synchroblog/linkup Conflict Minerals #Spiritofthepoor

Today is the beginning of a concerted effort to dialogue about how our life style affects us and the world.  This blog is about how our lifestyle cause suffering in the rest of the world, and Esther Emery will post a blog about grieving.   We hope many of you will join us in linking up to our conversation.  Best to go to Esther’s site to do that.  My yesterday’s blog is about the Scripture,Mathew 5: 3 which is usually translated Blessed are the Poor in Spirit, but in my Spanish Bible is translated “Happy are those who have the spirit of the poor.”  It just happened to be the lectionary for next Sunday.

Deep Background

One hundred years ago, the majority of people in the world lived under tribal or dynastic political systems.  After WWI and WWII, the Western concept of a world divided into sovereign Nation States with fixed borders, was imposed on the world.  In many cases, these borders were established along old colonial lines, negotiated primarily among European nations to insure continued access to valuable resources.  Tribal and ethnic groupings were often ignored.  The roots of many of today’s global conflicts can be traced back to these post WWI and WWII negotiations. 

The Democratic Republic of The Congo and “conflict resources”

 In the mid 1990’s the eastern part of the DRC became a war zone when Hutu rebels crossed over the border from neighboring Rwanda, engaging Tutsi rebel groups from the DRC.   Because of the rich mineral deposits in Eastern Congo, the war grew, eventually involving eight African nations and over 20 rebel groups, and has become known as the ”African World War.” 

The “conflict resources” of Eastern Congo which financed this war and over which it was fought are:


  • Gold, which price has recently soared on the commodities market
  • Tin, which is used in household electronic items as the solder for circuit boards
  • Tungsten, which is used in TVs and mobile phones
  • Coltan/Tantalum, a vital component in small electronic devices, mobile phones, laptops, and pagers. 

Coltan Fever 

The DRC has 80% of the world’s Coltan deposits.  Around 2000, because of the meteoric rise in the demand for mobile phones and the mass production of Sony Playstation II, the price of Coltan went from $30 per pound to $380 per pound.  The rush was on.  Students dropped out of school.  Farmers and shepherds left their duties and started artisanal mining.  It didn’t take long for local militia to take over the mines and local communities, ruling them with violence.  Miners, many of them children barely earned enough to survive.  Most of the minerals were smuggled across the border into Uganda and Rwanda, then exported to the far east for processing.  From the moment of extraction until the use in an electronic device, Coltan passes through numerous hands, including those financed by as many as 100 western corporations. 

The toll on human life has been enormous: 5.4 million lives: the highest death toll of any conflict in the world since World War II.   Half of those killed have been children.

 Since 2008 the situation has improved somewhat, in part because of the discovery of Coltan in Brazil, Australia, Venezuela and Colombia.  But the conflict continues in the DRC, and the pattern of violence; fueled by our desires and the greed of those who satisfy those desires, will keep repeating throughout the world until we learn to curb our material desires and enjoy the bountiful gifts God has already given us. 

U.S. non-involvement

Just as the creation of contemporary Africa was influenced by European economic interests, so the U.S. foreign policy is designed to insure the continuation of our affluent lifestyle.  Africa is now the largest supplier of petroleum to the U.S.  The U.S. does not have major military bases in Africa, but it does have the equivalent of two large military basses on aircraft carriers off both coasts of Africa.  And one of the requirements of participation in the “Africa Growth and Opportunity Act.” is that the U.S. has the right to occupy any military base of any African country that has signed on to this Act, on one days notice. 

 Just as FDR supported Somoza, the dictator of Nicaragua, because of his anti-communism stance, so the U.S. supports Uganda and Rwanda because of their strong support of the Global War on Terror and their participation in the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act.


About Newell Hendricks

I have lived a good life. Maybe a counterculture life, maybe a normal life. I have written operas, built houses, been involved with cross-cultural education between Latin America and the U.S, and hardly ever had a job I have helped raise two wonderful children with my amazing wife. It's been a good ride. And I go to church. I've just finished a book of stories from my life, I am still connected to an organization in Nicaragua that promotes sister relationships between communities, faith communities, or schoold, and to the extent that my cancer doesn't pull me down, am attempting to share some of what I have learned, or at least tried out. Welcome, and let's share.
This entry was posted in Capitalism, life style, religion, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

13 Responses to synchroblog/linkup Conflict Minerals #Spiritofthepoor

  1. “… including those financed by as many as 100 western corporations.

