Do mobile devices have souls? Wait a moment before you answer that “simple” question. Let’s take a closer look at what goes inside your cell phone. Columbite-tantalite, “Coltan” for short, is a mineral that is plentiful in the continent of Africa, more specifically in the Democratic Republic of Congo. This mineral is mined mainly in Australia, Brazil, Canada and Africa. In 2009, 57% of the world’s Coltan was mined in Africa. Of the 670 metric tons mined world-wide, Africa brought in a whopping 384 metric tons.
So what’s the “big deal” with this simple mineral? Why discuss it like it’s a topic of interest? One word, “CONFLICT”. “Conflict Minerals are mined in conditions of armed conflict and human rights abuses, mostly in the eastern provinces of the Democratic Republic of Congo, by the Congolese National Army, and various armed rebel groups, including the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) and the National Congress for the Defense of the People (CNDP), a proxy Rwanda militia group.” These minerals are essential in the manufacture of a variety of devices, including consumer electronics such as mobile phones, laptops and MP3 players. Some of you may be more familiar with “Blood Diamonds”, popularized by the 2006, Edward Zwick film entitled, you guessed it, “Blood Diamond“. This stomach turning film, engages the human heart with the atrocities of war and how the sale of these minerals continues to finance conflicts, and thereby profit warlords and diamond companies across the world.
Coltan is one of the many plentiful minerals that finance civil wars in Africa and WE have a part in that. U.S. consumer technology hardware and consumable sales fell just one half of a percent in 2011 ending the year at nearly $144 billion, according to leading market research company The NPD Group. “Nearly 60% of all sales in 2011 were driven by the top five categories; PCs, TVs, tablets/e-readers, mobile phones, and video game hardware.” Did you purchase any of these devices in the last 13 years? If so, you may have unknowingly contributed to the atrocities of the wars abroad. Here’s an example of the impact that technology has on human rights abuse; “In late 2000, there was a great demand for the PlayStation 2. This demand caused the price of Coltan to increase very quickly and after demand for the gaming system fell, so did the price of Coltan. The price hike of Coltan had made the violence in eastern Congo a lot worse, as the violence was being directed at everyday ‘social production'”.
Where do we go from here? What can we do? I don’t believe that I had anything to do with this. In the Beatitudes, Jesus says, “God blesses those who work for peace, for they will be called the children of God.” Matt.5:9 Have you ever thought that the jewelry or electronics that you purchased had ties to funding wars across the globe? If you haven’t before, you have now. One “simple” yet powerful act of being a disciple of Christ is to intentionally think about your purchases before making them. Not the financial cost, but the mortal cost of how that product was produced. Many Global Companies like 3M, Johnson Controls Inc., Motorola and many others have joined the EICC Extractives Work Group and Due Diligence Work Group to ensure that their supply chain uses practices which are Conflict Mineral-free. This is just one step of many to more effectively address the abuse of human rights and how the world’s change in its consumables can share the love of Christ in a “simple” way. It’s only with God’s help that we can achieve such a massive task, but through “prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” Philippians 4:6 This is for His people to be saved – something that He does in, with and through us. “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me – put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.” Philippians 4:8-9
I want to end with a song written by Bryan Jeffery Leech, entitled, “Let Your Heart Be Broken.” May this song challenge us to look deep within our own hearts to see what hurts God’s heart.
Let your heart be broken for a world in need. Feed the mouths that hunger, soothe the wounds that bleed. Give the cup of water, and the loaf of bread. Be the hands of Jesus, serving in His stead. Here on earth applying principles of love. Visible expression, God still rules above. Living illustration of the living word, to the minds of all who’ve never seen or heard. Blest to be a blessing, privileged to care. Challenged be the need, apparent everywhere. Where mankind is wanting, fill the vacant place. Be the means through which the Lord reveals His grace. Add to your believing deeds that prove it true, knowing Christ as Savior, make Him Master too. Follow in His footsteps, go where He has trod. In the world’s great trouble risk yourself for God. Let your heart be tender and your vision clear. See mankind as God sees, serve Him far and near. Let your heart be broken by a brother’s pain. Share your rich resources, give and give again.