28 November 2006


Today's trafficking in women and children for commercial sex work and forced labour is worse than the historic African slave trade, said Cardinal Renato Martino, head of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace in a recent statement to mark the World Day of Migrants and Refugees.

The Cardinal challenged countries to combat modern-day forms of slavery - minors who are sold to do child labour or who are forced to be soldiers as well as women forced to prostitute themselves.

A recent report from the U.S. State Department estimated that as many as 800,000 people are trafficked across international borders each year, 80 per cent of them women, and more than half under 16.

In Australia the Good Shepherd Social Justice Network provides a a central access point for information on the global problem of trafficking in persons which includes information about the issue, current news and suggestions for action that can support the elimination of trafficking.


The annual commemoration of people living with HIV/AIDS around the world takes place this Friday. Together, HIV and AIDS pose one of the largest, most complex threats to human health the world has ever known. In the developing world, the pandemic is devastating the physical, social and economic health of entire communities and regions. Not only do people suffer and die from this disease, it robs them of their dignity, their families, their social networks and their livelihoods.

In 2005, there were approximately 38.6 million people living with HIV and AIDS in the world. Sub-Saharan Africa is the worst affected region, with 24.5 million cases in adults (age 15+) and children.

AIDS killed 2.8 million people worldwide in 2005 and there were 4.1 million new cases reported.

Information about HIV/AIDS and resources for prayer and action can be found at the Catholic Relief Services website.

You can also test your knowledge about AIDS at the World Vision website.

Progress towards implementing the Millenium Deelopment Goal of combating HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases can be found the United Nations Development Program website.


As David Hicks enters his sixth year of detention after being taken from a bus stop in Afghanistan and handed over to the Americans by members of the Northern Alliance, there is still no indication of when he will be given an opportunity to defend himself against the allegations made against him.

The Australian government appears content to allow Hicks to continue to languish in solitary confinement in Guantanamo Bay, is dismissive of claims of his being tortured and accepts unquestioningly the proposed military tribunal appointed to judge his case. All of this is despite the almost universal condemnation of his treatment as an abandonment of human rights and a fundamental breach of the rule of law – principles that underpin western civilization, principles that have been established after centuries of struggle and principles which the so called 'war on terror' were supposed to defend.

Rallies to demand fair treatment for David Hicks are being organized around Australia on Sat Dec 9th. In Melbourne the rally will be held in Federation Square at 2.00pm (see the above website for more information).

Amnesty is also campaigning for the return of David Hicks to Australia and has a letter to the Prime Minister which can be signed online at the above website.


Concern for the preservation of democratic traditions and a just and compassionate society, has seen the emergence of new groups in Australia that are committed to the common good and the application of principles drawn from the Christian Social Justice tradition.

The Centre For An Ethical Society was launched by Sir Gerard Brennan AC KBE in Sydney on Nov 21st . A few days later a symposium organized by the recently formed Social Policy Connections group in Melbourne on "Evaluating the G20 – key issues and the implications for us" addressed the issue of the implementation of the Millenium Development Goals. The Social Policy Connections group is closely allied to Polmin a political lobby group which has been active for several years with the aim of influencing public policy for the common good in accord with Catholic Social Justice principles.

Another analysis of the outcomes of the G20 meeting can be found at the Jubilee Australia website.

The emergence of these groups followed the launch of the Faith Doing Justice website in the same month, and taken together they indicate a depth of concern that has arisen at current directions of Australian society where economic concerns appear to be given priority over the human, the indiidual over the community, and where issues of fairness, compassion and the long term good are ignored.

These groups would also wish to re-assert that for a Christian the pursuit of social justice is an obligation and not just an option, an obligation that some would seek to deny or minimise.

Interestingly, a similar group Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good has also recently emerged in the United States with the aim of :-
"promoting the necessary conditions for a culture of life - a culture that reverences the dignity of the human person over greed, materialism, and the politics of division". It too aims "to be faithful to the Catholic tradition that calls us to participate actively in public life in the service of human dignity, social justice and the common good."

14 November 2006


While financial decision makers from the world’s wealthiest nations are meeting in Melbourne at the G20 forum next weekend, it is estimated that more than 60,000 children around the world will die as a result of poverty.

