two small daughters lived,” Peiris told Global Sisters Report. She pooled some resources to build a home for the Suranga family.

They were among more than 200 families from different religious backgrounds who have benefited from the housing project of the Salvatorian nuns in Sri Lanka. The nuns built the houses in various parts of the island nation mainly for single parents, widows and war victims. Some who were in need, like Suranga, also benefited.

Sri Lanka’s 1983-2009 civil war between the Tamil and Sinhalese ethnic communities claimed up to 100,000 lives, mainly Tamils seeking a separate state, according to U.N. estimates. The official registry of the Sri Lankan government, however, puts the toll at 40,000. Both sides in the 26-year conflict are under U.N. scrutiny for war crimes.

Peiris accompanied GSR to Suranga’s new house, where his wife, Dilrukshi Fernando, a Catholic, waited for them at the main road with her 2-year-old daughter, Bhagya (which means “lucky”). She then took the team to their dream house of two small rooms, a kitchen and living room.

The house was not plastered or painted, but Fernando and her two daughters — Bhagya and 6-year-old Amali — looked happy. Suranga had gone to his work as a grass cutter.

“We had always dreamt of having a house, but never thought it would come true so soon,” said Dilrukshi Fernando, as Bhagya held her tightly and Amali stood at her side.

(Fernando is a common surname among Sinhala Catholics in Sri Lanka. The three women in this story with that last name are unrelated.)

The housing project was initiated by Sr. Dulcie Fernando, who was the congregation’s Sri Lankan provincial for three terms, with a donation from an unidentified person in Europe. He donated $3,000 for each shelterless family through Share Global, an international Salvatorian Sisters solidarity office.

The solidarity office helps sisters and laypeople initiate, coordinate and manage projects in various developing countries. They promote an equitable and sustainable society through education, health care, pastoral work and community capacity building, Fernando told GSR.

Another beneficiary is Mary Margaret, a war widow with a mentally challenged son and two daughters, in Kurunegala, about 25 miles northwest of Kandy in central Sri Lanka. The eldest daughter, whose husband recently died from a heart attack, has moved back to her mother’s house.

The houses have basic structures without plaster, painting or electrical connections.

Sr. Fernando, who has initiated several community building projects in Sri Lanka, explains, “We had a limited fund for each house. We also believed in letting the family complete the construction so that they would feel it was their own.”

However, many such as Mary Margaret could not complete the work because of dire poverty, Sr, Fernando added.

Sr. Shiroma Kurumbalapitiya, the present provincial who joined the home visits, said, “They are struggling to make ends meet during this pandemic. How can they complete the homes?”

Margaret told GSR that they are happy with what they have.

“We are grateful to the sisters for providing this home and visiting us from time to time,” said Margaret, who lives by selling lottery tickets. “But no one tries their luck during this pandemic.”

Neighbors help her family with food and other items. She goes to the town of Kurunegala to sell lottery tickets at the bus stops and other public places. Lottery is quite popular in Sri Lanka, especially among those without resources, she said.

Kurumbalapitiya said they are trying to get some funds to complete the houses and build toilets for those unable to do so.

The provincial said neighbors and local parishes cooperated in building the houses and continue supporting the families.

“So, this is not just a Salvatorian program, but a community building project where several stakeholders are involved,” said Kurumbalapitiya, who added they receive funds from benefactors through Global Share. The house is built as a “collaborative project between beneficiary families and their community,” she said.

The provincial says a condition for getting a house is that the family should have land with proper records. In some cases, local people have donated land to a family.

Hasitha Silva, a parish council member of the St. Anne’s Cathedral, Kurunegala, took the team to a house in Yaggapitiya, an interior village about 20 miles from Margaret’s house. It is accessible only by a rough terrain vehicle.

Soma Fernando, a widow, owns the house, among the first 20 built in 2015 under Sr. Fernando’s supervision. The house was larger compared to others since the parishioners helped pool local resources. The local unit of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul also assisted, with some members volunteering free labor.

At the same time, there are houses that still are not completed even after six years.

“We have to understand that people were not able to plaster or furnish their homes due to poverty,” said Sr. Fernando, adding that further funding is essential.

Their funds come from benefactors through their key Global Share promoters — Ursula Schulten in Germany and Yvonne Schmelzer in Italy.

“Recently, we have requested additional funds to support selected beneficiaries, but the pandemic situation has crippled everyone,” Sr. Fernando said.

Some houses have extended their space, affixed tiles and plastered the walls.

Sr. Fernando took GSR to a home near Kandy. This house was improved substantially as its owner now works as a gardener in Saudi Arabia.

Their only son, 22-year-old Darshan Vinith Thangavelu, who completed the work, said, “We were very poor and my father did not have a job when the sisters came forward to help us.”

Thangavelu, a former student of Fernando’s who now works on a college administrative staff, told GSR, “My next dream is to become a teacher and, when I earn money, I want to help other homeless people.”

Fernando said she had worked among women and children with a nongovernmental organization in Kandy before initiating the housing project with Share Global. The hill stations in and around Kandy were always prone to landslides and in one such incident several farmers had lost their houses, she recalled.

“But they never got a house from the government and this prompted me to initiate the housing programs,” the sister said.

The project was initially implemented in the southern part of Sri Lanka. “Now we concentrate on the Tamil population in northern provinces like Jaffna, Mannar and Vavuniya who have lost everything due to 30 years of civil war,” Fernando explained.

In Puttalam district, 80 miles northwest of Kandy, the nuns built many houses with local participation. “The beneficiaries were selected based on their eligibility and not according to their religion, caste or creed,” Fernando said.

In many cases, local community leaders and parish priests also help in selecting the beneficiary families.

Kurumbalapitiya says a house is a basic need for people because “a roof over their head means total empowerment of the family.”

The Salvatorians want to ensure those who live in the houses are empowered to lead a dignified life. “If they are sick, we reach out to them with nursing care. If their children are weak in studies, we give them tuition,” she added.

Mary Margaret, a lay Salvatorian (not the woman of the same name who moved her family into a home built by the sisters), supplies building materials for the nuns in Puttalam and has built two houses for homeless families on her own.

Fernando said the laywoman helped keep their building initiatives alive “when we were really worried about the continuation of the project during the pandemic.”

