Category Archives: community

Building Bridges, Not Walls: Prisons and the justice system

Social Justice Sunday 2011 – 25 September

Resources available from the Australian Catholic Social Justice Council

Letter from Archbishop Philip Wilson (pdf)
Order form (pdf) 
Summary (pdf)
Media release (pdf)
Liturgy notes (pdf)
Community and schools resource (pdf)
PowerPoint presentation (pptx)

Social Justice Statement 2011–2012 (pdf)
Social Justice Statement 2011–2012 (doc)

Commission Expresses Concern over Queensland Nickel and West Papuan Environmental Damage

Monday 4 July 2011


Brisbane’s Catholic Justice and Peace Commission expressed its concerns about the environmental impact of nickel ore mining on an immensely significant marine ecosystem in the Indonesian province of West Papua.  The ore is shipped by Australian company, Queensland Nickel, for refining in Australia.

Queensland mining billionaire, Clive Palmer, heads Queensland Nickel.

Reports in the Sydney Morning Herald and the Melbourne Age on the weekend suggested that the mining of the nickel laterite used by Queensland Nickel is threatening the health of Raja Ampat, an immensely significant marine ecosystem which is home to over 600 islands, expansive coral reefs and countless fish species.

The Justice and Peace Commission’s Executive Officer, Peter Arndt, said that Queensland Nickel should urgently investigate the environmental impact of nickel mining in Raja Ampat and the Australian Government should encourage the company to do so.

“Raja Ampat is an extraordinarily beautiful and important ecosystem which the reports indicate is being seriously damaged by clay soil being washed into the sea and onto the reefs as the mining process strips ore from islands in the region,” Mr Arndt said.

“Australian companies ought not to be involved or benefit, either directly or indirectly, from overseas mining operations which cause environmental havoc,” he said.

“Queensland Nickel says that it is committed to sustainable development and minimising environmental damage and we hope this means they will look into these reports urgently to ensure that their nickel ore suppliers are doing the right thing for the sake of this precious ecosystem,” he said.

“The report also indicates there may be corruption involved in the granting of mining licences in the area and squabbles within the local community as a result of the competing bids of various mining companies,” he said.

West Papua is a troubled province which has been a concern for the Commission for some years,” he said.

“It is plagued by conflict, human rights abuses by the Indonesian security forces, corruption and exploitation of the local tribal groups and the environment,” he said.

“There is nothing wrong with Queensland Nickel making a profit, but it needs to ensure that the rights of the local people and the security of the important ecosystem of Raja Ampat are fully protected in the process,” he said.

“We would also urge the Australian Government to assist Queensland Nickel to ensure that its overseas suppliers are looking after the interests of the people of West Papua and of the local environment,” he said.

“We would encourage Catholics to take an interest in such matters not only because they involve the welfare of our fellow human beings, but because caring for the earth is an essential part of living our Christian faith,” he said.

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.

A Call for Christians to Stand Up for Asylum Seekers and Refugees

Monday 20 June 2011


In the current debate on Australia’s policy on the treatment of asylum seekers, it is imperative that Christians be active in promoting respect for the dignity of every human being who flees persecution and violence and seeks asylum in our country.

There is little evidence that respect for the human dignity of asylum seekers is at the heart of either the Government’s or the Opposition’s policies.  Both sides support prolonged, mandatory detention of asylum seekers in isolated centres on mainland Australia and in offshore facilities; both sides have been responsible in government for locking up many children seeking asylum; and both sides are willing to ‘export’ asylum seekers to other countries where they are deprived of basic rights and subjected to further danger or harm.  These approaches can only add to the trauma, anxiety and deprivation suffered by asylum seekers.  They demonstrate a deplorable lack of compassion and are grossly unjust.

It is also apparent that the willingness of major political parties to adopt harsh policies which subject asylum seekers to trauma, humiliation and indignity is, in part, fuelled by hostile attitudes among some in the Australian community towards people of different races, ethnicities and religions.  Such intolerance and discrimination should not shape Australia’s policies on the treatment of asylum seekers and refugees nor should they be accepted by Christians or condoned by their silence.

In his Message for World Migrant and Refugee Day 2011, Pope Benedict XVI stressed the responsibility of Christians to be a sign of union with God and of the unity of the human family.  He said that it was imperative for us to welcome refugees as our sisters and brothers:

“… in the case of those who are forced to migrate, solidarity is nourished by the “reserve” of love that is born from considering ourselves a single human family and, for the Catholic faithful, members of the Mystical Body of Christ: in fact we find ourselves depending on each other, all responsible for our brothers and sisters in humanity and, for those who believe, in the faith. As I have already had the opportunity to say, ‘Welcoming refugees and giving them hospitality is for everyone an imperative gesture of human solidarity, so that they may not feel isolated because of intolerance and disinterest’.”

