Bishop Siprianus Hormat of Ruteng plants a tree in front of the chapel in Luwuk village on June 11. (Photo supplied)
Bishop Siprianus Hormat of Ruteng in Indonesia’s East Nusa Tenggara province has warned Catholics in his diocese to be on their guard and protect their homes and land against people offering false promises to take them for themselves.
The prelate issued the warning during a June 11 visit to Luwuk and Lengko Lolok, two villages on the north coast of Flores island, where the government is granting permits for a limestone quarry and cement factory.
"What our ancestors have bequeathed to us is to be preserved so that our lives can last," Bishop Hormat said.
Tensions have been building in the villages between people wanting to accept offers for their land by the permit-seeking firms and those who want to stay put.
The prelate warned villagers to be on their guard against sweet promises and temptations like the ones the devil offered Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden.
Currently, 90 percent of villagers that the bishop visited have agreed and received advanced payment for their land from mining firm PT Istindo Mitra Manggarai and China-owned cement company PT Semen Singa Merah NTT.
The diocese’s Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation Commission and Franciscan and Divine Word missioners are trying to convince villagers to reject the projects and the government not to grant any permits.
Rikard Rahmat, an activist opposed to the limestone quarry and cement factory, said the bishop's visit would hopefully convince villagers to keep their land.
He said if the projects went ahead, they would likely destroy key water sources in the area.
"Although the bishop did not mention the mine and the factory, the message was clear: if they sell land, their lives will be destroyed," he told UCA News. "The Church is expected to offer a prophetic voice to protect the environment.”
Bishop Hormat also planted a tree in front of the Luwuk mission station chapel in a “symbolic act to protect the forests.”
"Humans cannot create land, therefore we must protect the land given by God the Creator,” he said.
The prelate also distributed food packages to the needy as part of efforts to ease hardship amid the Covid-19 pandemic.