MUMBAI, India – A Catholic cardinal says the Church will not take advantage of a new law in Indonesia allowing religious organizations to get permits to operate mines.

President Joko Widodo – called Jokowi – signed the decree last week as a sign of appreciation for the role religious organizations played in the country’s struggle for independence from the Netherlands.

A leading Indonesian environmental watchdog, Mining Advocacy Network (JATAM), said the government’s attempt to keep and control natural resources for the benefit of elites.

“We saw this as a transaction between Jokowi and religious groups,” JATAM’s national coordinator Melky Nahar told AFP.

“We read this as a gratitude from Jokowi to religious groups for supporting him during his two terms,” he said.

Jokowi, speaking to reporters, said the requirements are very strict, “whether it’s given to cooperatives within religious organizations or perhaps business entities and others.”

“So, it’s the business entity that is given, not the organization,” the president said.

Indonesia has the world’s largest nickel reserves at roughly 21 million tons. Nickel is a crucial component in batteries used for electric vehicles.

Cardinal Ignatius Suharyo of Indonesia told Crux the Bishops’ Conference of Indonesia will not take the opportunity to obtain permits to operate mines.

“This is very clear because operating mines is not the field of our mission to serve our people,” he said.

“In the context of the state’s offer that religious institutions will be given or become holders of mining industry, the Bishops’ Conference of Indonesia (BCI) prefers a perpendicular and consistent attitude as a religious institution that carries out preaching and services for the realization of a dignified common life system,” Suharyo said.

“BCI always upholds the principle of prudence so that all actions and decisions taken do not contradict the principles of the Catholic Church’s service that uphold human dignity, justice, solidarity, subsidiarity, general welfare and common good and maintain the integrity of creation,” the cardinal added.

Indonesia has a population of around 280 million people, 87 percent of whom are Muslim. The Christian population is just over 10 percent.

Suharyo said the BCI, as a religious institution of the Catholic Church, prefers to “critically and wisely monitor various realities of ongoing development.”

“The Catholic Church always encourages governance to adhere to the principles of sustainable development, where economic growth must not sacrifice people’s lives and environmental sustainability,” the cardinal said.

“The Catholic Church really expects mass organizations with Catholic names to obey the principles of spirituality and social teachings of the Catholic Church in every action,” he added.