Some members of the Comboni Family (a priest, a brother, a sister and laity of the Group of Comboni Spirituality), most of them originally from the diocese of Balsas, held a week of missionary and vocational animation in Balsas (MA) in the parishes of Our Lady of Perpetual Help and of St. Anthony. There were several celebrations with beautiful testimonies, moments lived in a family atmosphere and missionary passion. The activity was also held in view of the Great Parish Missionary Week that will take place in November in the same city, and also marked the celebration of the 25th anniversary of consecrated life of Sr. Maria do Socorro Ribeiro, a Comboni Missionary Sister of Balsas, which was celebrated on the Feast of the Assumption of Mary and Day of Religious and Consecrated Life in Brazil. The missionary and vocational week was an initiative of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish and was carried out with the commitment and participation of the Group of Comboni Spirituality together with some invited religious and missionaries.
We are writing today from this violated community, which we know well and which we visit again today, after having celebrated with it several times in the walk, life and resistance to the expansion of mining.
We also write from the many Latin American communities affected by the arrogant violence of extractivism, today silently embraced the little Brumadinho, in tears.
We are in solidarity with the families of the victims and the communities of faith, who will have the hard challenge of rebuilding hope. We also join the Archdiocese of Belo Horizonte, which with the words of the Gospel defined the tragedy as “abomination of desolation”, referring to the “absurdities born of the gains and contempt for the other, the truth and the good of all ”
We continue accompanying and advising the churches involved in the territories injured by mining and in all open conflicts between extractive companies and communities (Only in Brazil there are more than 70 Dioceses where these conflicts were mapped).
Impunity consolidates crime
The company VALE SA, together with BHP Billiton, is responsible for 19 deaths and pollution of the entire Doce River basin, on November 5, 2015. The same damage was repeated three years later, with a trace of much more serious deaths, is the confirmation of the incapacity of management and prevention of damages, disinterest and criminal behavior.
This responsibility also involves the State, which grants licenses to extractive projects and should monitor them to guarantee the safety and dignified life of the communities and the environment.
The State’s responsibility is twofold, because impunity and the lack of complete and enough reparations for the victims of the Navy crime was one of the main conditions that allowed the new crime of Brumadinho.
Embraced, the capital of mining companies and political power, facilitate the installation or expansion of large extractive projects, minimizing the conditions and licensing rules thereof. The “Córrego do Feijão” itself, whose deposit of toxic waste was broken, obtained in December 2018 an environmental license for the expansion of 88% of its activities. In the Council of Environmental Policies of the State of Minas. Only the National Civil Society Forum on the Management of Hydrographic Basins (FONASC) voted against the expansion, denouncing “insane” mechanisms to reduce the demands in the licensing of large mining projects.
Disasters caused by irresponsible behavior of companies allied to the public power can not be called “environmental accidents”.
Organized civil society but not listened
Since 2011, the population of Brumadinho and the region are demonstrating in an organized way against the mine, its impacts and threats. The FONASC, in December 2018, wrote an official communication to the State Secretary of the Environment, requesting the suspension of the licensing of the “Córrego do Feijão” mine. The International articulation of those Affected by the Vale denounced in the Shareholders’ General Assembly of the Vale, in April 2018, “the dangers of the repeated process of reducing expenses and costs in its operations”, making explicit mention of the various waste deposits.
Those responsible for these crimes cannot claim justifications for ignorance. On the contrary, in the name of progress and the profit of the few, there is a systematic disqualification of different voices.
With energy, we echo the words of Pope Francis in the Encyclical Laudato Si ‘: “in the debate, local inhabitants must have a privileged place, those who question themselves as to what they want for themselves and their children and can take into consideration the purposes that transcend the immediate economic interest “(LS 183).
Make it flexible until it breaks
The newly elected President of Brazil, in response to the pressure of the person who financed his campaign, expressed the plan to make environmental control and licensing as flexible as possible. He criticized the alleged “environmental fine industry”; his government stripped powers from the Environment portfolio, suspended contracts with NGOs committed to defending the environment, extinguished secretariats that worked for public policies against global warming.
Also the previous governments facilitated the uncontrolled expansion of mining in the country, promoting the National Mining Plan and reformulating, by decree, the Legal Framework of Mining.
Recent events demonstrate, violently, that these policies are a collective suicide and a threat to the lives of future generations.