The Pope goes on to explain what welcoming our sisters and brothers seeking asylum entails:

“This means that those who are forced to leave their homes or their country will be helped to find a place where they may live in peace and safety, where they may work and take on the rights and duties that exist in the Country that welcomes them, contributing to the common good and without forgetting the religious dimension of life.”

While the Pope acknowledges that Governments have a responsibility to regulate the flow of migrants and to defend their borders, he insists that, whatever they do in this regard, they must always guarantee “the respect due to the dignity of each and every human person.”

The Government’s proposed agreement with Malaysia clearly fails to guarantee respect for the human dignity of asylum seekers.  It proposes to engage in people trading which is unconscionable and morally wrong under any circumstances, even if it achieved its aim of “stopping the boats”.  It cannot guarantee that those sent to Malaysia prompt and transparent processing of their claims for protection; it cannot guarantee that they will have access to work, education, health care or welfare; and it cannot guarantee their physical safety while awaiting a determination.

The Opposition’s proposal to resurrect “the Pacific solution” with the cooperation of the Government of Nauru fails the same human dignity test.  When this measure was employed by the Howard Government, it resulted in asylum seekers languishing on Nauru for years awaiting a determination and, when that determination was finally made, the vast majority of asylum seekers were found to be bona fide refugees who were resettled in Australia.  Many needed immediate and substantial medical treatment for the psychological traumatisation caused by their prolonged detention.

Offshore processing of refugee claims, whether in Malaysia, Nauru or Papua New Guinea has been instigated by successive Australian Governments as a means of thwarting so-called people smugglers.  There is no doubt that the exploitation of the misery and desperation of asylum seekers by people smugglers is abominable, but subjecting asylum seekers to harsh and inhumane treatment as a means of countering people smuggling is reprehensible as it only compounds the suffering and injustice asylum seekers endure.

While the numbers of asylum seekers coming to Australia by boat in recent years is higher than in the past, they are still very small compared with those seeking asylum in other countries.

As a wealthy nation and as a signatory to the Refugee Convention, Australia has the capacity and the responsibility to process and resettle the number of asylum seekers currently arriving on our shores. 

It is appalling that our political leaders would rather enlist developing nations which already have many asylum seekers within their borders to deal with those who come to our shores than to directly process their claims here in Australia as is our obligation under the Refugee Convention.

It is also deplorable that we insist on detaining asylum seekers in remote facilities for long periods at enormous financial expense to the country and at great expense to the mental and physical welfare of asylum seekers.  It is time that both major parties adopted other less harmful and expensive means of processing claims for protection promptly in Australia.

There are hundreds of thousands of asylum seekers in our region.  Most of them wait for many years in pitiful conditions for their refugee claims to be determined and to be resettled.  Our political leaders should devote much more of their energy to working with all the countries in our region with large numbers of asylum seekers, countries which re-settle refugees, the United Nations High Commission for Refugees and non-government organisations working in the region to improve the standard of accommodation and support for asylum seekers, to improve and expedite the processing of refugee claims and to re-settle refugees more efficiently and promptly.  Such a regional focus will offer hope to the large numbers of people seeking protection in the Asia/Pacific region.  At the same time, it will offer Australia a framework within which it can seek assistance to deal with specifically Australian refugee issues without resorting to inhumane approaches.

Australia must fulfil its obligations in full as a signatory to the Refugee Convention; it should only do deals with countries which are signatories to the Convention; and it should actively work for a genuine regional framework for the processing of refugee claims and the resettlement of refugees.

The Archdiocesan Justice and Peace Commission will make our concerns known to the Federal Government and the Opposition, to all the Members of Parliament in our Archdiocese and to all Queensland’s Senators.  The Commission urges Catholics, our Christian sisters and brothers and all people who support the values informing the Refugee Convention to join with us in rejecting the crass and unseemly politicking which worsens the pain and injustice endured by asylum seekers and refugees and the racial and religious intolerance to which it panders.

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.

Last Days to Sign Petition re Sri Lankan Human Rights Violations

Friday 20 May 2011

Brisbane’s Catholic Justice and Peace Commission, in collaboration with Pax Christi Queensland, has launched a campaign to encourage the Australian Government to press for the full implementation of the recommendations of a report on accountability for human rights violations committed in the final stages of the bloody Sri Lanka conflict which ended two years ago.

