Guatemalan Catholic church protests mining project

Catholic Church officials in Guatemala have become unlikely activists in a fight against a major open-pit gold mine being carved out in the mountains near San Miguel Ixtahuacan. Speaking from the pulpit, on a church-owned radio station, and during street demonstrations, church leaders have been educating parishioners, most of whom haven’t finished primary school, on the potential environmental evils of the mining project, like contamination from arsenic and other nasties. Although aggressive protests like these were common in Latin American churches several decades ago, social activism declined during Pope John Paul II’s tenure, as more conservative priests took to the pulpits. “Some are upset that the church is speaking out against the mine,” says Rev. Eric Gruloos. “But we are doing what Jesus did. He came to wake people up to injustice.” In February, the Guatemalan government announced it would freeze future mining permits and create a special commission of government and church officials to discuss the future of mining in the country.