Thursday, April 17, 2014

An Easter Reflection on the Power of Presbyterian Advocacy

Presbyterians for Earth Care Lenten Reflections 2014
Advocating for Environmental and Social Justice

Isaiah 58:1 Shout out, do not hold back! Lift up your voice like a trumpet! 


The Lord will guide you continually, and satisfy your needs in parched places, and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters never fail. Isaiah 58:11

Isaiah 58:1-12 - What a beautiful and inspiring passage - one that seems eerily written for us in our time and place. I was asked to reflect specifically on verse 11, and the six lines contain beautiful imagery of guidance, fulfillment, strength, life, energy, and eternity.  All that we yearn for.  Sign me up! 

    But wait, this is the promise at the end of the If/Then clauses of previous verses…  To reach the vision, I, as an individual, and we, as a community, must intentionally remove the yoke from among us, the pointing of the finger, the speaking of evil and we are to offer food to the hungry and satisfy the needs of the afflicted.  

    When I read these words, I think of Yolanda who lives in La Oroyo, Peru and came down to Lima to meet with us about her children.  She told us there was a U.S. smelter in the town that was poisoning the air, the water, the people and the animals.  Indeed the town is one of the ugliest towns I have ever visited.   It could be the set for a sci-fi movie as the mountains look dead, the river leaves odd colors on its banks, and ash drifted down from the sky.  God’s creation was being destroyed.  The facts compelled Presbyterians from St. Louis, Columbus, and Washington, D.C. to connect the community to those in the U.S. who could do impartial health and environmental studies, journalists, and even testify before Peruvian Congress about the documented behavior of this company in Missouri.  Presbyterians hosted inter-faith prayer vigils and brought Peruvians to our own government officials.  It became an outpouring of support that has spanned over twelve years.  

Photo of Andes Mountains near La Oroyo, Peru

    And, yes, the company was closed down until it agreed to add scrubbers and other infrastructure it had promised to do years earlier.   And, yes, now the company is suing the Peruvian state for lost profits under a free trade agreement that values a company’s right to risk-free investment more than its responsibilities to a nation’s children and the land they live on, the waters they drink, and the air they breathe.

    I think of Yolanda because it wasn't until months later when I asked about her children that I realized that she was single and had no children.  Her children were all 11,000 kids who lived in La Oroya.  

Creator God,
May we love and care for all of earth as we do our own backyards and may we love and care for all children as we do our own.  Then, you, oh God, will guide us continually, satisfy our needs in parched places, make our bones strong and we shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water whose waters never fail.  In the name of our Creator’s son, Amen.

Ruth Farrell has the joy and privilege of coordinating the Presbyterian Hunger Program.  Prior to that she and her husband Hunter served as mission co-workers in economic and community development in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Peru. 

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