31 October 2006


The need to address the "environmental consequences of economic activity" is among the world's "highest priorities" said the Vatican envoy, Archbishop Migliore in a recent address to the United Nations.

"It is becoming rapidly ever clearer that if these, the world's life support systems, are spoiled or destroyed irreparably, there will be no viable economy for any of us," he went on to say.

The envoy criticized national policy makers who viewed ecological issues as marginal to economic considerations and repeated the call of Pope John Paul II for an "ecological conversion".

The voice of the Vatican is just one of an increasing number around the world pointing out the urgent need for immediate and significant changes to the way we think, as well as patterns of production and consumption if predicted catastrophic cosequencess are to be avoided.

The recently released Stern Report commissioned by the British Government, is significant in that it emphasized the economic consequences of a failure to act on global warming with the world’s annual economic output reduced by as much as 20%. The report argues that economists have under-estimated the costs that climate change will impose and over-estimated the costs of cutting emissions.

It also emphasises that further delay in implementing major policy changes will lead to irreversible changes. "Such changes would transform the physical geography of the world," the report states, with many millions, of people facing starvation, water shortages or homelessness.

The melting of glaciers would initially cause floods but would then leave a sixth of the world population facing water shortages. Sea rises would threaten cities such as London and New York, and a rise of 2C would put 15-40 per cent of wildlife at risk of extinction.

Falling crop yields could leave hundreds of millions of people, especially in Africa, at risk of starvation and, once temperatures have risen by 4C, "global food production is likely to be seriously affected".

In Australia there are signs that the government is belatedly coming to an acknowledgement that the issue of climate change needs to be seriously addressed.

Those wishing to express their concern about the issue to their governments can find information about actions planned in their area for Nov 4th as part of the International Day of Action on Climate Change at the Global Climate Campaign website.


As Iraq and Afghanistan descend further into chaos with little prospect of the emergence of a free and democratic society in either country anytime in the foreseeable future, the failure of the use of military force to bring about peace is increasingly evident.

Unfortunately many the leaders of the nations responsible for the intervention in Iraq refuse to acknowledge that it was a mistake. A consequence of this is that there is still the prospect that the same mistake may be repeated.

The current responses to Iran’s development of nuclear technology and North Korea’s recent testing of a nuclear bomb seem to be one of isolation and threatening regime change.

Unfortunately western leaders who claim to be Christian seem to have little understanding of the message of peaceful, non-violence taught by the founder of their religion.

The examples of Gandhi, Mandela and Martin Luther King, together with the peaceful overthrowing of the Marcos regime in the Philippines and the peaceful collapse of the Soviet empire all demonstrate the effectiveness of the way of non-violence; perhaps it is time to apply those lessons again.

Readers of this bulletin may be interested in supporting the Ceasefire Campaign calling on President Bush to engage in dialogue with Iran rather than to embark on confrontation.

The campaign is one of a number conducted by Res Publica a community of public sector professionals dedicated to promoting good governance, civic virtue and deliberative democracy.


Following their attendance at the recent social justice seminar a group of Parade College students decided to raise awareness about Fair Trade products by organizing a display at the September Parent/Teacher interviews at their school.

Parents enjoyed cups of Fair Trade coffee and purchased all the Fair Trade chocolate the students had for sale. Most were not aware of the Fair Trade campaign and were impressed by the information provided to them about the campaign. They also learned how they can contribute by supporting Fair Trade products.

The Social Justice group at Parade aim to raise awareness of how we all can challenge international systems which exploit the most vulnerable in our world, especially those in various African countries.

They also believe it is important to encourage other students to believe that they and their families can make a difference. They also embarked on a campaign for staff to drink Fair Trade coffee and for the College Ladies Auxiliary to use it in all their social events.

The most recent edition of Ozspirit is devoted to Fair Trade.

The issue of Trade Justice is a major focus of the awareness raising actions planned as part of the G20 summit in Melbourne on the weekend of Nov 18th-19th.

Parade students, Fair Trade display


Those advocating the compassionate and humane treatment of refugees received a boost at the beginning of the recently completed Refugee Week. The social policy committee of the Australian Labor Party, one of the two major parties in the nation, announced that it would recommend that the party abolish the Temporary Protection Visa system.

Welcoming the announcement a spokesman for the Refugee Council of Australia commented that this was "another welcome sign that the Australian political mood was continuing to shift towards more humane and reasonable responses to the needs of people fleeing persecution and abuses of human rights"

The announcement came as a group of Australians representing church, community and school groups (including Parade College) gathered as part of the SIEV X National Memorial Project to remember the tragic loss of 353 children and parents on the refugee boat SIEV X (Suspected Illegal Entry Vessel X).