This growth model is unsustainable and lethal; You cannot blackmail people who need jobs to survive in regions controlled by mining, without guaranteeing safety, health and social welfare at the same time. The problems are not solved “only with the growth of the profits of the companies and of the individuals”. “It is not enough to conciliate, in a medium term, the care of nature with financial income, or the preservation of the environment with progress. In this issue the average terms are only a small delay in the collapse. It’s simply about redefining progress. ” (LS190,194)
Frequently, companies and governments appeal to the mediation of conflicts with communities through “dialogue”. They seek, even, the intermediation of the churches, to offer these processes greater credibility.
Also, institutionally they have invested in extrajudicial mediations and terms of behavior adjustments to make more effective and quicker the repair of damages and environmental violations.
The lack of implementation of mitigations and reparations, the neglect to prevent new disasters and the repetition of irresponsible and criminal practices confirm that: this type of proposal is not a true dialogue. It is a strategy of companies to seduce public opinion, guaranteeing a kind of social license to pollute, reduce popular resistance and avoid big capital can be converted to the values of sustainability and the common good.
More than this “dialogue”, asymmetric and disrespectful, we trust in the democratic rules of environmental protection and the rights of the populations, as well as in authorities that effectively monitor their respect and punish those who violate them. We support a Binding Treaty for Business and Human Rights, at the international level, and a responsible, effective and prompt judicial response for those who bet on impunity or, at the most, a slight financial incidence of rare fines applied.
Socio-environmental crime is not an accident!
From Brumadinho and from Latin America, January 26, 2019
For the Glory of God we have been here a month and a half. We thank ALL the people we know, who consequently are a part of our lives and of this project of life, whom we constantly place in the Lord’s hands.
By the grace of God we have been adapting within the Brazilian community, especially in Ipê Amarelo. Above all, it never ceases to surprise us how God already was here, namely, God always takes the initiative and no one is ever excluded from him, as we realize it over and over just by our being here, so far from the earthly place where we were born and lived, but where others live: my brother, my brothers.
During this time we joyfully celebrated the 60th birthday of Lourdes Viera. She has been a tireless CLM and charter founder of the CLM in Brazil for about 20 years ago.
For us as a family having her is a great blessing, she is our Vovó, especially to the children. She has been introducing us with great energy and with great charity to this community and to mission life in general.
We also celebrated Christmas (Natal in Portuguese) with great joy and enthusiasm because it was our first Christmas away from our home and our family. By God’s grace our children spent it in a normal and happy way. God’s gift is the fact that our being together is our greatest strength.
Gratefully, the CLM family of Alejo and Tere de Ramirez, who have provided a lot of inspiration for us over the years, decided to spend Christmas here at home. In fact, we had not known them up to now, because we had only seen a picture of them four years ago. They, too, have been part of the CLM for about 20 years, and even though they could never leave their country, they did it in the way God asks us to do it on a daily basis: moving from within themselves towards the others and for the others as a family, like many others who have not been able or have chosen not to leave. They are a beautiful couple with three daughters, and they have worked in the spiritual formation of many CLM and are an example of Christian life to be followed.
We are grateful to God for the coming of the New Year when we had the opportunity to spend it at home as a family, which is what we personally like to do. It gave us time to talk about all the blessings we have received from God our Father during the year that just ended. The best moment was to be able to exchange blessings, each one of us personally to recognize ourselves as a united family blessed by God now and forever. You may ask? Are the children aware of what is happening and of what they are doing? As it is for many things in life, this is not an exact science, but we are together and, from Lucia, the smallest, to Esteban, who is the most aware, each one is valuable, important, worthy, loved, and they know it and this is how we feel towards them: Our most cherished treasure!
Our local pastor here in Brazil, Fr. Agustinho, already said it during the last Sunday of the year, dedicated to the Holy Family: “the family is the best hospital, the best doctor, the best school, the place where we live in love, a place we have in common.”
We wish you all a Blessed Beginning of this Year of Humankind and a blessed life, as we entrust ourselves to the hand of God and to your prayers. We say good-bye to you with the blessing that our Father gives us through the Church every year to enable us to start anew:
“The Lord bless you and keep you;
The Lord make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you;
The Lord lift up his face upon you and give you peace.” (Num 6:24-26)
Our heart pulsating with love, fills up to overflowing with happiness!
On Thursday, November 22, we left Guatemala very enthused, with a lot of joy and hope. With a touch of homesickness we said good-bye to family and friends and started the much awaited journey to Brazil, exhausted by its length, but with the children happy to board the plane. Also with strong feelings over the blessing of being able to come.
Lourdes was happily waiting to receive us and we were just as happy to see her, amazed by the scenery and in a hurry to get home. We boarded a bus and then the MCCJ were waiting at the station to take us home. Quite an adventure, with 13 vehicles to take everybody. When we arrived we felt at home. I was thinking that, even had we left a lot behind in Guatemala, here we were getting twice as much. Simply put, the Lord is not stingy.
