Zambia Episcopal Conference (ZEC): Communiqué on the "Laudato si' Conference" - Lusaka, 25-26 April, 2016

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COMMUNIQUÉ ISSUED FOLLOWING THE CONFERENCE ON LAUDATO SI ORGANISED BY ZEC THROUGH CARITAS ZAMBIA & JCTR, HELD IN LUSAKA ZAMBIA FROM 25TH APRIL 2016 TO 26TH APRIL 2016  [.PDF]

 “It is imperative to promote an economy which favours productive diversity and business creativity. Small  scale food production systems which feed the greater part of the worlds peoples, using a modest amount of land and producing less waste-should be promoted”  (Pope Francis, Laudato si, 129)

1.     Preamble

The Zambia Episcopal Conference (ZEC), through Caritas Zambia and the Jesuit Centre for Theological Reflection (JCTR) hosted a National Conference on the theme ‘Care for Our Common Home in the Context of Large Scale Investments – Mining and Agriculture.’ The Conference was inspired by the Encyclical, Laudato si’ given in Rome by Pope Francis on 24th May 2015 on the Solemnity of the Pentecost and the third anniversary of his Papacy. 

To all people of Zambia,

We, the Catholic Bishops, together with the participants from AMECEA Justice and Peace Department, the Episcopal Conference of Malawi, Mining companies representatives, Government Officials, Zambian Civil Society Organisation (CSOs), Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace (CCJP), Catholic Commission for Development (CCD) in Zambia, the clergy, the Religious, Business Executives, academicians, and the lay faithful from Catholic dioceses in Zambia,

APPRECIATING the spiritual and social message contained in Laudato si in which the Holy Father, Pope Francis challenged all stakeholders to acknowledge the damage we have inflicted to our environment and the urgent need to dialogue and find lasting solutions to challenges being posed on the earth, whose resources are meant to benefit all humankind;

ENCOURAGED by the presence of His Eminence, Cardinal Peter Turkson, the President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, who is representing the Holy See; the presence of Apostolic Nuncio to Malawi and Zambia, His Excellency Julio Murati, whose presence signified our communion and solidarity with the Holy Father, Pope Francis, for which we are grateful; the presence of His Royal Highness, Chief Mumena, Chief Mpande and the Deputy Minister of Lands, Natural Resources and Environmental Protection and the open and sincere discourse that took place among the presenters and participants in the conference;

CONCERNED about the environmental impact of large scale mining and agriculture. While appreciating that the two sectors are cardinal in creating jobs and meeting our daily needs, there is need for prudent and sustainable management of the earth’s resources to reduce poverty among the people for the benefit of all and future generations;

INSPIRED by the deep insights from His Eminence, Cardinal Peter Turkson shared through the key note address in which he gave an overview of the encyclical Laudato Si’ and urged the conference to translate the ideas of the message into action; and by our own desire to change our attitudes towards all creation so as to Care for our Common Home, in the context of our quest for socio-economic and political development, we the participants to the conference make the following resolutions:

2.  Solidarity with the poor and afflicted

Aware of the difficulties and challenges that most of the poor face as a result of social economic development driven by large scale investments, we stand in solidarity with these poor communities by sharing information and education in order to empower them;

3.   Mining  

Appreciating  that mining has contributed to the development of societies and industries and recognising that mining contributes to job and wealth creation of the country,  we however challenge the mining sector to begin to practice responsible mining that take into account the needs of the environment and the affected communities. At the same time mining companies should put in place actions that go a long way in reclaiming land that has been used for extracting minerals so that it can be re-used for other purposes.

In terms of mining concessions and agreements, we demand that there be transparency and accountability starting from the affected communities to the policy makers. Government, Traditional leaders and mining companies should lead the way in promoting transparency.

We appeal to relevant institutions such as ZEMA to exercise their mandate and provide information to those affected, especially displaced communities as a result of mining. We urge the government to dialogue with various players where mining projects are happening;

4. Agriculture

Committing ourselves to the promotion of conservation, regenerative and organic farming which allow the earth to regenerate as this is the best way of caring for our common home, therefore we will lobby government to adopt these as the main methods of farming in Zambia.

 

Although large scale agriculture is necessary for increased production of food to achieve food and nutrition security, this must be responsive to the needs of the environment and care must be taken to promote biodiversity in their practices and methodologies.  Large scare agriculture that displace the local community must make sure that the local community and their economy benefit from the investment, not only as workers but also as key producers at the household level;

5. Other policy issues that cut across mining and agriculture

We urge government to implement policies that protect the environment and refrain from developing cold feet every time there are vested interests in mining and agriculture investments. The government should also strive to harmonise all policies that govern mining, game management, agriculture, water and land;

 

5. Conclusion

In view of the above, we the conference participants will promote the recent encyclical of Pope Francis on the care of creation called “Laudato Si’ to all stake holders, especially policy makers because it provides a good resource for all on the care of our environment; further we will lobby for the introduction of the concept ‘our common home’ in school curriculum.

We resolve to continue promoting honest and open dialogue with mining companies and investors in agriculture together with the policy makers to raise awareness on the need to take care of our common home. Further we commit ourselves to empower citizens to meaningfully engage in environmental impact assessment community hearings.

In view of the challenges of drought, we urge the government to improve Zambia’s early warning alerts for farmers before the onset of the rainy season to guarantee food and nutrition security  and  also  promote water harvesting, tree regeneration and establish innovative, cheaper and alternative sources of energy.

Ends