27 January 2006


As we commence 2006 it is worth remembering that we live in a world where:-
- more than a THOUSAND MILLION people live on less than US$2 per day;
- 28,000 children die every day from poverty related causes;
- 115 million school aged children do not attend school and 133 million young people cannot read or write;
- over 11 million children under the age of five die each year from preventable diseases such as malaria;
- one THOUSAND MILLION people do not have access to safe drinking water and
- European cows receive a subsidy of $2 per day while the level of aid provided by all but five of the richest nations in the world is below the level provided in 1970.
(See the Make Poverty History website

At the same time the US has so far spent more than two hundred and thirty five THOUSAND MILLION dollars in prosecuting the war in Iraq (see the National Priorities Project Website )

Why are our priorities so distorted?

Why do we remain so silent in the face of this reality?


Approximately 140 members of the Edmund Rice Network from around the globe gathered in Kolkata, India for the 'Flare up like Flame' Justice Symposium late last year.

The choice of location of Kolkata meant that those who participated in the symposium could not avoid being confronted and challenged by the poverty and struggle for survival that is the everyday experience of so many with whom we share this planet.

At times I felt overwhelmed by the scale and extent of the need by which I was surrounded. The futility of any personal response on my part to the pleas of the dozens of beggars who approached me each day was obvious. How could any giving of money by me make any significant difference to the poverty of the teeming millions who make up the city of Kolkata?

At other times I stood in awe and admiration at the many initiatives on behalf of the poor that I witnessed. The work of the Christian Brothers in providing educational opportunities for poor children in places like St Georges Bow Bazaar and St Mary’s Dum Dum and the work of the Salesians with the “Platform Children “ who found their way to Howrah station were some of the initiatives I saw first hand. At the same time, as important as these initiatives were, I was reinforced in my belief that the problems faced by the earth community can only be overcome by structural change – change that will only come about when enough people demand action on the part of our leaders.

I am hopeful that those of us who met in Kolkata came away more motivated to work for the creation of a more just world, with the realization that the Edmund Rice Network has the potential to contribute to the achieving of that goal and with a committment to building of global network for justice through the Edmund Rice Network.


Two significant events for Australia's near neighbour East Timor have occurred this month.

On Jan 12th an interim agreement was signed with the Australian government in which the proceeds from the sale of oil and gas from the Timor Sea would be shared on a 50:50 basis between the two countries.

Whilst the agreement is a marked improvement on the deal that Australia originally wished to impose on East Timor, it still leaves important issues unresolved.

Advocacy groups such as Timor Sea Justice continue to argue that East Timor is entitled to all the resources and that "The Australian Government has continually and blatantly refused to abide by International Law. Instead, it has bullied the poorest country in Asia into a series of dodgy resource sharing deals, to take billions of dollars that simply do not belong to us"

The second significant event was the presentation of a report to the UN documenting atrocities committed in East Timor during Indonesia's 24-year occupation.

The 2,000-page report, compiled by the Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation (CAVR), established that at least 102,800 Timorese, roughly 10 per cent of the territory's current population, died as a result of the Indonesian occupation. (See the recent report in The Australian newspaper

Instances of massacre, rape and torture of the indigenous population of West Papua have also consistently been reported since its forcible takeover by Indonesia in 1962 – an event supported by the US and Australian governments to gain favour with Indonesia at that time.

The Free West Papua website contains background information to this issue and links to reports of current events.

There can be little doubt that the 43 people who arrived in Australia by boat this month are genuine refugees. Their prompt banishment to the Christmas Island Detention Centre is another reminder of how far as a nation we have moved from the values of egalitarianism, fairness, democracy and freedom that we claim to celebrate on Australia Day in so many fine words but frequently fail so dismally to apply in practice.


Members of the Edmund Rice Network in New Zealand have requested that publicity be given to the campaign to end commercial whaling by Japan by pressuring Sealord a New Zealand-based fishing company that is 50 per cent owned by the Japanese company Nissui.

Sealord frozen, canned and fresh fish products can also be found in Australian supermarkets, fast food outlets and restaurants.

Sealord's parent company Nissui is directly linked to Japan’s commercial whaling, as it is a major shareholder of the company which owns Japan’s whaling fleet. They also market and sell the whale meat throughout Japan.

Details of the campaign can be found at Greenpeace website.

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