The report was prepared for the United Nations Secretary-General by an advisory panel of three experts and was delivered to the Secretary-General in April.

The report found that there were credible allegations of serious violations of human rights law and humanitarian law committed by both the Sri Lankan Government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Elam (LTTE).

Allegations against the Government included that it shelled civilians in “safe zones”, that it shelled hospitals and humanitarian facilities and that it denied humanitarian assistance to victims of the conflict.

Allegations against the LTTE included that it killed civilians trying to flee LTTE-controlled areas, that it recruited child soldiers and that it recruited forced labour.

The advisory panel recommended that the Sri Lankan Government conduct a thorough investigation of these allegations in line with international standards and that the United Nations establish international mechanisms to support these investigations.

The panel also recommended that the Sri Lankan Government adopt a number of short term accountability measures which ensure respect and dignity for the victims and survivors of the conflict.

It also recommended a number of long term measures including a formal apology by the Sri Lankan Government for its human rights violations and the provision of reparations to survivors of the conflict.

The Justice and Peace Commission’s Executive Officer, Peter Arndt, said that its campaign seeks to encourage the Australian Government to become a committed advocate of the full implementation of the report’s recommendations.

“Our fundamental concern is for a lasting peace and reconciliation in Sri Lanka,” Mr Arndt said.

“Hundreds of thousands of people were put through the most horrifying and appalling experience at the hands of both the Sri Lankan Army and the Tamil Tigers,” he said.

“There can be no healing unless those on both sides who were responsible for their suffering are held to account,” he said.

“The UN panel judged that the investigations and reconciliation processes put in place by the Sri Lankan Government to date are inadequate and flawed,” he said.

“We believe that Australia must play its part in ensuring that peace and reconciliation in Sri Lanka is possible,” he said.

The Commission and Pax Christi Queensland launched their campaign last night at a prayer service at St Oliver Plunkett Church in Cannon Hill.

The campaign encourages people to sign a petition to the Senate and to contact their local MPs and Senators calling on them to encourage the Australian Government to support the UN panel’s recommendations.

“We have also asked that people pray for the people of Sri Lanka and especially for those who are still suffering including the thousands still in detention two years after the war,” Mr Arndt added.

Download copies of the Sri Lanka petition 2011 and the Sri Lanka info sheet 2011 (1)

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.

Commission Issues Call for Climate Action

Monday 6 June 2011


 Brisbane’s Catholic Justice and Peace Commission today issued a statement calling for urgent and effective action on climate change.

The statement also called on Catholics to get involved in promoting effective action by government, industry and the community to address the serious threats posed by climate change.

The Commission’s Executive Officer, Peter Arndt, said that the Commission is concerned that too much time is being wasted by ill-informed debates about climate science and by self-interest.

“We think it is time for people in the community and the Church to stop wasting time debating whether climate change is happening and whether human beings are the cause,” Mr Arndt said.

“The reality is that the proposition that the earth is warming is supported by the vast majority of scientists who are prepared to publish their findings in scientific journals and subject themselves to the searching scrutiny of their fellow scientists,” he said.

“They also agree with almost total certainty that human activity has caused this,” he said.

“We cannot waste any more time because the consequences of delay will be dreadful for future generations,” he said.

The Commission’s statement refers to a recent report of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences which summarises information about the current evidence for climate change and recommends urgent action to reduce carbon emissions.

Mr Arndt said that the Commission did not feel it had the capacity to make judgments about the different mechanisms being proposed for bringing about a transition in the Australian economy in which carbon emissions are drastically reduced.

“We do, however, feel strongly that policies need to bring about significant reductions in carbon emissions and that this means a move away from burning of fossil fuels and towards the use of renewable energy as the Pontifical Academy of Sciences report recommends,” he said.

“The Commission also sees the need for an adequate response,” he said.

“Both sides of politics are currently committing to a 5% reduction in carbon emissions and this is not likely to be enough if we are to avoid massive problems down the track,” he said.

“The Commission also stresses that the plight of those already suffering the consequences of climate change such as those in Pacific island nations need to be remembered,” he said.

“Those who are poor and vulnerable in Australia also need to be protected from the economic consequences of a transition to renewable energy,” he said.

“The Commission calls on everyone to work together to come up with a plan which effectively addresses the threats of climate change,” he said.

“We want to see political and economic self-interest put aside in favour of protecting the long term interests of God’s creation, the whole human family and all the precious ecosystems which sustain us,” he said.

