Advocacy, Catholics Confront Global Poverty

Parish to Visit Capitol Hill to Support Congo Minerals Bills

A delegation from St. Camillus parish in Silver Spring, MD, will meet with three members of Congress from Maryland on Tuesday, April 13, 2010 to discuss the crucial need for passage of bills dealing with minerals mined in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s war zones.

One of the most ethnically diverse parishes in the Archdiocese of Washington, St. Camillus parish is seeking to mobilize the local community through education and advocacy to address some of the root causes of the horrific violence in the DRC.

The delegation, led by Fr. Jacek Orzechowski, will meet with staff from the offices of Senator Barbara Mikulski, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer and Congresswoman Donna Edwards to urge support for bills now before the House and Senate that would require more transparency in the source of minerals – such as coltan, used in cell phones and video games – that are mined in conflict areas in the DRC.

Over the past 12 years, the violent conflict in the DRC has led to the deaths of more than three million people and forced more than two million from their homes. Most of the deaths are caused by insecurity and displacement leading to malnutrition, disease, and lack of access to health care. In addition, an estimated 400,000 women and girls have been raped in eastern DRC by armed groups who fight to control territory and access to vast natural resources, not only coltan, but also gold, diamonds, tin, copper, cobalt and oil. These armed groups continuously prey on civilians with nearly total impunity, and use sexual violence as a weapon of war.

St. Camillus has raised more than $24,000 to help women and children in the Congo. “Many of our Spanish-, English- and French-speaking parishioners are eager to continue to work together to put into practice the Catholic social teachings,” said Fr. Jacek Orzechowski, OFM, associate pastor at St. Camillus. “We have done very well with charity, now it’s time to preach the Gospel in the public square to alleviate the suffering of women and children in the DRC.”

St. Camillus is one of the most ethnically diverse parish in the Archdiocese of Washington. Its makeup is about 55% Latino, 20% French-speaking African, and the rest of European or Asian background – with more than 60 nationalities represented. Many of the parishioners find themselves in a precarious financial position as a result of the economic downturn. Despite this, the outpouring of solidarity with the suffering children and women in the DRC has been impressive.

This parish-wide effort to highlight the connection between the resource extraction, trade and violent conflict in the world — along with the moral ramifications — is part of the major nation-wide initiative in the Catholic Church, Catholics Confront Global Poverty, launched by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) and Catholic Relief Services (CRS). It also is a continuation of the Global Solidarity effort of the Archdiocese of Washington.

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