[Based on interest from churches, mandates from Synod, and current events, we focus on a select number of active issues. While this is not one of our active issues, feel free to browse the resources and information on this page. As need arises, we’ll update this page with new information and resources.]
Conflict diamonds are diamonds illegally traded to fund conflict in war-torn areas, particularly in central and western Africa. These diamonds are also referred to as blood diamonds. Because they are portable, easily hidden, high in value, and difficult to trace, diamonds are an easy target for smuggling and corruption. Warlords in several underdeveloped African countries have forced tens of thousands of people to mine diamonds in brutal conditions, while using the proceeds to buy weapons. When a civil war broke out in Sierra Leone, financed in part by the illicit diamond trade, the CRC became especially involved. Read more about the CRC's involvement in this piece titled Diamond War.
"Do not profit by the blood of your neighbor…you shall not hate your kinsman in your heart. Reprove your neighbor but incur no guilt because of him. You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against your kinsfolk. Love your neighbor as yourself." -Leviticus 19:16-18
The Kimberley Process
In December 2002, the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme was established to allow certification of conflict-free diamonds. In order for a country to participate, it must ensure:
- That any diamond originating from the country does not finance rebel groups.
- That every diamond export be accompanied by a Kimberley Process certificate proving the first clause.
- That no diamond is imported from, or exported to, a non-member of the scheme.
While some countries have been expelled from the scheme for their continued use of conflict diamonds, it is essentially self-enforced, meaning that fulfillment of the above three clauses is not regularly verified. While the Kimberley Process is an important step to eliminiating the trade of conflict diamonds, mandatory and impartial monitoring is still needed to prevent circulation of conflict diamonds on the world market.
What You Can Do:
- Ask jewelers about their policies on conflict diamonds and for clarification about whether their diamonds are mined and sold legitimately.
- Pray that the diamond industry and governments do more to protect the legitimate diamond trade and bring to a halt the horrific practice of conflict diamonds.
- Blood Diamond, a fictional account of a South African mercenary (Leonardo DiCaprio) and a Sierra Leonean fisherman-turned-miner (Djimon Hounsou) who set out after a priceless pink diamond during Sierra Leone's civil war.
- Bling: A Planet Rock, a VH1 production featuring three hip-hop artists who visit Sierra Leone for an in-depth look at the diamond industry.
- Blood Diamonds, a History Channel documentary following the history of the diamond trade, focused on West Africa.
The Church Speaks
The Interfaith Conflict Diamonds Roundtable consists of members from Catholic, Muslim, Protestant, and Jewish communities. The CRC joined this coalition in order to partner with other faith-based groups who share the same concern regarding conflict diamonds. The letter below was circulated to declare the faith-based support for strong clean diamond legislation.
Interfaith Statement on Conflict Diamonds
As faith communities concerned about peace and justice for all God's people, we, the undersigned, want to express our concern over the trade in conflict diamonds—gems that are used to fund warfare and civilian atrocities—and we want to collectively show solidarity with our brothers and sisters who are suffering in Sierra Leone as a result of a decade-long civil war where rebels seek to control diamond resources.
In particular, the brutal tactics of the Revolutionary United Front (RUF), who routinely practice mutilation of innocent civilians, notably amputation of limbs and other body parts; forced recruitment of child soldiers, and abduction of women to be soldiers' "wives," are all tactics intended to maintain their wicked reign over resources. This cannot and should not be tolerated by any member of the international community, least of all by those who believe all people are God’s creation.
The war in Sierra Leone is not about political liberation or religious freedom—it is a war about conflict diamonds, where greed, warfare and civilian terror have become a cover for controlling and smuggling diamond resources. As Muctar Jalloh, a victim of the Sierra Leone conflict explains, the bloodshed in his country "is simply a war over control of diamonds. Little pieces of rock that people around the world like to wear on their fingers and hang from their ears. As you can see, because of these rocks I no longer have an ear or five of my fingers."
The RUF controls two-thirds of Sierra Leone, including the lucrative diamond-mining regions in the north. The sale of these illicit gems to the diamond industry—often routed through other countries such as Liberia—then supplies a constant stream of funding for the rebels' arms purchases, which in turn leads to the continuation of war, further displacement of the civilian population, and general instability in the West African region. Angola, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and many surrounding African countries also have similar experiences of human suffering as result of the trade in conflict diamonds.
While the worldwide diamond industry has made encouraging strides toward establishing an international diamond certification system that seeks to ensure that conflict diamonds are kept out of the retail market, the pace of reform is slow. Delays in enacting an international system leave millions of people at the mercy of atrocious human rights abusers such as the Revolutionary United Front (RUF).
In response to this situation, we, the undersigned faith communities in the U.S., are joining together in support of clean diamond legislation, including the Clean Diamonds Act, which would prohibit the direct or indirect importation of any and all diamonds and diamond jewelry without a global certification system in place. By taking leadership, the U.S. can send a message that the trade in conflict diamonds is morally egregious and will not be tolerated. Moral authority under these circumstances is not an option; it is an imperative.
The longer it takes to enact an international certification system, the more hardship is inflicted on innocent people in Sierra Leone, Angola, and the Congo, and the more risk of harm to the legitimate diamond-producing nations of Botswana, Namibia, and South Africa. It has been written: "Do not profit by the blood of your neighbor…you shall not hate your kinsman in your heart. Reprove your neighbor but incur no guilt because of him. You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against your kinsfolk. Love your neighbor as yourself" (Leviticus 19:16-18).
Across our faith traditions, we teach all to love others and speak up for those who cannot speak up for themselves. We stand ready to commit what we can to this fight against the use of conflict diamonds which inflict pain and suffering on the innocent.