Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace (CCJP) has underscored the importance of involving religious leaders in issues of the extractive industry in the country saying their participation is key to advocating rights of communities where minerals are extracted.
The faith based organization, which is an umbrella body under the Karonga diocese, made the call recently during an orientation on the Free Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) policy in the extractive industry for the Karonga district pastors fraternal and members of the community based organization (CBO).
Speaking in an interview CCJP project officer Vincent Bwinga, said local communities are often victims of negative effects of mining as they don’t benefit from the mineral’s extracted hence the importance of faith leaders in advocating for rights of the communities.
He said, due to their outreach at local and national levels the religious leaders are well placed to support the affected communities and are also best placed to address the communities’ needs and views to the legal and corporate duty bearers.
“We know the religious leaders are very influential in the society hence the training to orient them on the issues of Free Prior and Informed Consent so as when investors come in they should be able to influence development through the adoption of the FPIC policy in the extractive industry in their respective communities,” he said.
In his remarks, chairperson for Karonga pastors fraternal Bishop Benson Chikapa, expressed gratitude to CCJP for seeing it fit to organize such an orientation hence they have been empowered.
He said, as religious leaders, they are knowledgeable in issues of the extractive industry and will disseminate the same to their church followers.
“It’s about time our communities rose up and demand their right to development as far too long they have been taken for a ride by the mining investors therefore we pastors are ready to assist communities in advocating for rights of development in their areas,” Chikapa explained.
The training was organized under the strengthening governance in the extractive industry project with funding from the Australian aid through Oxfam.