Selene Mitchell, our Incarnate Word Missionary in Peru, lives Laudato Si by supporting the efforts of the local coalition ‘Chimbote de Pie’. This is a group of wonderful and brave people, who our JPIC Office met during our first community conversation of Laudato Si in Chimbote, Peru.
We rejoice in their achievements and we continue our commitment in their struggles and their dreams, because they are also ours. Learn about ‘Chimbote de Pie’ living Laudato Si, through Selene Mitchell.
I connected with Chimbote de Pie by chance at the book fair in Nuevo Chimbote back in November 2016. Chimbote de Pie, according to their Facebook page, “is a citizen collective made up of institutions, professional colleges, youth groups and citizens in general. United together for the purpose of informing, sensitizing, raising public awareness and requiring relevant authorities to comply with laws to stop pollution in our bay.” Since its conception in 2014, the collective has held a number of workshops, information fairs, and bay cleanings. The group is led by Beverly Enriquez, an energetic and environmentally conscientious individual. She explains the initial reason for starting Chimbote de Pie, “It was to feed the pelicans that in certain seasons suffer and die for a lack of food source. We were young animalists without knowledge of the real problem, but these pelicans brought us closer to the coast, where we could see all this violence against the bay and its biodiversity. We decided to help to make this stop … and instead comply with laws and projects to stop pollution.” Although initial efforts were to save the pelicans, overtime the group realized that tackling the root of the issue, reducing pollution in the bay, would result in improving aquatic life as well as the pelicans.
I believe that we are all interconnected and need to not only sustain the other but provide support such that the other thrives. In this case, we as humans rely upon the land we live on and to blindlessly destroy the environment by pumping pollutants and chemicals into it weakens the land’s ability to produce adequately. If we throw non-degradable plastic bags, pump sewage, and toxic chemicals from factories into our oceans we kill all of the aquatic life, which provides food and in-turn jobs. Additionally these actions make our oceans unsafe to enjoy. By understanding that we are in relation to the land and not apart from it, we can then understand that we must change our ways. That is what being a part of Chimbote de Pie means to me. I have met wonderful and friendly environmental activists who realize that Chimbote’s bay is in a desperate state. Being a part of this group makes me feel empowered, confident, and informed. I am getting the chance to learn more about Chimbote’s bay and overall environmental issues. I have had the chance to meet Social Justice activists, and also own my voice on this issue.
Mid February various community groups held a march to fight against corruption and environmental contamination. That was my first time marching for justice and I felt inspired and alive. Seeing hundreds of people marching for justice both surprised and humbled me. Change often does not come easily but with resistance and time. But with consistency, unity, and perseverance Chimbote de Pie will get the wheels of government bureaucracy moving. Perhaps there has not been a shift in the thinking of many but if more people work to elevate their thinking and create new habits, little by little we will all see a better tomorrow. Yet, this is a gentle approach to moving forward. Humanity has reached a pinnacle of urgency that only massive unity and organization will be the way to create an effective and far reaching movement. I think in grassroots movements we could all acknowledge the difficulties and setbacks. However doing so does little to encourage those fighting to make a difference. Therefore, I prefer to celebrate the good that has been accomplished and that will continue to occur. I am honored to be a part of Chimbote de Pie and look forward to spreading the message “Detener la contaminación en la bahia.” (Stop polluting the bay).
We thank Selene for her commitment to caring for creation. And as Anne Mora says, ‘in the face of the uneasiness and concern for the earth, seeing the citizens massively unite and organize – in order to create viable solutions – gives hope. Because immediate changes could be implemented with equal representation of citizen, political, industrial and judicial power.” Thank you for living Laudato Si!
Originally published in CCVI Justice, Peace an Integrity of Creation’s blog.