    The toll on human life has been enormous: 5.4 million lives: the highest death toll of any conflict in the world since World War II. Half of those killed have been children.”
    I couldn’t reply to this for quite awhile because I had to cry… In my spirit I hear myself screaming, “NO!” and I must pause to pray. This isn’t a “feel good” story, but it’s a story whose images we must never forget or push aside. For each one of us can do one thing, some thing, to bring change.

    I look forward to the dialogue and ideas that will come of your “Spirit of the Poor” link up. Thanks, Esther and Newell!


  2. Bryn Marlow says:

    If I dig below surface appearances, how many of my acts today are motivated by money? How many thoughtlessly wasteful/abusive of natural resources? How many tied in one way or another to exploitation of human and natural resources? reading your post, I shudder to think.

    I’ve been listening this week to NPR reports on how businesses, investors and governments are rushing to make money off the bonanza of shrinking ice caps and the new shipping lanes this is opening up, as well as access to minerals and oil. I shudder and think about the ways I am fiddling as Rome burns.


  3. Do you really play the fiddle? My wife does. We lived 4 blocks from the Bank of America in Isla Vista, Santa Barbara which was burned down in a protest. I have a line in my book about my wife fiddling while the bank burned.

    Anyway, being conscious about how you spend your money is a huge step. I, too was a musician. My wife and I were once invited out to dinner by an MIT professor who attended my wife’s concert. He talked about being stuck in one level of society where he had to live a prescribed life style. He had to dress a certain way and his house had to be a certain level of afluence, and he couldn’t really socialize with people other than in his profession or class. He envied us becasue as musicians, we could move more freely in society. It really got me thinking about how trapped most people are in their lifestyles. I don’t have much experience breaking out of other’s expectations, but I imagine it is very hard. Understanding why you have to spend money is probably key. Is it because you really need it, or becasue you are expected to have it. I am actually very sympathetic about this issue, but know that breaking out of cultural norms of spending is key.


  4. Jamie Bagley says:

    I’m so grateful for your voice and your insight. I was unaware of the history of injustices in the DRC and it truly grieves me. I don’t want to be comforted; I want to let it sober me. We make our purchases here so lightly, never suspecting. I’m grateful for your educating me today on these issues.
    I have withdrawn from engaging in politics because I believed it was the right path for making peace. But perhaps that, too, was a way for me to look away. I am chewing on this thought now. I don’t know where I will put it, but it wants examining. Thanks for sharing your knowledge in the cause for justice. I appreciate you and your words.


    • Jamie,
      I, too, have withdrawn from a lot of the political activity I once engaged in. There are many paths. The one we are exploring with each other is looking at how our own personal, or family, lifestyle affects others, and questioning whether some of our patterns really serve us as well. I have learned not to judge other’s paths. I try to support any pondering, visioning, acting, or questioning. I’m a little uncomfrotable the way Esther has portrayed me, but it’s good for me to try to live up to the image she has created for me. Anyway, nice to make contact with you.


  5. Gayl Wright says:

    I, like Jamie, was totally unaware of the injustices in the DRC. And so many lives have been lost fighting over those minerals. You are right to observe that we all need to “learn to curb our material desires and enjoy the bountiful gifts God has already given us. ” Thank you for your insight.


  6. Pingback: “Theirs is the kingdom of heaven” – a syncroblog on the “Spirit of the Poor” | musingsfromabricolage

  7. This is heart-wrenching! I had heard a bit about the conflict minerals. However, I was unaware of the extend of how they are used in our own devises that we enjoy every day. Thank you for bringing light to this issue and helping move others into conversation around our own privileges and how we blindly participate in this oppression and blood-shed. Your post and this conversation has challenged me a lot in the past few days and has led me to begin researching other ways to decrease this kind of demand on conflict-minerals. It is so difficult to know where to begin, but this conversation is definitely a great starting point! Thank you for continuing to boldly shine light into the darkness of this world! You are a blessing!


    • Emily,
      I just left a comment on your post. Thanks for the afirmation of our work. We will have more the last Wednesday of every month. We learn from each other. There is a missionary’s daughter in our church who grew up in the Congo. I also heard about this issue at an Eccumenical Advocacy Days conference a few years ago. So we share what we know and we share stories of how we have responded and we encourage each other to keep working toward bringing the kinddom of God to earth, now!


  8. Pingback: Why I don’t celebrate Valentine’s Day… | musingsfromabricolage

  9. Pingback: Why I don’t have a cell phone | Newell Hendricks

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