Monthly Archives: November 2010

Commission Calls for Consistent Australian Position on Human Rights

Monday 22 November 2010

Brisbane’s Catholic Justice and Peace Commission has urged the Prime Minister to adopt a consistent approach to promoting human rights and democracy in the Asia/Pacific region.

The Commission’s call comes in response to Prime Minister Gillard’s comments on the release of Burmese political leader, Aung San Suu Kyi.

The Commission’s Executive Officer, Peter Arndt, said that Australia should seek to apply the same human rights standards to all its neighbours including Sri Lanka and Indonesia.

“The Prime Minister welcomed the release of Aung San Suu Kyi, but called on Burma’s authorities to release other political prisoners and work towards free and fair elections and political reconciliation,” Mr Arndt said.

“We support those calls as they are consistent with a respect for the human rights of the people of Burma,” he said.

“However, we are concerned that Australia is not as strong an advocate of these values when it comes to other countries in the region,” he said.

“Why isn’t the Prime Minister publicly calling on Indonesia to release people in West Papua who have been jailed for flying flags and peacefully protesting?” he said.

“Why is there no decisive intervention to put an end to the brutal repression of Papuans who are not happy with the way they have been treated since Indonesia took control of the province in the 1960s?” he said.

“It seems to us that the Australian Government is equally reluctant to challenge the Sri Lankan Government’s treatment of the Tamil minority and its political opponents,” he said.

“There are long-standing concerns, both from inside and outside Sri Lanka, about the Government’s level of respect for human rights and democracy, but Australia seems more concerned with maintaining the on-going cooperation of the Sri Lankan Government in relation to stopping boat people coming to Australia,” he said.

“The legitimate concerns of indigenous West Papuans and Tamils should not be ignored if we are genuinely committed to human rights,” he said.

“People who are locked up or mistreated because of their political views in Sri Lanka or West Papua deserve the same strong advocacy as is being given to Aung San Suu Kyi and the Burmese people,” he said.

“At the same time, we should always be looking at our own human rights record and seek to address those issues where we have failed to respect the dignity of vulnerable people in our own land,” he said.

Mr Arndt said the Commission would continue to speak to the Government and local MPs and Senators about the human rights situation in Sri Lanka, West Papua and in our region.

For further information, please contact Peter Arndt on (07) 3336 9173 or 0409 265 476.

NB  This release is issued with the approval of the Commission or its Executive under the provision of its Mandate which enables it to speak in its own right.  The views expressed in it do not necessarily represent the views of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Brisbane.

Oldest Justice and Peace Commission Celebrates Milestone

cjpclogoAustralia’s oldest diocesan Justice and Peace Commission, the Catholic Justice and Peace Commission of the Archdiocese of Brisbane, celebrated twenty-five years of service to the Archdiocese of Brisbane this year.

The Commission was established by the late Archbishop Francis Rush in 1985 and held its first meeting in what was, then, the Indooroopilly Parish Education Centre in October of that year.

Its first Chair was the late Fr Morgan Howe who was Parish Priest of Indooroopilly Parish at the time.

With the opening by the Sisters of Mercy of Justice Place in Woolloongabba in 1992, the Commission established an office and moved its meetings there.

Former Deputy Director of the Queensland Catholic Education Commission, Mr Garry Everett, and Principal of St Agnes Primary School, Mt Gravatt, Mr Rick Sheehan, have followed Fr Howe in the role of Chair of the Commission.

The Commission has been served by three Executive Officers, Mr Brian O’Halloran, Sr Annette Arnold rsj and the current Executive Officer, Mr Peter Arndt.

Over seventy Catholic women and men, religious, priests and bishops have served as members of the Commission in its twenty-five years.  Among those who have served on the Commission are Bishop John Gerry and Bishop Joseph Oudeman, President of the Senate, Senator John Hogg, Member for Morayfield in the Queensland Parliament, Mr Mark Ryan, Aboriginal elder, Aunty Joan Hendriks an former Josephite Provincial Leader, Sr Margaret Robertson rsj.

The Commission’s current Executive Officer, Peter Arndt, said that the Commission had walked with many people who face injustice, violence and discrimination.

“The Commission has been there with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people as they struggled for justice in relation to native title, the Stolen Generations, stolen wages, deaths in custody and the Northern Territory Intervention,” Mr Arndt said.

“We have tried to bring Catholics face to face with the indignities confronting refugees as they sought protection in Australia,” he said.

“The Commission has also tried to support the struggle of people for their human rights and for justice in places like East Timor, Zimbabwe, Sri Lanka and West Papua,” he said.

“Many Catholics around Brisbane joined with the Commission in challenging Australia’s participation in the Iraq War,” he said.

“In recent years, the Commission has also put more emphasis on caring for the Earth with our Cool Communities Project in 2003 and 2004, our collaboration with the Social Action Office in the holding of a Climate Change Conference in 2007, and our more recent collaboration with Catholic Earthcare Australia on the ASSISI Project,” he said.

The Commission  marked its silver anniversary with a Eucharist  led by Archbishop John Bathersby on Friday 5 November  at Holy Family Catholic Church, Indooroopilly.

Sr Annette Arnold rsj, the Commission’s second Executive Officer, delivered an address: Mary MacKillop and the challenge to the Australian Church after the Eucharist.  Sr Annette is now a member of the Provincial Leadership Team of the Sisters of St Joseph and was heavily involved in the recent celebrations surrounding the canonisation of Mary MacKillop in Rome.

For further infomation, please contact Peter Arndt on (07) 3336 9173 or 0409 265 476.

NB  This release is issued with the approval of the Commission or its Executive under the provision of its Mandate which enables it to speak in its own right when required.  The views expressed in it do not necessarily represent the views of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Brisbane.