The businesswoman said she was inspired by the Salvatorians and would continue the mission “as much as I can.” Her son is a Salvatorian priest.

Salvatorian Sisters, also known as Sisters of the Divine Savior, are spread over 45 countries and six continents. Salvatorians have priests, brothers and lay collaborators, besides the nuns.

The Salvatorian nuns are located in only one province in Sri Lanka with 73 members living in 15 convents. They hail from Sinhala and Tamil ethnic communities and are engaged mainly in social apostolates, such as peace building, non-formal education, empowering women and eradicating poverty.

Trash for rice: Bali recycling scheme gives families pandemic lifeline

GIANYAR, Indonesia – For Balinese souvenir shop owner I Kadek Rai Nama Rupat, the past two years during the COVID-19 pandemic have been a fight for survival.

The pandemic has prevented the foreign tourists that usually throng businesses like his on the Indonesian resort island from coming and rising food prices have compounded the economic pain.

But a local non-profit group is offering help by exchanging rice for plastic trash that is then sold to a recycling company.

“Every piece of plastic waste is very valuable for the villagers today and for our economy,” said Rupat, who exchanged about four kg (9.5 pounds) of plastic for one kg of rice.

Rice costs about 15,000-20,000 rupiah ($1.05-1.40) per kg and locals estimate a family of four consumes about two kg per day of the staple, so the trade-in is worth the effort.

The Bali Plastic Exchange was founded in May last year by I Made Janur Yasa, who like many Balinese saw his main business running a vegan restaurant hit hard by the pandemic.

The 55-year-old said the driving force behind his project was a desire to feed communities in his home province in Bali and to improve the environment.

Indonesia is the world’s second biggest contributor of plastic pollutants in the oceans, according to a 2019 study published in the journal Science.

There’s no limit on how much plastic waste a person can bring in, though organisers encourage people to collect trash from their own neighbourhoods.

After spreading via word of mouth, the initiative had helped support about 40,000 families in 200 villages, while recycling nearly 600 tons (544 tonnes) of plastic waste, said Yasa.

“This programme has been very well received by community members,” said Yasa, who hopes to expand it to other provinces in Indonesia.

http://news.trust.org/item/20211229005731-m1cbm/

Companies race to stem flood of microplastic fibres into the oceans 

About 700,000 microplastic fibres are shed from synthetic fabrics during every wash cycle in a standard washing machine. Photograph: a-ts/Alamy

From filters to bags to balls, the number of products aimed at stopping the torrent of microplastic fibres being flushed out of washing machines and into rivers and oceans is increasing rapidly.

Grundig recently became the first appliance manufacturer to integrate a microfibre filter into a washing machine, while a British company has developed a system that does away with disposable fibre-trapping filters.

Entrepreneurs are also tackling the problem at source, by developing biodegradable fabrics from kelp and orange peel, and tweaking a self-healing protein originally discovered in squid tentacles.

Microplastic pollution has pervaded the entire planet, from the summit of Mount Everest to the deepest oceans. People are known to consume the tiny particles via food and water, as well as breathing them in. Microplastics have been shown to harm wildlife but the impact on people is not known, though microplastics do damage human cells in the laboratory.

Fibres from synthetic fabrics, such as acrylic and polyester, are shed in huge numbers during washing, about 700,000 per wash cycle, with the “delicates” wash cycle actually being worse than standard cycles. An estimated 68m loads of washing are done every week in the UK.

New data from 36 sites collected during The Ocean Race Europe found that 86% of the microplastics in the seawater samples were fibres. “Our data clearly show that microplastics are pervasive in the ocean and that, surprisingly, the major component is microfibres,” said Aaron Beck, at the Geomar Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research in Kiel, Germany.

Grundig, which launched its fibre-catching washing machine in November, said the system caught up to 90% of synthetic fibres released during wash cycles. The filter cartridges are made from recycled plastic and last for up to six months, after which they can be returned free of charge.

A system that can be retrofitted to existing washing machines and does not need replacement cartridges has been created by the British company Matter, and was recently awarded £150,000 from the British Design Fund. The device, called Gulp, is connected between the outflow pipe and the drain and traps the fibres in a container that is emptied every 20 washes.

The company’s founder, Adam Root, a former Dyson engineer and keen scuba diver, said the idea had started with a £250 grant from the Prince’s Trust. “I used it to take apart a washing machine and that’s when I had my ‘eureka’ moment.”

In the UK, Alberto Costa and other MPs are campaigning for a new regulation requiring all new washing machines to be fitted with plastic microfibre filters from 2025, backed by the Women’s Institute and others. France has introduced the requirement for filters to be fitted from 2025. The EU, Australia and California are considering similar rules.

There are already a range of microfibre-catching devices on the market, but they have produced a mixed performance in independent testing. Research from the University of Plymouth in the UK examined six different products.

One stood out, Xfiltra, which prevented 78% of microfibres from going down the drain. The company is focused on providing the technology to manufacturers to integrate into washing machines. The scientists tested two other devices that can be retrofitted to machines – the Lint LUV-R and Planet Care filter systems – but these trapped only 25% and 29% of fibres respectively.

The three other products tested were used in the washing machine drum. The Guppyfriend washing bag, into which clothes are placed, collected 54% of microfibres, while a prototype washing bag from Fourth Element trapped only 21% of fibres. The last product tested was a single Cora ball, the stalks of which ensnared 31% of the fibres, though more than one ball could be used.

An earlier report from the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency found significantly better performances from the Planet Care and Guppyfriend products, although it was not peer reviewed.

Prof Richard Thompson, who works at the University of Plymouth and was part of the testing team, cautioned that filters would not solve the problem of plastic microfibres alone. “We have also shown that around 50% of all fibre emission occurs while people are wearing the clothing,” he told the Guardian. “Also, most of the human population don’t have a washing machine.

“As with nearly all the current problems associated with plastic [pollution], the problem is best fixed by more comprehensive consideration at the design stage,” he said. “We need to design these in order to minimise the rate of emission, which should also make the clothing last longer and hence be more sustainable.”

A dozen groups working on better fabrics were recently shortlisted as finalists in a $650,000 (£482,000) microfibre innovation challenge being run by Conservation X Labs. AlgiKnit is creating biodegradable yarns from kelp, a type of seaweed, while Orange Fiber in southern Italy is making fabrics from the byproducts of citrus juice production.

