With tensions rising in the southern West Virginia coalfields, the WV Council of Churches is calling for a peaceful dialogue.|
Coal miners, fearful of losing their jobs, have become more hostile and aggressive toward environmentalists who have been pushing against mountaintop removal.
Those tensions have flared at recent events held by environmental groups.
Dennis Sparks with the WV Council of Churches, says
"We have all viewed with growing consternation the level of tension,
confrontation, threats, and harbingers of violence in our West Virginia
coalfields around the issue of mountaintop removal mining."
"We call upon the
civic leaders of our state, the coal industry, and environmental groups to
desist in using inflammatory rhetoric, and to avoid activities that could
"We ask leaders to encourage an attitude of
understanding toward those with whom one disagrees."
"Let us take the opportunity during these challenging times to return to the
basic tenets of our society."
"As Christians, we are obligated to treat others in the manner in which we
want to be treated."
"This requires us to respect the God-given dignity of all
people, and their right to express their views in a reasonable manner."
we disagree, we must respect the other parties' right of lawful assembly,
and freedom of speech, as guaranteed by the US Constitution."
"The recent cancellation in South Charleston, because of unnamed security
concerns, of a film premiere featuring a West Virginia filmmaker indicates
the level of fear and uncertainty being experienced."
"Violence of any kind in
this situation would be a terrible result, but violence against our
neighbors is particularly tragic."
"It is understandable that people on both sides of the issue feel threatened
"Miners worry that their jobs will disappear, and with them
their income and means of supporting their families. They are concerned that
other good jobs will not be available to them."
"Other coalfield residents
feel endangered by blasting, slurry impoundments, and toxic substances that
affect their health."
"They fear the loss of heritage and culture when they
are forced to leave communities that have been their homes for many years or
"Leaders of our state government have a special responsibility to represent
all West Virginians equally. We call upon them in this tense situation to be
measured in their words and actions."
"They should avoid any appearance of
partisanship. Whatever their personal opinions may be, their public duty
must take precedence."
West Virginia Council of Churches