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The Dominican Month of Peace – Week One

The Cry of the Land

In 2014, Dominican Sister of Peace Susan Leslie ministered in Peru, part of Amazonia. In this blog, she shares a story of how illegal gold mining contributes to the destruction of the environment and oppression of the people of Amazonia.

The destruction of the Amazon is a result of a confluence of forces, including illegal mining and human trafficking.  The primary industry in the area where I served was illegal gold mining. The first step in building a gold mine is clearing the land of vegetation - which means that land that was once part of the green Amazon rainforest is now a desolate desert wasteland.   

Another part of the process of mining for gold includes using dangerous and toxic substances such as mercury. These substances run off into the rivers contaminating the water, the fish, and the birds. The water in this area of Peru is an odd color of brown, a brown that does not come just from silt, but rather from the chemical run-off from the gold-mining process.  These rivers and streams are tributaries of the Amazon River, and feed poison into its waters.

In Avaricia, the population was fewer than 25,000 people, most of whom came from other parts of the country to work in the mines or related jobs.  Even with a population so small, they use more combustible fuel in one day than the city of Lima which has nearly 10 million inhabitants.  This fuel is used largely for the mining and deforestation machinery.  Mercury is not the only contaminant - the fuel used to move these machines fouls both the air and the water.

It is interesting to note that a “defensor del pueblo” (legal ombudsman) in Encrucijada said that gold in and of itself has no value.  We cannot eat it, nor use it to provide shelter, nor wear it as clothing.  Yet, because somewhere along the line it became the measure of the wealth of nations, it has assumed a value that seems to be more important than human and environmental health and life.   

Land stripped for gold mining in Peru.

During this month of Peace, we pray for the land and people of Amazonia.

Click here to read more about the ecology of Amazonia.

Click here for study and prayer resources for the First Week of Advent, the Cry of the Land.

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