Awareness is no substitute for action – Congolese Church

Congo's Catholic bishops have criticised Western governments for failing to stop the abuse of Africa’s natural resources.

“Awareness by the major polluting countries comes nowhere near to any concrete commitment, or to the efforts required in countries whose forests provide the lungs for conserving the world's bio-diversity,” the bishops’ commission on natural resources said in a statement, declaring that experts agree on the urgency of tackling the “illegal, clandestine, irrational and irresponsible exploitation” of resources in Congo and nearby.

Western companies have been accused of working with violent groups in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and other sub-Saharan countries to obtain minerals used for producing mobile phones, laptops and other consumer objects. 

A 2013 EU directive requires payment transparency in extractive industries, but earlier this year 130 Catholic bishops from 37 countries said many European firms remained “complicit in abuses” through their supply chains, with most EU member states importing significant amounts of resources from conflict-affected regions.

The Congolese commission claim resources are being illegally extracted from the country's national parks and animal reserves and elsewhere without concern for the needs of the local population, with indigenous inhabitants having been driven from their homes in three of the country’s provinces. 

Henri Muhiya, speaking on behalf of the commission, said the Church had an important role to play in calling attention to the problem. "At the start of a new Holy Year, when bishops in the US and Europe are also involving themselves in key social questions, we need to see how the destruction of natural resources is closely linked with the violation of human rights and fundamental values," he said.