We rested some days after the journey and got ready for Sunday Mass. It was a beautiful celebration that filled our hearts with joy beyond description. This day, the Feast of Christ the King, reminded us of our short mission experience in San Luis Petén, where the Lord got hold of us in a deep way, and where we discovered that we wanted to be Comboni Lay Missionaries, because when we were there, we ended our mission experience on the feast of Christ the King. How joyful to know that the Lord spares no effort to win our hearts! This is how in the depth of our being the fire of love is born and generates a strength that cannot be silenced, a most pure love that gets into your very bones and makes you move out from where we are. During this beautiful Eucharist we were well received, the children did a dance representing Brazil, and we felt welcomed by the whole community where providence and the generosity of people certainly are not lacking.
After Mass we returned home for lunch, where Lourdes had prepared a banquet which we shared with Alejo, Tere and their family. With them we also shared many of our desires and aspirations of being missionaries out of our reality, as a family. We also met Neuza, a neighbor, laughed and started making acquaintances. How close one feels to Brazilians! The openness of the people here is quite impressive and especially in this little corner of Brazil.
We have been here a week and in truth it went by fast, between long trips to change money, to know the neighborhood and three-hour long shopping trips, it has been quite an experience. Many people approach us to talk to us, because the children draw a lot of attention and so does our poor Portuguese, which is improving by the day. Lourdes has been our strength and joy, takes us everywhere, teaching us, explaining and showing us everything, solving our doubts and loving our children. By now she is already officially our Brazilian grand-mother: Vovó! Even though we did not know her, she opened to us the doors of her house and of her heart. It is so comforting to know that as CLM we are one in Christ, one in love.
With a lot of anxiety we took the first round of formation with Alejo. Blessed are the eyes and ears that are attentive to the word of the Lord! It was an oasis in the midst of confusion, a pause that refreshed the soul. We sang missionary songs, and does the soul vibrates when you sing about the call God has given you! We scrutinized the words of Genesis 12:1-4, Leave your land,leave your father and your mother, your family, your country and go to the land I will show you… I will make of you a fount of blessing…
At different times the Lord makes himself known in small things, in greater things, in simple events, in something personal. This reading, that had been the main theme of a retreat given by the MCCJ provincial Fr. Victor Hugo Castillo, reminded us of the moment that defined our discernment about three years ago, when we decided to leave everything and join the CLM, the moment when we made ourselves available to mission as a family. And today, as we start in it the Lord repeats to us: “I know you, I love you and you are here because it is my will.”
How great is the love of God! There is no measure and our mind is so limited that we can only allow ourselves to be loved.
Today our hearts are full of love and want to share all these details of His dealing with us. You cannot say no to God. How could we be so blind as we face the sweetness of his love? Only by living it we can know it and by giving of ourselves we can feel it.
Our hope is based in our faith in Him and, because we feel so loved, we are here. We hope that our life may be a source of animation and hope in the face of desolation, of purification for our souls and of light for those who do not know true love.
Pray for us, that we may be useful instruments of God.
With great joy the community of Our Lady Aparecida, in the town of Ipê Amerelo, in Contagem, State of Minas Gerais, has received the family that covered miles and miles to reach Brazil and, together with the Brazilian people, proclaim the Gospel and witness to Jesus Christ who lives and reigns.
There was a lot of curiosity and everyone admired both the courage of the hosts and above all the courage of those who came with their four children.
How many questions on both sides! How beautiful! How did you discover Ipê Amarelo? Do you understand Portuguese? How long will you stay? The Comboni charism and the smiles of the kids and of their parents answered without needing a translator, the hearts and glances spoke, faith, courage, love translated part of this missionary mystery. Already at the airport, as tired as they were, their faces were radiant.
We took a very long bus ride up to Contagem, where the Comboni Fathers and a young member of the community were waiting for us. Then three cars, what a risk, raced along the way as in a carousel, all that was left was to honk like crazy on the road all the way to the mission house. The faces were heavy with exhaustion, but the smiles betrayed the joy of having arrived.
They have only been on Brazilian soil for two days, but it feels as if they had been here for years! The value of having dared embraces them and here they are. Already this week we will start classes of inculturation, Portuguese, and all that the mission requires, discovering a little at the time the customs of our mining people.
May they be welcome and together we will follow the footsteps of Jesus, missionary in the land of the Mines.
May St. Daniel Comboni intercede strongly for all.
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