April 25, 2011
The Honorable Mary Schapiro
Chairperson, Securities and Exchange Commission
102 F St. NE
Washington, DC 20549
Dear Ms. Schapiro:
My name is Fr. Jacek Orzechowski and for the past three years, I have been serving as a parochial vicar at St. Camillus Catholic Church. Located in Silver Spring, M.D., it is the largest and most diverse parish in the Archdiocese of Washington with as many as 5,000 people worshiping there every weekend.
A significant contingent of St. Camillus parishioners is from the Democratic Republic of Congo. Im writing to you to let you know how important it is for me and my parishioners to ensure that we as consumers would be able to determine that the electronic products that we use are not made with minerals that fuel the tragic conflict in DRC. We are most concerned about the friends and relatives of our parishioners who are still back in Congo, many of whom are threatened by the ongoing devastation that still has its grip over this beautiful land and its people.
My parish worked hard for passage of the Conflict Minerals Amendment, which is part of the Dodd Frank Act. We were so pleased that it passed as strong a piece of legislation as it is. We are concerned that such progress not be watered down at this time when it is scheduled for implementation. We are confident that you are as concerned as we are and will see to strong regulations for carrying out the legislation, which will begin to address some of the root causes of this horrific crisis. It would be a great disappointment to the people of Congo if those who tried to block or at least weaken the legislation while it was before the Congress get their way now.
We are particularly interested that the regulations spell out specifically what companies must do to verify whether any of their minerals they use benefit armed groups in Congo. Transparency regarding supplies from mine to company is the most essential ingredient of these regulations. It is essential that regulations mandate companies to label their products as DRC conflict-free. This information should, of course, be easily available to the public. The regulations should also require all companies and all conflict minerals be involved in complying with all reporting requirements at a very near term set timeline as soon as reporting requirements are published.
Over five million Congolese have been killed within the last ten years and an estimated 400,000 women and girls in the eastern part of DRC have been brutally raped. Much of the instability, displacement, conflict, and sexual violence in that country is financed by armed groups control over lucrative mines and mineral trade routes. One of several such conflict minerals is coltan, a critical component for the production of cell phones, laptops, and other electronics.
A few months ago, St. Camillus Church carried out a major education campaign among 5,000 members of our multicultural parish and the school, raising awareness about the silent genocide going on in the DRC and urging people to spread the word about it, raise money for the victims, and advocate for justice.
Animated by the passionate appeals from the Congolese members of our faith community, St. Camillus has raised almost $25,000 to help the rape victims and orphans in the DRC. Furthermore, we organized a high-level and very successful panel discussion: DRC- From Despair to Hope, which galvanized our parishioners to be more proactive in engaging our elected officials in this issue.
We are sure that you are as concerned as we are about the people suffering in the Congo and look forward to strong regulations consistent with the original legislation.
Fr. Jacek Orzechowski, OFM
St. Camillus Parish
1600 St. Camillus Drive
Silver Spring, MD 20903
P.S. We will be relieved that these important regulations will help us justify our use of cell phones, which often contain coltan from Congo.