The theme for the G20 meeting is ‘Building and Sustaining Prosperity’, but one wonders what priority will be attached to ending the extreme poverty which still afflicts a major part of the world’s population and which is a root cause of so much suffering and evil in our world.

In a recent address to pilgrims in Rome, Pope Benedict called for efforts to "eliminate the structural causes tied to the system of governing the world's economy, which earmarks most of the planet's resources to a minority of the (Earth's) population" and went on to remind each of us of our individual responsibility to work to address this issue. "Every person and every family must do something to alleviate hunger in the world, adopting a life style and consumption that are compatible with safeguarding creation and with criteria of fairness towards those who cultivate the land in every country."

Suggestions for actions that individuals and groups can take to bring their concern to the attention of world leaders can be found at the Make Poverty History and Oxfam websites.

Details of events being organized in Melbourne, including the Festival at which the 'Seeds of Change' Social Justice Action Group is participating, can also be found at the Make Poverty History website.


Whilst issues of global hunger and inequality deserve our attention, that does not mean that issues of inequality and injustice closer to home should be ignored.

A recent edition of Online Catholics reported on the launch of the Sydney Food Fairness Alliance where the theme chosen was "Hidden Hunger in the Lucky Country".

The formation of the Alliance was prompted by the findings of a 2004 survey of low income households in south west Sydney - that 21.9 per cent of households experienced food insecurity; 30 per cent of households with children were food insecure and 45 per cent of single parent households were food insecure (food insecurity might include episodes of food shortage or constantly feeling hunger).

The launch was part of Anti-Poverty Week, which included a wide range of actions, presentations and workshops around the nation drawing attention to different aspects of poverty.

A public lecture delivered by the Associate Director of Jesuit Social Services. Fr Peter Nordern, on The Distribution of Social Disadvantage in Australian Communities summarizes the increasing divide that exists between rich and poor within Australia.


An indication of the extent of growing public concern about global warming and climate change was evidenced by the 30,000 people who participated in this years Walk against Warming in Melbourne. This was a dramatic increase on the few hundred who participated in last year’s walk.

With State elections due in Victoria later this year and in New South Wales early in 2007, political parties at state level appear to be responding to community concerns and setting renewable energy targets according to the Australian Conservation Foundation Unfortunately concern remains that at the federal level there seems to be a lack of a serious commitment to address global warming and climate change.

In conjunction with the Channel 7 morning program ‘Sunrise’ the Australian Conservation Foundation has launched the Cool the Globe campaign which is designed to get ordinary Australians active on climate change. The website contains news, information and practical steps that individuals, families and organizations can undertake to address global warming.

SOC members at the Melbourne Walk Against Warming

SOC members participating in the Melbourne Walk Against Warming


The anniversary of the end of World War I on November 11th is an occasion when many in the world pause to remember those who lost their lives in the many wars and conflicts that sadly continue to blight our world.

The recent granting of pardons to the more than 300 British and Commonwealth soldiers executed for cowardice in World War I (see the Shot At Dawn website) is a reminder of the often unseen and unacknowledged grief and suffering that can continue to affect individuals and families for generations as a result of the trauma of war.

Gertrude Harris the 93 year old daughter of Private Henry Farr who was executed in 1916, spoke for many when expressing her relief that her father’s good name had finally been restored.
"I am so relieved that this ordeal is now over and I can be content knowing that my father's memory is intact. I have always argued that my father's refusal to rejoin the front line, described in the court martial as resulting from cowardice, was in fact the result of shell shock, and I believe that many other soldiers suffered from this, not just my father"
Mrs. Harris said.

As the US and its allies contemplate the results of military intervention in Iraq and struggle to find an acceptable alternative course of action, the Ceasefire Campaign and Get Up offers a means of readers to send an online message to leaders of coalition governments about the need for a change in policy in regard to Iraq.

The granting of the posthumous pardons followed closely upon the announcement of the imposition of the death penalty on Saddam Hussein. Together these events again raise questions about the appropriateness of capital punishment.

Many world leaders and governments including the Vatican have condemned the sentence imposed on Saddam Hussein, but the sentence was endorsed by both President Bush and Australian Prime Minister Howard.

Amnesty International continues to campaign for the total abolition of the death penalty, pointing out that, apart from any other considerations, since 1973 in the USA, 123 prisoners who received the death sentence have been subsequently found to be innocent and released into the community.

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