Another finalist, Squitex, has developed a protein originally found in the tentacles of squid. The company says it is the world’s fastest self-healing material and can be made into fibres for textiles and coatings that reduce microfibre shedding.

Other finalists are taking a different approach. Nanoloom is creating non-shedding fabrics using graphene and another group is using high-powered lasers to treat the surface of fabrics to make fibres less likely to be lost.

Cotton, as a natural material, is biodegradable, but its production often involves the overuse of water and pesticides. The Better Cotton Initiative, which covers more than 20% of global cotton production, recently announced a target of cutting carbon emissions per tonne of cotton by 50% by 2030, compared with 2017. Further additional targets covering pesticide use, soil health, smallholder livelihoods and women’s empowerment are expected by the end of 2022.

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2021/dec/30/companies-race-to-stem-flood-of-microplastic-fibres-into-the-oceans

Report finds rising anti-Christian violence in India

An Indian Christian prays in Eluru, Andhra Pradesh, on Dec. 9, 2018.
An Indian Christian prays in Eluru, Andhra Pradesh, on Dec. 9, 2018. | lakshmipathilucky via Shutterstock.

Christians in India were the targets of 305 violent incidents in the past nine months, according to a new report.

The report, produced by three civil rights groups, concluded that Christians faced persecution in 21 of the country’s 28 states, said the Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need.

The fact-finding report was published by United Against Hate, the Association for Protection of Civil Rights, and the United Christian Forum on Oct. 21.

A.C. Michael, national coordinator of the United Christian Forum, said: “This indicates that organized violence against Christians is spreading across the country.”

The report found that the violence peaked in September when there were 69 violent incidents, compared to 50, the next highest figure, in August.

India, the world’s second-most populous country after China, is ranked 10th on the World Watch List for the persecution of Christians compiled by the advocacy group Open Doors.

According to a 2011 census, 79.8% of India’s 1.38 billion population is Hindu, 14.2% Muslim, and 2.3% Christian.

India has the second-largest Catholic population in Asia after the Philippines. There are around 20 million Catholics in the country, comprising Latin Rite Catholics as well as members of the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church and the Syro-Malankara Catholic Church.

The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) listed India as a “country of particular concern” for religious freedom in 2020 for the first time in more than a decade.

“The government, led by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), promoted Hindu nationalist policies resulting in systematic, ongoing, and egregious violations of religious freedom,” the commission’s 2021 report said.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi invited Pope Francis to visit India during a meeting at the Vatican in October.

He was the first Indian prime minister to visit the pope at the Vatican since June 2000, when Atal Bihari Vajpayee met with John Paul II during an official visit to Italy.

India and the Holy See established diplomatic relations shortly after India gained independence from Britain in 1948.

Paul VI became the first pope to visit India in 1964, when he attended the International Eucharistic Congress in Mumbai (known then as Bombay).

The last pope to travel to India was John Paul II, who made a trip to New Delhi in 1999.

https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/249977/report-finds-rising-anti-christian-violence-in-india

New climate classes seek to teach Indian students green habits

MUMBAI,- Students in Maharashtra will start learning about worsening droughts, floods and storms on a hotter planet, and find out how to map and reduce their carbon footprint under the first climate-change school curriculum introduced by an Indian state.

The lessons in English and Marathi for grade 1 to 8 pupils seek to spark conversations in homes on extreme weather and rising seas, said officials, as efforts ramp up globally to raise awareness that climate change is not a far-off threat.

Better climate education is a key concern for young people, with representatives of the growing youth movement taking centre-stage at the COP26 U.N. climate talks last month to present their demands for a greener, fairer world.

Maharashtra officials said the western Indian state was experiencing extreme rainfall, recurring droughts and cyclones.

About 14 million students in more than 100,000 schools will learn what is fuelling these and other climate shifts, in classes likely to be introduced during the next academic year that starts in June.

“The current curriculum doesn’t cover all this. We want students to understand how climate change is impacting us,” said Sudhakar Bobade, head of Majhi Vasundhara, a state initiative to create awareness on climate change.

“Our aim is to make them understand what they can do to mitigate the impact and create awareness among parents through them,” he said.

The new curriculum will also cover fuels consumed by planes, trains, buses and cars – and help students understand why public transport is the most climate-friendly option, officials said.

The new curriculum of more than 100 lessons will end with “green habits”, aimed at shrinking the carbon footprint of students’ households through behaviour changes such as switching off lights and adopting solar power.

In an October report, the Council on Energy, Environment and Water identified Maharashtra, India’s third largest state, as one of the country’s most climate-vulnerable areas.

The state has over the last year paid out $2 billion in compensation to those impacted by extreme weather, Maharashtra environment minister Aaditya Thackeray said at the COP26 summit.

Yusuf Kabir from the U.N. children’s agency UNICEF in Maharashtra, who helped design the new curriculum, said climate change “is real and we can’t deny it any further”.

“We want students to understand how the lives we lead are dependent on fossil fuels, why solar panels are now being used to boil water in tribal schools, why the Arabian Sea is more turbulent and so on,” Kabir told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

‘MORE RESPONSIBLE’

One in five young people across the world think they can no longer do anything to prevent climate change, a poll by a creative agency showed last month.

Techniques such as advertising campaigns and computer games have been used to better communicate the threat of climate change to the general public.

In India, youth activists believe including global warming in school lessons could help expand much-needed awareness.

Tenth-grade climate activist Ridhima Pandey, 14, said she had not studied climate change in her school in the northern Indian state of Uttarakhand, but had gained an understanding from talking to her parents and reading news publications.

“We don’t discuss climate change or global warming in school. There would be one paragraph on it and the teacher would just skim through,” said Pandey.

She welcomed the new curriculum in Maharashtra but said it needed to teach children knowledge they can use in their lives.

“If they learn in school, the next generation would be more responsible, unlike our older generation. Also they will not have the same attitude as them that has led to so much destruction,” she said.

The Maharashtra curriculum is aiming to get at least some of that right: It includes farm visits to identify crops and how much water they consume, activities such as gauging rainfall and video screenings on rising seas and cyclones.

