Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
March 29, 2010
Haiti falls from the news, but the suffering continues
Visitor tells U of A students that CCODP committed to bringing 'resurrection' by transforming life
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER
EDMONTON - On Jan. 12, a deadly 7.0 magnitude earthquake struck the Caribbean nation of Haiti, killing an estimated 230,000 people and forcing thousands into homelessness and abject poverty. Around the world people responded immediately with money, food, medical treatment and other necessities.
Now it's yesterday's news. Now the generosity has stopped.
"According to our Catholic faith, through both Development and Peace and Caritas, we are asked to help alleviate the hurt and suffering around the world," explained Pedro Landa, a Development and Peace solidarity visitor from Honduras.
"With what has happened in Haiti, the Church has been encouraged to do something. That's why a lot of collections were done, and the money is going for construction in Haiti."
Landa's presentation was in conjunction with Catholic Students' Week, March 14-21. He spoke before a small crowd at St. Joseph's College on March 21, on Honduras and Canada Working Together for a Better World for All.
Through a variety of actions globally - from rock stars holding benefit concerts to individuals donating at their local parishes - an outpouring of generosity was shown for Haiti.
Although apparently the story no longer merits front-page headlines, the suffering remains great. The worldwide response to the disaster is over, yet their misery continues, said Landa.
"About 300,000 children were left as orphans. An equal number of young people were left without parts of their bodies because they had to be amputated in order to save their lives," he said.
Caritas and Development and Peace will continue helping Haiti, even if the rest of the world will not.
"As Christians, we believe the definition of resurrection is the complete transformation of life from something that was dead and is living again. That's why Caritas' mission is not about reconstruction but one of resurrection and transformation, to bring new life, and giving them channels to begin again."
Aside from helping Haiti, Landa is an advocate for the anti-mining movement in Honduras, another country prone to natural phenomena such as earthquakes, hurricanes and floods.
He showed a short film in which young people from Honduras speak out against the ill effects of mining in their country. They said the mining has killed plants and animals, miners endanger their own lives for meagre pay and there are no tangible benefits for the area.
The country is vulnerable to the greed of companies from other nations, most notably Canada. Seventy per cent of the mining companies in Latin America are Canadian companies, said Landa, and in Honduras it's 85 per cent, making Canada the number one exploiter of minerals.
Of the eight million people in Honduras, 60 per cent live in poverty, earning less than $1 per day.
HONDURAS HAS RICHES
"Although you can see that our nation and the people who live within it are very poor, our country itself isn't poor. We are wealthy when it comes to gold reservoirs, silver, precious minerals and much more natural resources," said Landa.
"If our people had a chance to use these resources, we would not be poor but very rich. Unfortunately our great wealth is exploited by countries internationally and taken out of our country. This makes us more vulnerable than we already are."
The Siria Valley in Honduras is the site of open-pit, cyanide-leeching gold mines. Using vast amounts of water, communities are robbed of freshwater. A total of 22 rivers in the region have dried up because water was used in huge volumes for mining. People live with dangerous quantities of mining-related heavy metals: arsenic, cyanide, aluminum, mercury and lead.
"The direct impact of this is that the 40,000 people who live within this region are being impacted in severe ways," said Landa. Those "severe ways" include skin cancer, hair loss, respiratory problems, body aches and eye problems.
Mining companies operate under a voluntary code and valuing profits over human life, avoid responsibility for the people's health woes, he said. The Honduran government claims that regulating the mining companies is not its responsibility.
Likewise, the Canadian government has shown similar indifference, said Landa.
Anti-mining advocates petitioned for change. The result is Bill C-300, also cited as An Act Respecting Corporate Accountability for Mining, Oil and Gas Corporations in Developing Countries.
"What we are asking for are increased regulations and direct control over what Canadian mining companies can do and how they are forced to operate whenever they go abroad," he said.
The bill is aimed at promoting responsible environmental practices and international human rights standards on the part of Canadian mining, oil and gas corporations in developing countries.
"The resurrection of the people can happen today. They shouldn't have to wait another five years," said Landa, urging Canadians to call on their members of Parliament to support Bill C-300.
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