Anti-oil palm campaigns ‘no business’ of Church

Anti-oil palm campaigns ‘no business’ of Church
Union of Catholic Asian News, April 16, 2010

Indonesian farmers protesting

against anti-oil palm campaigns
PONTIANAK, Indonesia (UCAN) — Religious men and women should not get involved in controversy over oil palm plantations in the country, which is “none of the Catholic Church’s business,” says the archbishop of Pontianak.

The issue belongs to “the people and the Indonesian government,” said Capuchin Archbishop Hieronymus Herculanus Bumbun of Pontianak, capital of West Kalimantan province on April 14.

Protests by environmentalists, who say the plantations destroy the environment, have intensified in Indonesia. However, supporters of such plantations say they should be maintained because of their high economic value.

On April 14, hundreds of oil palm farmers calling themselves the Solidarity Forum of Palm Oil Farmers (FSPKS) in West Kalimantan staged a rally outside the local legislature building.

They urged both regional and national governments to take a firm stance against international and local NGOs campaigning against the plantations.

“I had warned a Catholic priest who got involved in planning an anti-oil palm campaign together with a local NGO,” Archbishop Bumbun said.

He noted that Religious involvement in the issue can create a division within the local Church. Sharp disagreements among local people, including Catholics, on the matter “are increasing,” he said.

The archbishop said he “always reminds” Religious that such involvement is not within the purview of the local Church.

He also pointed out that most Catholics living in remote areas are successful oil palm farmers.

“That is why the Catholic Church in West Kalimantan must not be entrapped and used by certain NGOs. The oil palm commodities are none of the Catholic Church’s business … it is the people’s and Indonesian government’s.”

During the April 14 rally, FSPKS head Supardi Asmad said campaigns by Greenpeace and other NGOs have hurt the export of Indonesian oil palm products.

According to him, the NGOs said the plantations have destroyed the environment, caused floods and contributed to global warming. This resulted in foreign companies not buying such products from Indonesia since last December.