What the bishops are saying about the canal Project
The members of Nicaragua’s Bishops’ Conference have referred
to the government’s interoceanic canal project on two occasions.
The first was as one point of a longer document
they delivered to President Ortega on May 21, 2014…
and to which they never received a response.
The second was in their Message for Lent this March 8,
and included five more expansive and concrete points on the issue.
We include both below.
2014: “We are extremely concerned”The Grand Interoceanic Canal of Nicaragua project will directly affect three of our jurisdictions and indirectly affect another five on the Atlantic Coast. There are reports of numerous Chinese in the Río Punta Gorda and Río Rama areas who have been placing boundary markers, reportedly looking for possible canal routes. As pastors we are extremely concerned about this situation and think there is an urgent need for accurate and precise information about this great project so as to prepare ourselves for the future. All this will radically affect the culture, lifestyle and work of our people and of future generations.
Regarding the possible construction of the canal, there is an urgent need to know as soon as possible the route, the location of new cities, the duration of construction, how and how much the legitimate current owners will be paid for their land and an estimate of the number of workers, their place of origin and many other details. But it is also vital and urgent that the project be discussed in greater depth, listening to the opinion of national and foreign scientists who are experts in this field, reconciling the constitutional, geological, technical and environmental aspects and calmly weighing up the risks of such a megaproject in order to safeguard our environment and natural resources.
2015: “Grand projects must be As pastors of the Church we always view with satisfaction human actions conducted on behalf of society, including technological mega-projects that involve the reasonable transformation of nature aimed at surmounting the population’s impoverishment and developing the country. “Throughout the course of the centuries, men have labored to better the circumstances of their lives…. To believers… this human activity accords with God’s will” (Gaudium et Spes, 34), because He created man to conserve and transform the world (Genesis 1, 26-27) and “to govern the world in holiness and righteousness” (Book of Wisdom, 9,3). “Far from thinking that works produced by man’s own talent and energy are in opposition to God’s power, and that the rational creature exists as a kind of rival to the Creator, Christians are convinced that the triumphs of the human race are a sign of God’s grace and the flowering of His own mysterious design” (Gaudium et Spes, 34).
at the service of human beings”
If the current attempt in our country to realize a gigantic technological project wants to achieve the end it is claiming, those promoting it must implement it with a profound sense of responsibility, first to God and their own conscience, but also “towards the poor, towards future generations and towards humanity as a whole” (Caritas in veritate, 48). If this mega-project, which will so radically affect the country’s human coexistence and natural environment, is to be a genuine work of progress in favor of Nicaragua’s common good, it must be done with a vision of nation, with scientific underpinnings and a perspective of sustainable development.
“We are concerned about We are not going into the project’s whole constitutional, juridical and technological problematic here because “The Church has no models to present” (Centesimus Annus, 43) nor does it have any desire “to interfere in any way in the politics of States.” (Populorum Progessio, 13). We are, however, certainly concerned about the ecological dimension of this project. We fully share the conviction of Pope Francis, who from the first day of his ministry invited those responsible for nations to be “‘protectors’ of creation, protectors of God’s plan inscribed in nature, protectors of one another and of the environment” (Homily of Pope Francis, Mass for the beginning of the Petrine Ministry), and has taught that “one of the greatest challenges of our time [is] changing to a form of development which seeks to respect creation” (Meeting with the world of labor and industry).
the people and our communities”
Nonetheless we want, above all as pastors, to manifest our concern for the people, for our communities.
We are concerned for the people, the poor peasants and medium producers of the zone affected by this project, those anxious and uncertain about the future: they are not certain they will receive a fair price for their lands; they know they could be victims of forced evictions; they do not know where they will go and there is no information about land planning that can assure them decent labor and social organization; they will suffer a radical cultural and economic uprooting from the world of rural work in which they have lived and perceive very few and scant benefits for themselves. We must also express our pastoral concern about the cultural and religious situation that could be created because of this mega-project in the affected zone and in the country as a whole: the impact of the massive presence of individuals ignorant of our culture, history, traditions and religious convictions; the crises and ruptures that could occur in so many families due to displacement; the psychological traumas this project is already causing due to fear and uncertainty in the elderly, children and young adults; the firm determination of the affected population to defend their territories and the national sovereignty at any cost, which could unleash undesired armed conflicts, etcetera.
“What history teaches us”
This project will be good for the country only if serious and in-depth scientific studies are done that ensure the feasibility of the work ecologically and economically, if the actions are undertaken with the proper transparency and legality, if sufficient truthful information is offered to the population, if open debates are promoted with different social and scientific sectors and, above all, if the rights and dignity of the most directly affected populations are respected.
This requires both scientific rationality and moral integrity, a lot of dialogue and total transparency, but above all an upright conscience and a spirit of charity. “Development is impossible without upright men and women, without financiers and politicians whose consciences are finely attuned to the requirements of the common good” (Caritas in veritate, 71). Above all it requires putting human beings at the center of everything. It cannot be forgotten that “progress of a merely economic and technological kind is insufficient” (Caritas in veritate, 23). It must be borne in mind that wealth can grow in absolute terms yet increase social inequalities.
History also teaches that emerging from economic backwardness, which is positive in itself, does not necessarily solve the complex problematic of promoting human beings, who can again become victims not only of old forms of exploitation but also of new forms of unjust economic growth, marked by deviations and imbalances caused by corporate and geopolitical interests that are interested in neither the right nor the dignity of people and communities (Caritas in veritate, 22-23).