"For Yahweh, your God, will bring you into that good land … a land where the bread you eat is not rationed and where you will lack nothing, a land with iron in stones and copper mines in the mountains."
After spending a considerable time searching, I eventually traced the above passage to the Book of Deuteronomy in the Old Testament. In that book, God was laying down the law for the exiled people of Israel, and the rewards that await them in the Promised Land, if they obey the laws of God. It was early 2003, and I had just been asked to become consultant to a mineral exploration project in South Cotabato.
While not exactly your ideal, practising Catholic, I have spent some serious time reading on the Faith during my college days at UP Diliman, when I used to go to an Opus Dei study centre. From that time on, I had been keeping track of developments in the Catholic Church.
That's why in 2003, I very well knew that the bishops in the Philippines had declared a stand against mining in the country. Especially after a number of environmental disasters in the 1990s were traced to irresponsible mining practices in the past.
Also, having been a student activist in my college days, and despite having worked in the corporate world, I had kept a healthy scepticism over big capitalist activities, mining not the least among them.
So, in 2003, when I was asked to be a consultant to a mining company, my default sentiment was that of distrust. How could I, who considered myself a progressive, be a party to a very highly capitalistic, greedy and exploitative endeavour? Besides, being an obedient Catholic, how could I go against the preaching of the bishops and the priests that mining only brings evil things to the country?
Despite my negative reception of the offer, however, I did not refuse it outright. I did not want to offend the person who offered me the job, whom I knew to have also been an activist in his college days. "Did this guy have to sell his principles to work for a mining company?" I wondered.
In the next several days, I decided to find out more about the mining industry. My initial purpose was to be able to give a rational and plausible explanation in refusing the consultancy offer.
In the course of my readings, I came across a mimeographed pamphlet being circulated by the Mines and Geosciences Bureau of the government. At that time, the national government had just announced that it was changing its policy about mining from tolerance to promotion. Meaning, the government would now be actively promoting the mining industry, and was hoping to attract more foreign investments for mining projects.
The pamphlet, entitled Mining Undermined was written by Fr. Franco Mendiola, a Franciscan priest! It was a rebuff of the position of the bishops' and the priests' stand against mining. A priest going against the bishops and other priests! Now that's interesting, I thought.
When I started reading the article, I was ready to dismiss Fr. Mendiola as just one small exception to the rule. "Of course, on any issue, it is but natural that at least one person will take a contrary point of view. I should find his selfish or vested reason in the article," I thought.
Going through his article, however, I could not find fault with its lucid logic and the author's evident loyalty to the Faith and to the teachings of Jesus Christ. "How could a member of the same Church use the same teachings to go against the teaching of the other members?"
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