SIEV X was the biggest maritime disaster in our region since World War Two and arguably could at least in part be attributed to Australia’s harsh 'border protection' policy, as desperate families condemned to separation under the provisions of the TPV system, undertook the hazardous journey in an attempt to be re-united with loved ones in Australia.

17 October 2006


Rather than religion keeping out of politics, "Christians should adopt an ethically informed and rationally engaged critique of all political parties and all politicians". This recent statement came from what might appear to be an unlikely source – a senior member of the Australian Parliament.

In an article which appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald the shadow minister for Foreign Affairs, Kevin Rudd, argued against the view that religion is a purely personal and private affair and urged a renewed emphasis on the social justice tradition of Christianity.

The shadow minister has regularly expressed this view in a series of interviews, articles and speeches over the past few months. They can be viewed here

In issuing his call he is also consistent with the teaching of Pope Benedict XVI in his encyclical "Deus Caritas Est" published earlier this year where it is stated "the Church wishes to help form consciences in political life and to stimulate greater insight into the authentic requirements of justice as well as greater readiness to act accordingly" and "the Church is duty-bound to offer….. her own specific contribution towards understanding the requirements of justice and achieving them politically."(Article 28)


The international call to Make Poverty History gained new momentum this week as millions of people around the globe participated in the Stand-Up against poverty event.

Stand-Up Day was part of an ongoing campaign to maintain pressure on governments to live up to their commitments to achieve the Millenium Development Goals. Readers of this bulletin are urged to support these calls to ensure the elimination of poverty and the building of a just and sustainable world.

Those living in Victoria have a unique opportunity to demonstrate their concern to world leaders at next month’s G20 meeting in Melbourne. Details of actions and events in which those concerned can participate are to be found at the Australian Make Poverty History website.

On a related issue the work of Muhammad Yunus and the Grameen Bank in enabling extremely impoverished people (mostly women) to engage in self-employment projects that allow them to generate an income and, in many cases, begin to build wealth and exit poverty, was acknowledged recently in the awarding of the 2006 Nobel Peace prize.

The award highlights the importance of micro-credit schemes which have been developed in many parts of the world to assist the poor who lack collateral, steady employment and a verifiable credit history, and therefore cannot meet even the most minimum qualifications to gain access to traditional credit.

The Good Shepherd Sisters Youth and Family Services operates Australia’s oldest and largest micro-credit network (NILS - No interest Loans Scheme) to assist low-income families.


Efforts to end poverty among our poorest neighbours will fail unless the Australian Government takes urgent action to tackle climate change and prepare for its effects, warns a report by a new coalition of aid, development, church and environment groups.

The two-part report, which includes research by the CSIRO as well as policy recommendations, finds that millions of people in the Asia Pacific region will be forced from their homes by sea level rises of up to 50cm by 2070, with hot spots including Bangladesh, India, Vietnam, China and small Pacific island states.

The report was issued by the Climate Change Roundtable at a time when the Australian government has just announced a boost to assistance for farming families who are now officially experiencing Australia’s worst drought on record. The report can be viewed at the above website.

Last week delegates at the Catholic Earthcare Australia Conference were warned that "Climate change is one of the biggest menaces facing humankind and threatens to breed terrorism, war and the collapse of civilization". The warning was issued by Dr Colin Butler a senior research fellow in global health at Deakin University.

Readers of this bulletin are reminded of the upcoming international demonstrations as part of the Global Climate Campaign to call on world leaders to take urgent action on climate change. The actions are planned for Nov 4th to coincide with the UN Climate conference in Nairobi, Kenya.

Australian readers can check the Walk Against Warming website for information about events planned for their area.


As world leaders struggled to respond to the announcement that North Korea had exploded a "weapon of mass destruction", and as killings continued unabated in places such as Darfur and Bagdhad, the United Nations made a significant step forward in the effort to control the global trade in small arms.

Speaking to the UN in support of a resolution proposed by a group of nations, including Australia, to negotiate a legally binding instrument on the import, export and exchange of conventional weapons, the Vatican Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace pointed out that "the many millions of victims in conflicts over the last 60 years have been caused by conventional, and especially, by light weapons" and that conventional weapons and light arms "constitute one of the most common instruments in most violations of human rights and disrespect for humanitarian law".

The Vatican statement went on to say that the adoption of legally binding measures on trade control of conventional weapons at the global, regional and national level was both essential and urgent.

It is estimated that 640 million conventional weapons exist in the world today and that the small-arms trade is thought to be worth $4 billion annually.

Further information about the campaign to control arms can be found at the Oxfam website.