The lessons will also shine a light on changes being made locally to switch from coal to solar power, as well as on global goals for climate action including the warming targets in the 2015 Paris Agreement, nature protection and air quality.

“If we learn, we will be able to conserve,” said Pandey.

http://news.trust.org/item/20211217154018-e0sc6/

As eco-anxieties mount, Africa’s young people urge action on climate

Young activists gesture as they take part in a demonstration during a global day of action on climate change in Khayelitsha township near Cape Town, South Africa, September 25, 2020. REUTERS/Sumaya Hisham

DURBAN, – As climate change takes a heavy toll on Africa, about two-thirds of the continent’s young people are pushing for bolder policy action or trying to reduce their own carbon footprint, a new survey has found.

From locust infestations in the east to devastating droughts in the south, the impacts of climate change are being felt across the continent, which is responsible for only 3% of global carbon emissions.

Africa has the world’s youngest population – 60% of its 1.25 billion people are aged 25 or younger – and youth activists from Sudan to South Africa were vocal in demanding bigger emissions cuts by rich nations at last month’s U.N. climate talks.

New data compiled from 4,500 face-to-face interviews with 18- to 24-year-olds across the continent by the Ichikowitz Family Foundation, an African charity, shines a light on the concerns of young people in 15 countries.

From Angola to Gabon, Uganda to South Africa, here are some of the main concerns highlighted by the African Youth Survey:

TAKING ACTION

While 70% of Africa’s youth are concerned about climate change, less than half are satisfied with how their leaders are tackling it, the survey found.

Among those polled, 85% said their governments should be more proactive in addressing climate change, led by 99% of Rwandans, 95% of Ethiopians and 95% of Malawians.

Besides wanting bolder policy action, about two-thirds said they actively support, participate in or donate to environmental causes, while 64% are trying to reduce their carbon footprint.

As climate campaigners such as Uganda’s Vanessa Nakate become known in Africa and beyond, the survey shows Africa’s youth want to be “global actors in environmental activism”, said Ineza Umuhoza Grace, founder of Rwandan eco-group Green Fighter.

CROP INFESTATION

More than three-quarters of those surveyed said they were concerned that climate change would lead to an increase in infestation and crop destruction from insects such as locusts, with most worry in Ethiopia (91%), Malawi (91%) and Kenya (88%).

East Africa has been battling locust infestations in recent years that have ravaged crops and triggered food insecurity.

Hundreds of millions of locusts swept across Ethiopia, Somalia and Kenya last year in what the United Nations called the worst outbreak in a quarter of a century, with Uganda, Eritrea and Djibouti also affected.

Warmer seas have resulted in a rise in the frequency of cyclones in the Indian Ocean, and heavy downpours along the Arabian peninsula have created ideal conditions for locust breeding in the deserts of Oman, Yemen and Saudi Arabia.

It is estimated that a locust swarm of one square km (0.38 square mile) can eat the same amount of food in a day as 35,000 people, according to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

AIR POLLUTION

About 78% of the young people polled said they were worried about increasing air pollution, with the most concern found among those in countries including Ghana (92%), Ethiopia (89%) and Rwanda (88%).

Air pollution from sources such as vehicle exhaust fumes, industrial emissions, fires and domestic heating and cooking causes the early death of nearly 16,000 Ghanaians each year, the World Bank has said.

Across the continent, such contamination led to about 1.1 million deaths in 2019, according to The Lancet medical journal.

EXTREME WEATHER EVENTS

In 2020, about 1.2 million Africans were driven from their homes by floods and storms – more than double the number of people displaced by conflict, according to a World Meteorological Organization (WMO) report.

Even if global warming is kept below 1.5 degrees Celsius, climate experts project that heatwaves in eastern and southern Africa will become more severe.

From floods to cyclones to heatwaves or long cold spells, 72% of young Africans said they were concerned about the increasing frequency and severity of extreme environmental events.

Among young Rwandans, 90% said they were worried about the impact of floods and cyclones.

Over the years, torrential rain and landslides have killed hundreds in Rwanda and disrupted agricultural activities where 90% of the population depend on the land for survival. 

https://news.trust.org/item/20211206171212-mjznt

Vietnam sisters bring Christmas gifts to victims of COVID, floods

Sr. Anna Vo Thi Ngoi Khen (second from left) and followers of other faiths stand in front of a big crèche on Dec. 12 at her convent in Thua Thien Hue province. (Joachim Pham)
Sr. Anna Vo Thi Ngoi Khen (second from left) and followers of other faiths stand in front of a big crèche on Dec. 12 at her convent in Thua Thien Hue province. (Joachim Pham)

Hue, Vietnam — With people in the region beset by devastating floods and effects of the lingering COVID-19 pandemic, sisters from the Daughters of Our Lady of the Visitation convent in Tien Thanh thought that nativity sets would help bring some joy and hope to area residents amid the difficulties.

Seven sisters and some local youths made more than 60 nativity scenes since Advent began Nov. 28 through Dec. 11. The crèches, about 30 inches by 27 inches, are made of cardboard boxes, thick paper, bamboo and Christmas decorations, and include nativity figurines.

“We have offered all those crèches to poor families, elderly people without relatives and patients as our Christmas gifts so as to console them and bring them Christmas joy,” said Sr. Anna Vo Thi Ngoi Khen, head of the convent based in Kim Doi Parish in the central province of Thua Thien Hue.

Families were also given 200,000 dong (about $9) to get basic food to celebrate the coming Christmas, Khen said. 

The parish serves 500 Catholics among a population of 7,000. Restrictions to isolate villages infected with the Delta variant of COVID-19 in the region were lifted on Nov. 20. 

The nun said local people have been extremely depressed by the prolonged pandemic and floods that destroyed their crops and houses in late November, and consequently many of them start to ignore their faith life. They fear having no jobs and the difficulties next year may bring.

“Crèches are absolutely indispensable to local Catholic families in the Christmas season as they bind the material and spiritual worlds together. However, this year many feel down in the dumps and are not interested in making crèches. We want to help them maintain the Christmas spirit,” the 46-year-old nun said.

Anna Nguyen Thi Hoa, 84, said her granddaughter from Da Nang died of COVID-19 in 2020. She lives with her grandson, who is not Catholic, in a 400-square-foot house provided by benefactors.

