Arellano-Yanguas, “Religion and Resistance to Extraction”

Arellano-Yanguas, Javier.  2015.  Religion and Resistance to Extraction in Rural Peru: Is the Catholic Church Following the People?.  Latin American Research Review 49 (S): 61-80.

Abstract: This article analyzes the Catholic Church’s involvement in social conflicts resulting from resource extraction activities in Peru. The nature and degree of the Catholic Church’s involvement vary greatly according to the type of conflict and the diversity of standpoints of the Church at the local level. The article focuses on three distinctive, widely known conflicts against the expansion of extractive activities. It shows that the importance conventionally given to the role of particular religious figures, their adherence to progressive ideologies, and the defense of the Church’s strategic interests do not fully encompass the complexity of local processes. In contrast, the article contends that the Church’s institutional embeddedness in local networks is the most influential factor in the involvement of Catholic organizations in anti-mining conflicts. Embeddedness coincides with a spirituality that prioritizes local people’s agency, whereby the priests and Church organizations accompany and follow the initiatives of local communities instead of taking a leading role. This does not mean that the Church takes a passive stance in these conflicts. Priests and other pastoral agents have incorporated environmental and human rights discourses into an explicit religious framework that amplifies the social space of the Church and provides legitimacy for mobilizations. In parallel, locally generated doctrinal frameworks permeate the official discourse of the Catholic Church, reinforcing the position of those committed to the defense of local demands.