The Episcopal Church in the United States (ECUSA) has joined a coalition of religious, human rights and humanitarian organizations in commending the United States Congress and the President for the passage and signing of the Clean Diamond Trade Act. The legislation was overwhelmingly passed by the U.S. Congress on April 11, and President George W. Bush signed the act into law on April 25.
Governments, the diamond industry and non-governmental organizations have been meeting since May 2000 to create an international certification system to monitor the diamond trade. Once implemented, the new Kimberley Process intends to end the trade in illegally mined rough diamonds, known as “conflict diamonds,” that has for decades funded regional war and atrocities in several African nations, particularly Sierra Leone, Angola, and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
ECUSA worked in partnership with the Campaign to Eliminate Conflict Diamonds, a coalition of more than 150 organizations, to secure passage of the legislation. The Episcopal church’s office of government relations has been working on the issue since 1999, when Bishop Julius Lynch from the Diocese of Freetown, Sierra Leone, visited the U.S. During that visit, the bishop met with the UN, the State Department, and with various church leaders which helped to shape U.S. policy around the issue. Following his visit, ECUSA’s executive council passed a resolution to affirm the church’s “concern for ongoing civil conflict in Sierra Leone” and to express “solidarity with its sisters and brothers in Sierra Leone in their quest for a just and lasting peace.”
Jere Skipper, the church’s international policy analyst, said, “Diamonds are easily transported and provide a source of hard currency. Criminals and rebel military leaders have been able to convert these illegally obtained natural resources into funding for military equipment and troop formation.”