“We are really delighted to be given a crèche by the nuns, who bring Christmas atmosphere to our home,” Hoa said. The care of the sisters and reminder of Christmas eases some of her grief for her dead relative.

She said she also receives food and money from the nuns.

Khen said many villagers could not land jobs in Hue and have only two simple meals per day. The sister said the nuns provide rice, bread, fish, meat, vegetables and milk for people in need.

Anna Tran Thi Tuyen from Van Quat village said floods in November washed away all fish on her farm and destroyed more than 37 pounds of rice. She and her husband have to sell duck eggs and dumplings all day to support their three children.

Tuyen said they have no time to make crèches in their homes to celebrate the coming Christmas as they did in the past. “We gratefully get a crèche from the nuns. That is a generous gift to us in this Christmas,” she said.

The Daughters of Our Lady of the Visitation nuns also held a special gathering for 36 single pregnant women on Dec. 10 at their Thien Xuan convent in Luong Van parish in Phu Vang district.

Sr. Mary Bui Thi Vinh, head of the convent, said participants prayed with candles in hands, listened to a Bible passage, sang carols, received Christmas gifts and enjoyed a hearty meal. Gifts including cash, medical oil, clothes and shampoos costing 2.5 million dong (about $109) each.

Vinh said the donations come from benefactors and families whose members have joined the congregation.

The pregnant women, who live with their families, are from Hope Group, set up in 2016 by the nuns. Members meet monthly at the convent to share their joy and sadness and help one another to overcome challenges.

“The gathering is an opportunity for those women, most of them are Buddhists and followers of other indigenous faiths, to understand the meaning of Christmas and be interested in Catholicism,” she said, adding that Christmas joy will lend them emotional strength to overcome the pandemic’s negative effects.

The nuns started to work among local people in 2015, visiting and offering material support, providing scholarships and giving health care to the elderly. They also furnish the pregnant teens with accommodations, food and health care until the birth as a way to keep them from having abortions.

In previous Advents, the nuns took Hope Group members to visit and offer incense at Ngoc Hoi cemetery, where 45,000 aborted fetuses have been buried. They also have made pilgrimages to the national Shrine of Our Lady of La Vang in Quang Tri province. This year they could not do such tours, to avoid COVID-19 infections.

A Buddhist participant whose family name is Hoang said she felt the warm atmosphere of the coming Christmas. “The gathering is a chance for us to meet one another and maintain sisterhood among us. We are really appreciative of all the help the nuns have given us,” she said.   

Vinh, 53, said 18 additional people, including five women from the group, have embraced Catholicism since the nuns started to serve in the parish.

Floods have been a major issue in some regions, said Missionaries of Charity of Vinh Sr. Teresa Tran Thi Oanh from Ninh Cuong community based in Huong Khe district of Ha Tinh province. Local people lack clean water after floods destroyed water supply systems in the region in late November. Poor people must use polluted flood water as they have no money to buy clean water, she added.

“We daily produce 50 to 100 bottles of clean water, 20 liters each, and deliver free of charge to people in need regardless of their background,” Oanh said.

The 36-year-old nun said the sisters use motorbikes to deliver water to the elderly and people with physical disabilities.

On Saturdays during this Advent, the community of five nuns and four novices visit and offer food to 50 families whose members live with mental disabilities, she said. Most of patients have mental disorders at birth and their parents had been in the military. The families face starvation, as the COVID-19 pandemic has left their relatives unemployed for months and other charity groups could not offer them donations.

One particularly painful case involves a woman in her 70s who looks after her three adult children, who have mental disabilities.

“Many shed tears of happiness when we visit and hand food to them. They feel warmth and love of Christmas in this cold winter,” she said, adding that the nuns will continue visiting them after Christmas.

India’s farmers prevail in national protest, Catholic sisters rejoice

Farmers come to the Indian capital on tractors to protest three controversial farm laws that were later repealed after a year of demonstrations outside Delhi. (Jessy Joseph)
Farmers come to the Indian capital on tractors to protest three controversial farm laws that were later repealed after a year of demonstrations outside Delhi. (Jessy Joseph)

New Delhi, India — Catholic nuns are rejoicing in the success of an historic yearlong protest by India’s farmers against federal reforms that deregulated crop prices and opened fields to corporate interests. Many hail the farmers’ stand as the country’s second freedom movement, the first being Gandhi’s.

Sr. Jyoti Pinto, former superior general of the Bethany Sisters in Mangalore and a social worker, applauded the victory of “the longest post-independent struggle in India with the weapon of non-violence.”

India won independence from the British in 1947 after decades of nonviolent protests led by Mahatma Gandhi.

Praising the farmers’ perseverance, Pinto told GSR, “It is an indication that democracy is still alive in India.”

Over the weekend of Dec. 11 and 12, the farmers began folding up their camps outside Delhi, the nation’s capital, after the legislature made good on the federal government’s agreement last month to repeal three controversial 2020 agricultural reforms, drop criminal proceedings against demonstrators and consider adopting minimum crop prices.

Thousands of farmers had camped on the borders of Delhi since Nov. 26, 2020, and more than 700 of them died from the effects of extreme heat, cold and COVID-19. A few took their own lives.

Welcoming the success of “the longest and greatest historical protest in the entire world,” activist and Presentation Sr. Dorothy Fernandes, says farmers “have given a loud and clear message of what is possible if we are united in purpose and not afraid to pay the price.”

Fernandes, the new national secretary of the Forum of Religious for Justice and Peace, an advocacy group for Catholic religious, told GSR that the farmers won because of their “clarity of thought and meticulous organization of people and resources.”

The farmers were led by the Samyukta Kisan Morcha, or United Farmers’ Front, a coalition of more than 40 farmers’ unions formed in November 2020.

Almost 60% of India’s 1.4 billion population works primarily in agriculture, which represents an estimated 20% share of the country’s economic output, national statistics state.

The protests began after the government hastily passed three farm bills claiming to overhaul the country’s agricultural sector and benefit the farmers. The farmers, on the other hand, saw the laws as a ploy to turn over farmland and markets to corporate interests, undermining their ability to make a living.

The protests began September 2020 in Punjab in the north and spread to other states in India. As the government refused to heed them, the farmers came to the national capital. After their entry was denied, the farmers camped at three main entry points to Delhi.