3 October 2006


A major feature of International Poverty Day on October 17th and a simple way in which everyone around the world can demonstrate their commitment to ending poverty is through participation in the Stand-Up Against Poverty event.

Victorian readers of this bulletin can register their participation in the Stand-Up event through the Catholic Commission for Justice, Development and Peace website.

Anti-Poverty Week was established in Australia as an expansion of the annual International Anti-Poverty Day. The aims of the Week are to strengthen public understanding of the causes and consequences of poverty and to encourage research, discussion and action to address these problems.

Everyone who is interested in helping to reduce poverty and hardship here or overseas is encouraged to organise their own activities during the Week or join in some being organised by other people. A list of events can be found at the above website.

In Australia the Make Indigenous Poverty History campaign, which aims to ensure that the global campaign supporting the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) does not overlook the poverty suffered by indigenous peoples, and the Fair Deal for Cleaners campaign are just two of the groups with events planned for the week.


"Protecting the environment involves moderating our desires to consume and own more, which create lifestyles that bring death to millions of other people. Consumerism, global environmental change and suffering in the developing world are inextricably linked." So said the Catholic Bishops of New Zealand in their recently released statement on environmental issues.

The bishops point out that the ecological crisis and the poverty crisis currently faced by the world are not due to natural forces or acts of God but the result of human behaviour; "that behaviour is driven by values, priorities and decisions" hence the crisis can be more aptly describes as a spiritual or moral crisis.

"At the personal level the suffering of others and the damage to our planet demand that we look closely at our own lifestyles. Individual acts of selfishness can create a society characterized by a desire for short term gain and immediate gratification over longer term needs and a wider view"the bishops said.

The latest campaign organized by Get-Up the independent political movement which aims to bring participation back into our democracy, has a target of 250,000 signatures in their campaign to create a groundswell of demand for action in regard to climate change in Australia. You can add your support to the campaign by clicking on the above link and by encouraging others to visit the website and add their names.

Readers of this bulletin may also be interested participating in the annual Walk Against Warming events organized around the nation to mark the International Day of Action on Climate Change on Nov 4th. International readers can find out events planned for their country here


The work of the Edmund Rice Centre for Justice and Community Education was highlighted recently in an interview with director of the Centre Phil Glendenning published in the Catholic Weekly The interview was also featured in the daily news bulletin CathNews

In the interview the work of the Centre on behalf of refugees was highlighted.

"Displaced and stateless people, some of the poorest and most marginalised people on the planet, might be turned from our shores but they cannot be forgotten” said Mr Glendenning.

"Because they’re out of sight they’re out of mind, but in a civilised country and certainly for a Catholic social justice organisation it’s beholden on us to ensure that those people are not forgotten" he added.

The Centre has been involved in a fact-finding mission over the past three years, investigating the fate of asylum seekers deported from Australia. The project, undertaken in collaboration with the School of Education at the Australian Catholic University, resulted in the controversial 'Deported to Danger' report released in August to ABC's Lateline and based on a trip to Afghanistan in July.

The report claims that genuine refugees from Afghanistan have been denied asylum in Australia – resulting in the deaths in Afghanistan of nine men and three children of former asylum seekers that could be verified. The full report can be read on the Centre's website


Much of the recent and current reporting in the media, links the religion of Islam either directly or by implication with violence, terrorism, intolerance and discrimination. Even national and community leaders on occasions have been guilty of fuelling such prejudice by their comments.

Events which portray tolerance, mutual respect and co-operation are often not reported. A recent example of this occurred when the acts of violence by extremists carried out against Christian communities in the wake of the reported comments of Pope Benedict XVI received extensive coverage, but stories presenting a different picture were not.

Attacks against seven churches in the Palestinian territories were condemned by Palestinian political leaders and by a leading Muslim cleric the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem and the Palestinian Territories who unequivocally stressed that "these attacks go counter to the spirit and teachings of Islam and are contrary to the traditions of openness and oneness that characterize our Palestinian people, Moslems and Christians alike".

In Nablus, members of the Palestinian Legislative Council and hundreds of Moslems from the city and surrounding areas, including political and municipal figures and civil society leaders, congregated in the Churches till the late evening hours on Sunday September 17th to express their solidarity with the Christian community of Nablus and to send a clear message to the perpetrators of the attacks that they are there to protect the churches and to fend for their Christian brothers and sisters.

Religion has often been blamed as a source of much of the conflict that besets our world. But as the Muslim speaker at the recent Br Paul Noonan memorial lecture pointed out – what is needed is not less religion, but a better understanding and stronger commitment to authentic religious living.

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