October 16, 2002 - WFN: RPCV George Humbert leads Missouri presbytery's Joining Hands Against Hunger Mission to Peru

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Peru: Peace Corps Peru: The Peace Corps in Peru: October 16, 2002 - WFN: RPCV George Humbert leads Missouri presbytery's Joining Hands Against Hunger Mission to Peru

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RPCV George Humbert leads Missouri presbytery's Joining Hands Against Hunger Mission to Peru

RPCV George Humbert leads Missouri presbytery's Joining Hands Against Hunger Mission to Peru

Missouri Presbyterians' confrontation in Peru

From PCUSA NEWS <PCUSA.NEWS@ecunet.org>

Date 16 Oct 2002 16:05:59 -0400

Note #7473 from PCUSA NEWS to PRESBYNEWS:

Missouri Presbyterians' confrontation in Peru spurs local citizens movement


October 16, 2002

Missouri Presbyterians' confrontation in Peru spurs local citizens movement

Resulting media blitz, government action is great news for lead-poisoned children

by Jerry L. Van Marter

LOUISVILLE - Hunger activists from Giddings-Lovejoy Presbytery traveled to Peru recently to meet with a partner group trying to protect children from lead poisoning caused by a U.S. mining company.

Their relatively low-key visit became a media sensation when overzealous Peruvian police and judicial officials burst into a public meeting on the issue and confronted the "agitators" from the United States.

The result was a huge boost for the fledgling campaign to save the kids the Peruvian media have dubbed "the children of lead."

Four members of the Missouri presbytery's Joining Hands Against Hunger (JHAH) Coordinating Team - an international ministry of the Presbyterian Hunger Program (PHP) - went to Peru with the Rev. Lynn Connette, a member of the hunger program's staff, to meet their Peruvian counterparts to learn about hunger and environmental issues there and to help train pastors for environmental-justice ministries.

Together with Hunter S. Farrell, a PC(USA) missionary in Peru, the delegation from the St. Louis-based presbytery traveled to the village of La Oroya for a press conference organized by two partner groups - the Movement for the Defense of Health in La Oroya and Asociacion Filomena Tomaira Pacsi - that are trying to force a Missouri mining company, Doe Run, to clean up its operations in the area.

The Giddings-Lovejoy group has been demanding a similar cleanup at another Doe Run site in Missouri.

Peruvian and international media, including the Wall Street Journal, have documented the effects of Doe Run's mining operations on the children of La Oroya. Health officials say as many as half of them need hospital treatment for severe lead-poisoning caused by the company's contamination of air, water and soil.

Just after the press conference, while the activists were meeting with the village mayor, the chief of police and a provincial judge stormed in to break up what they called an "illegal" meeting and demand that the U.S. visitors explain their presence. Local radio and TV, which were presenting live coverage of the press conference and the meeting, got the brouhaha on tape.

Farrell said Jose Regalado, a Peruvian human-rights lawyer who also serves as coordinator of JHAH-Peru, "rose to defend the delegationand the two officials backed down and left." Later, however, as the group was leaving La Oroya, their van was stopped and they were subjected to further harassment.

The confrontation, Farrell said, "was the catalyst for a series of events that continues to unfold."

The Rev. George Humbert, the chair of the presbytery's JHAH network, told the Presbyterian News Service that "a pretty scary situation" resulted in "a stronger commitment by us and our Peruvian partners to right the wrongs being done in La Oroya."

Over the next few days, the Peruvian and U.S. activists met with a number of Peruvian national officials to demand respect for Peruvians' rights, and the Peruvian Congress launched an investigation of the environmental degradation of La Oroya and the health problems of its children. A Peruvian national TV program called Contrapunto - the Peruvian equivalent of "60 Minutes" - broadcast a lengthy segment titled "Children of Lead."

All of which resulted in exposure and support for the JHAH partner organizations in Peru.

"The beauty of it is the power of God's authority," said Humbert, a former Peace Corps volunteer. "Even with our best-laid plans, God has other designs."

Lionel Derenencourt, the hunger program's coordinator for the JHAH ministry, said: "We now have a synergy that, if we had tried to plan it, it wouldn't have happened. It's a mutual transformation."

Farrell praised the Giddings-Lovejoy group for its courage under fire. "They responded admirably to the pressure and uncertainty of the experience," he said. "Their experience has galvanized their commitment, and the movement in La Oroya has been significantly strengthened."

Esther Hinostroza, director of Asociacion Filomena, said: "This is what happens to all of God's children who work for justice in this evil world of ours. We know what's coming, but 'We are more than conquerors in Christ Jesus.'" In addition to Humbert, the pastor of College Avenue Presbyterian Church in Alton, IL, the Giddings-Lovejoy delegation included: the Rev. Elinor "Ellie" Stock, co-pastor of Northminster Presbyterian Church in Dellwood, MO and chair of the Giddings-Lovejoy JHAH Environmental Justice Commission; Carolyn Newcomb of St. Charles (MO) Presbyterian Church; and Karen Wilson of the College Avenue Church.

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Story Source: WFN

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; Speaking Out; COS - Peru



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