The government and the farmers had several rounds of futile discussions initially. Meanwhile, members of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party and its supporters labeled the farmers anti-nationals funded by overseas Sikh secessionist groups.

The laws also favored corporate control of the production and distribution of the food crops. The traditional farmers, especially from Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh, opposed them. The protesting farmers attracted national and international support for their demonstration.

The government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the farmers were sharply at odds for a year. Modi Nov. 19 surprised the farmers and others by announcing the repeal of the farm laws while addressing the nation. The parliament followed it up a week later by repealing the laws without debate.

Some state governments announced compensation to the relatives of the farmers who had died on the Delhi borders.

The farmers’ union leaders say they will review the situation Jan. 15, 2022, and relaunch the protest if the government fails to keep its promises.

Fernandes’ forum was among Catholic groups that had backed the farmers, although the official church bodies in India stayed away from the stir.

Fernandes and her forum members came to New Delhi to join the farmers. She says the farmers’ protest has helped highlight “the meaning and understanding of struggle in a peaceful democratic manner.”

She hails their determination and sense of purpose, saying, “Even the loss of lives of their brothers and sisters did not deter them from their goal. Instead, the deaths only strengthened them and encouraged them to keep going.”

Presentation Sr. Shalini Mulackal, a leading woman theologian in India, also had joined the farmers on the Delhi borders on several occasions, after realizing the farm laws were aimed at “changing the way agricultural produce is marketed, sold and stored across the country.”

She says she is convinced that the main purpose of the farm laws was to benefit a few corporate houses in India.

The farmers’ protest, she says, was against “the injustices embedded in the new farm laws” that would have harmed not just the farmers but millions of consumers with big business controlling production and supply.

“I look at the farmers’ protest as a sign of hope. They are the only group protesting against the present government and their policies, which are anti-poor, anti-minorities and anti-people,” says Mulackal, who labeled the dispute a “second independence movement” of India.

The farmers’ victory has enthused Holy Cross Sr. Vijaya Sebastian, a social worker and health care activist in a few northern Indian states and a supporter of the farmers’ actions.

“We have to wait and see if the government keeps its promises. We need the deliverables, not the promises,” says Sebastian, who directs the Holy Cross Consortium with nearly 2,000 members in eight provinces in India.

Another supporter is Sr. Ajitha Mathew, a social worker who manages a movement of women farmers in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh. The member of the Sisters of the Queen of Apostles welcomes the farmers’ victory but remains skeptical about the government keeping its promises.

“I cheer the farmers’ victory after more than a year of protests in the open, fighting scorching sun and freezing winter, and the pandemic,” she told GSR.

Mathew plans to celebrate the victory with her women associates on Dec. 23, which is designated as Farmers Day in India.

Sr. Jofi Joseph in Kerala, southern India, welcomed the end of the farmers’ protest and called for pro-farmer legislation. The member of the Congregation of the Mother of Carmel made headlines in September after the Kerala High Court allowed her and 15 others to kill wild boars that destroyed crops. The wild beasts are as damaging to farmers as corporations, she told GSR, speaking in Malayalam.

Priests and brothers also supported the farmers.

“It is a big victory for the farmers, whatever may be the political compulsions for Prime Minister Modi,” says Indian Missionary Society Fr. Anand Mathew, who had joined the protesting farmers in Delhi with other priests and nuns.

The farmers’ victory “is an inspiration and tremendous encouragement for those of us who are on the path of Satyagraha [a form of nonviolent protest, propagated by Mahatma Gandhi],” said the activist priest, who organized a series of protests, rallies and meetings on the farmers’ issue in Varanasi, his base in Uttar Pradesh state.

“We Farm,” a farmers movement in Kerala, welcomed the end to the protest but hinted the farmers will wait for the actual implementation of government promises.

Mulackal says the present Indian government’s policies are “diametrically opposed” to the Gospel values.

“Showing our solidarity with a group that is clearly standing against anti-Kingdom values is the least we can do as Christians,” asserts the nun who said she was privileged to spend time with the protesting farmers.

https://www.globalsistersreport.org/news/politics/ministry/news/indias-farmers-prevail-national-protest-catholic-sisters-rejoice

Philippine women switch on solar to light their way in a storm

Virgilia Villaruel uses a solar-powered flashlight to light Tinabanan Cave, used as a storm shelter, in Marabut, Philippines, Oct 17, 2021. Thomson Reuters Foundation/Geela Garcia

MARABUT, Philippines, – When Haiyan, one of the most powerful tropical cyclones ever recorded, smashed into the central Philippines in 2013, the town of Marabut in Eastern Visayas region suffered zero casualties.

More than 1,000 residents scrambled up 32 feet (9.75 m) of slippery soil and limestone to take refuge inside the Tinabanan Cave, known for providing shelter since colonial times.

Lorna dela Pena, 66, was alone when the super-typhoon landed on Nov. 8, killing more than 6,000 people nationwide and forcing about 4 million from their homes.

She remembered how everything was “washed out” by the storm, but despite being “lost in a daze”, she managed to evacuate.

“There still weren’t stairs to comfortably climb up to the cave. My grandfather’s dream was for it to have stairs,” she said, noting they were finally put in after the Haiyan disaster.

While serving hot porridge to evacuees, dela Pena grasped how important local organisations are to helping communities become more resilient to fiercer weather, as the planet warms.

“It’s stronger when more people unite to help. What one can’t do is possible when everyone unites,” she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Following that experience, she worked with others in Marabut to build up women’s groups focused on different issues.

Now they take the lead in organising workshops on organic farming, hold discussions on violence against women, and educate and encourage other women to adopt renewable energy.

Azucena Bagunas, 47, and dela Pena are among “solar scholars” trained by the Philippines-based Institute for Climate and Sustainable Cities (ICSC), an international nonprofit that promotes low-carbon development and climate resilience.

In an effort to prepare better for disasters after Typhoon Haiyan, known locally as Yolanda, the women learned to operate portable solar-powered generators called TekPaks, which they use during evacuations.

LIFE-SAVING TECHNOLOGY

The TekPaks light up the dark Tinabanan cave, making it easier to count the number of people seeking shelter there, and charge mobile devices to keep communication lines open.

For Bagunas, the most memorable use of the technology was when it helped save a life.

“We were able to use this TekPak to power a nebuliser when someone had an asthma attack,” she recalled.

Bagunas and dela Pena share their knowledge by teaching other women to operate TekPaks and making them aware of the benefits of renewable energy.

Now, whenever a storm is coming, women in Marabut ensure their solar-powered equipment is charged so they are ready to move their communities to safety.

Bagunas said harnessing solar energy was also cheaper than relying on coal-fired electricity from the grid.

“If we use (solar) as our main source of power in our homes, then we don’t even have to pay for electricity,” she said. “As long as you have a panel, you’ll have affordable and reliable power.”

Bagunas also prefers solar as a safer option.

In June, her brother’s house next-door went up in flames when a live electricity wire hit his roof, with the fire reaching some parts of her own house.

WOMEN’S WORK

According to 2020 data from the Department of Energy, about 60% of the Philippines’ energy still comes from coal and oil, with only about 34% from renewable sources.

But under a 2020-2040 plan, the government aims to shift the country onto a larger share of renewable energy such as solar, rising to half of power generation by the end of that period.

Chuck Baclagon, Asia regional campaigner for 350.org, an international group that backs grassroots climate action, said the ICSC’s efforts to bring solar power to communities would help expand clean energy at the local level.

Today’s model of a centralised power system reliant on fossil fuels does little to address energy poverty in remote island areas far from commercial centres, he added.

“The shift to solar energy dispels the myth that we can’t afford to transition,” he said. “The reason why fossil fuel is expensive is that it’s imported so it’s volatile in the market.”

Renewable energy sources like solar, however, are easier to build locally because they harness what is available and has the highest potential in particular locations, he added.

Leah Payud, resilience portfolio manager at Oxfam Philippines, said her aid agency supported initiatives to introduce solar energy in poor rural communities, especially because it helps women and children who are among the most vulnerable to climate change.

“During disasters, the unpaid care work and domestic work of women doubles,” she said, adding their burden is made heavier by having to find an energy source to carry out those jobs.

“Women don’t have access to a clean kitchen to cook their meals, and there is no electricity to lighten their tasks, for example when breastfeeding or sanitising equipment,” she said.

The direct benefits women can gain from clean, cheap and easily available energy mean they should be involved in expanding its adoption, she added.

“They are the mainstream users and energy producers – and without their involvement, renewable energy initiatives can become inappropriate,” she added. “There is no climate justice without gender justice.”

One good way to introduce women to renewable energy is by asking them to draw a 24-hour clock of their chores at home and identifying the energy they use to do them, Payud said.

They then consult with Oxfam staff on how switching energy sources could lighten their responsibilities, making it “very relatable”, she added.

The exercise has revealed that many women spend at least 13 hours a day doing unpaid family care work, a load that has increased during the COVID-19 pandemic due to home-schooling.

QUICK AND SAFE

On Suluan Island, a three to four-hour boat ride from the mainland, women are tasked with collecting water in energy-deprived areas, putting them at risk when they have to go out after dark.

They have found solar lights more reliable than oil lamps because they do not have to cross the sea to buy fuel for them.

Payud said solar was the best energy source during a disaster, especially when the mains power supply is cut and it is impossible to travel between islands.

After Haiyan, it took half a year to restore grid power in far-flung communities, but that would not have been the case had women had access to alternative energy such as solar, she said.

For dela Pena and Bagunas, women should be at the forefront of tackling climate change and energy poverty because they act as “shock absorbers”.

“Women oversee the whole family, and whenever there are problems, they are the ones who try to address it first,” said Bagunas.

https://news.trust.org/item/20211214082801-1zdy2/

Illegal gold mining booms in Brazilian Amazon, harming environment, health

An illegal miner shows gold extracted from the Madeira River, in Nova Olinda, Amazonas state, Brazil, on Nov. 26. (AP/Edmar Barros)
An illegal miner shows gold extracted from the Madeira River, in Nova Olinda, Amazonas state, Brazil, on Nov. 26. (AP/Edmar Barros)

Hundreds of illegal mining dredges converged on Brazil’s Madeira River in November, creating a floating city near the town of Autazes in the state of Amazonas. The rush — involving as many as 600 vessels, by some estimates — apparently began after news spread that a miner operating illegally there had found gold.

Although the unprecedented event attracted the attention of environmentalists around the world, illegal mining in the Madeira River and other Amazonian waterways is nothing new. Politicians — who sometimes are involved in the ventures — tend to downplay the environmental and social damage caused by illegal mining.

The problem has intensified since President Jair Bolsonaro took office in 2019, partly because of his public support for the miners. In addition, a top government official recently authorized seven mines in protected areas, including Indigenous reserves.

Several Catholic Church organizations have spoken out about illegal mining and its impacts, but the complexity of its causes and the great financial interests behind it transform their effort into a David-and-Goliath kind of struggle.

“Illegal mining in the Amazonian rivers requires great investment. Those organizations use helicopters, airplanes and heavy machines in their operations. There’s evidence that they rely on local politicians’ support,” Italian-born Comboni Fr. Dario Bossi, a founding member of the Brazilian bishops’ Mining and Integral Ecology Commission, told EarthBeat.

Indeed, a delegation of local mayors traveled to Brasilia Dec. 1 to meet with Brazil’s defense minister and with legislators from Amazonas, in an effort to pressure them to suspend a police crackdown on the mining boats.

Several members of Congress from Amazonas told the press that although they lamented the environmental impact of mining, people — especially the poor — should be allowed to continue working.

“Every time an operation against mining is launched in the Amazon, local politicians show their support to miners and claim that it’s an activity that generates income,” Danicley de Aguiar, an activist with the environmental group Greenpeace, told EarthBeat. “No doubt it does, but that’s a shortsighted idea. The price we’ll have to pay later is much higher.”

Miners help bankroll the election campaigns of Amazonian politicians, de Aguiar said, adding, “And many times, the politicians themselves are miners — not the ones working in the mud, but those who profit” from the mining.

Amazonian rivers wash vast amounts of sediment from the Andes Mountains in western South America to the Atlantic Ocean on the eastern side of the continent. The sediment contains minerals, including gold. Early miners panned for gold along the rivers, but their modern counterparts use large dredges, suction hoses and sluices.

In rivers, the operations churn up huge amounts of mud, increasing the turbidity of the water, which affects aquatic fauna. When miners move inland, dredging along smaller rivers or in forested areas where rivers used to flow, the destruction is compounded, leaving a denuded landscape pocked with water-filled craters.

A longer-lasting impact comes from mercury used to separate tiny flecks of gold from fine sediment. Typically, workers mix mercury with the gold-bearing sand to form a lump, then blast it with a torch, vaporizing the mercury and leaving behind a lump of gold.

Direct exposure to mercury can cause health problems for workers, including lung, kidney and neurological problems. This kind of unregulated or poorly regulated small-scale mining is also the largest source of atmospheric mercury, which can enter the food chain when it settles onto the land and oceans.

And although miners claim that they don’t use mercury when mining in rivers, de Aguiar has his doubts.

“If the government is unable to minimally control the flux of mining boats, how can we be sure they are not using mercury and dumping it in the river?” he asked.

Dredging in riverbeds also stirs up heavy metals — including mercury that occurs naturally in some Amazonian soils — or pollutants deposited in the past, re-contaminating the water and its plant and animal life, de Aguiar said.

When mercury in rivers or streams comes into contact with bacteria, it changes into a form that accumulates in the flesh of fish. The toxic metal becomes more concentrated higher up the food chain, as smaller fish are eaten by larger fish, which are consumed by humans, not only in rural areas but also in large cities like Manaus and Belém.

Consuming large amounts of mercury can cause neurological problems, especially in children, and in pregnant women the mercury can affect the developing fetus.

But mercury is not the only health hazard posed by illegal gold mining in Brazil. For decades, church workers have denounced the presence of illegal miners in the Yanomami Indigenous Territory, an area that borders Venezuela and is slightly larger than the U.S. state of Indiana.

Some Yanomami continue to shun contact with wider Brazilian society, making them especially vulnerable to diseases introduced by miners, even common ones like colds or flu. With the COVID-19 pandemic, however, the danger is great even for Yanomami who have resistance to common diseases.

“Mining produces gold and death — death caused by mercury emissions, but also by COVID-19. There are more than 20,000 miners operating in the Yanomami territory. Those invaders have taken the novel coronavirus to the indigenous communities,” Bossi said.

Violent encounters also occur between miners and the territory’s Indigenous inhabitants, including some in the past year that have been related to the pandemic.

Earlier this year, there was a wave of attacks against Yanomami villages by miners angry that the Indigenous communities had put up barriers to keep outsiders away, in an effort to stop the spread of COVID-19. In one assault caught on camera, miners in boats shot at residents of a Yanomami village, causing women and children to flee.

“There has always been illegal mining in the Yanomami land, but now it has assumed a gigantic proportion. It has been impacting their lives in various ways,” said Luis Ventura, a lay missionary working with the Brazilian bishops’ Indigenous Missionary Council, known as CIMI.

Ventura said villagers who are closest to mining areas avoid contact with the miners, but as a result, they are gradually displaced by the invaders.

“They also feel the impact of mining on their daily lives. They see the water is more turbid, that there are fewer fish,” he said.

Júnior Hekurari, a Yanomami health worker, agreed.

“The water became mud. Even the great rivers are now yellow. We cannot fish anymore in several places where we used to fish,” he told EarthBeat.

Hekurari also said the invaders brought malaria with them.

“They destroyed forest areas and brought the disease,” he said, adding that as many as 1,500 malaria cases have been diagnosed every month among the Yanomami in recent months.

“We see and hear planes and helicopters flying all day long in our territory,” he said. “They move tons of materials and equipment every day.”

In October, two Yanomami children, ages 4 and 5, who were playing by a riverbank were killed when a mining dredge swept them into the river’s deeper water and swift current. The circumstances are not clear, but observers believe they were pulled into deeper water by the dredge’s suction hose.

“Yanomami kids learn how to swim as soon as they can walk. Those kids knew how to swim. They were killed by a machine. It was not an accident,” Hekurari said of the case, which is still being investigated by the police.

Hekurari fears the effects of mercury on his people’s health. A recent study by the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation, a governmental health research agency, showed that 60% of the Munduruku people, in the state of Pará, have higher levels of mercury in their blood than the maximum recommended by the World Health Organization.

Franciscan Sr. Laura Vicuña Manso, a member of CIMI in the state of Rondônia, said mining also creates internal conflicts in indigenous territories, pitting anti-mining and pro-mining members of the communities against each other.

“Mining is always a source of conflict,” she told EarthBeat. “And it also impacts the indigenous groups living in isolation.”

The impacts of illegal mining stretch far beyond the areas where the miners work, Greenpeace’s de Aguiar said, as some successful miners invest their money in cattle ranches in the Amazon — leading to more deforestation and emission of greenhouse gases.

Meanwhile, people living in communities in the mining areas do not reap benefits.

“The city of Itaituba, in the state of Pará, has been a center of mining for 50 years. If mining really brings progress, it should be a city comparable to London,” de Aguiar said. “But it’s not — it’s a rather poor city.”

Church organizations like the Mining Commission and the Pastoral Land Commission not only denounce the illegal miners operating in the Amazon, but they also try to promote economic alternatives in the region.

“With the high international prices of gold, many traditional communities suddenly became mining communities. We have been trying to stimulate other forms of production that will allow good living conditions, based on agroecology and local production,” Bossi said.

Meanwhile, the bishops’ Mining and Integral Ecology Commission has been campaigning to raise awareness among people who purchase gold about the impacts of mining in the Amazon — much like campaigns aimed at stopping the purchase of “blood diamonds” from Africa. Bossi and Jesuit Fr. Thomas Reese raised the issue during the Synod of Bishops for the Amazon region in October 2019, when they suggested that the church stop using liturgical vessels made of gold.

But with the international price of gold driven higher by the pandemic, illegal mining in the Amazon basin is unlikely to end soon. And even if it did, the land devastated by mining will be slow to recover, scientists say.

Even if mining stopped today, the mercury pollution would linger for decades, de Aguiar said, adding, “Decontamination takes a long time.”

https://www.ncronline.org/news/earthbeat/illegal-gold-mining-booms-brazilian-amazon-harming-environment-health