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.

Solidarity with South Sudan

Map of Southern SudanThe Sudanese Bishops at their last meeting in Jubathis May have outlined a program and prayer in the lead-up to becoming the world’s newest nation on July 9th.

The campaign is launched on Saturday May 28th with Eucharistic processions. The next day Sunday 29th becomes a Day of Reconciliation as described

“Preaching on reconciliation at all levels social, political and religious. Reconciliation among tribes – mending differences through traditional and religious reconciliation rituals and symbols”.

 On Pentecost Day there will be blessing and planting of trees as symbols of new birth. Dioceses, families, institutions, school, and parishes will be encouraged to plant a tree.

Some trees will produce medicine, a sign of healing from trauma and war. Other trees will give fruit as signs of hope and promise.

On June 29th a novena will focus on the principles of Catholic Social Teaching.

Please join them in your prayer. There have been some violent incidents in the border areas over the past 5 months. They pray for peace, courage and hope.

Parishes, schools, agencies and households are invited to pray for them in their times of prayer and in their Eucharistic prayers of the faithful.  The set prayer below may be helpful for those wishing to incorporate prayer for Sudan into their times of prayer.

Prayer for the Republic of South Sudan

God of Mercies, we thank you for your great love for us.

We ask you to guide our leaders in the process of nation building.

Grant them wisdom, compassion and fortitude.

Loving God, give us courage to reject ethnic resentment

as well as ethnic conflicts.

Through the intercession of St. Josephine Bakhita, help us

to overcome hurt, hostility and bitterness in our hearts

so that we become reconciled citizens in our new nation.

Renew in us the will for honest and hard work,

and bring us closer to you in the spirit of service,

unity and lasting peace.

Lord, we pray for our heroes, our martyrs and all innocent people

who died during the long years of war.

 We pray in thanksgiving for all those who stood by us

in solidarity to bring about peace.

 Unite us from every tribe, tongue and people.

Send your Holy Spirit upon us and may your will be done in us.

 God bless our new nation;

Bless theRepublic of South Sudan.

In Jesus’ name, Amen!

West Papua Solidarity

The West Papua Solidarity Group Brisbane will hold a gathering  on Thursday 12 May at which it will screen the award-winning film Strange Birds in Paradise.

We also expect to have a guest speaker, Rosa Moiwend, a researcher for the Justice & Peace Office in Jayapura, West Papua.  Rosa will speak on the implications for tribal groups of MIFEE, the proposed large scale food security estate to be established in West Papua.

The event will take place at the BCC Brisbane Square Library community meeting room.  Refreshments will be served from 5.30 p.m.  The talk will start at 6.15 p.m. and the film will be shown from 7.15 p.m.

All are welcome.  Entry is free, but donations to cover costs and assist our campaign work would be greatly appreciated.

Please RSVP to  Peter Arndt on (07) 3336 9173 or 0409 265 476..

Commission Continues Good Friday Death Penalty Vigil

Monday 11 April 2011

For the fourth year, Brisbane’s Catholic Justice and Peace Commission will hold a Good Friday prayer vigil for those on death row at Christ the King Catholic Church, Churchill Street, Graceville.

The vigil, which will be held at noon, will be an opportunity for Christians to offer prayer support for all those facing execution around the world, for their families and for all victims of crime.

While prayers will be offered for all on death row around the world, special focus will be given to the three Australians on death row in Bali, Andrew Chan, Myuran Sukumaran and Scott Rush, whose family is a part of the parish where the vigil will be held.

Prayers will also be offered for the Nigerian man, Titus Ani, who shares a cell with the Australians and for whom the Corinda-Graceville Parish provides special support.

The Commission’s Executive Officer, Peter Arndt, said that the three Australians in Bali have been waiting for a long time for the outcome of their final appeals to the Indonesian Supreme Court.

“All three men lodged their appeals soon after the middle of last year and there is still no word on a decision,” Mr Arndt said.

“This is a very difficult time for these men who are detained in overcrowded conditions in Bali,” he said.

“It is also a time of immense anguish and pain for their parents and families,” he said.

“As we remember Jesus’ suffering and death on the cross, we remember all those who suffer in our world today,” he said.

“God’s love brought to birth new life out of Jesus’ death,” he said.

“We pray in great hope that God’s love will also end the pain and suffering of those on death row and of all those who love them,” he said.

All are welcome to join the vigil.

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.

Government Must Change Detention Policy

Monday 21 March 2011

Government Must Change Detention Policy

Brisbane’s Catholic Justice and Peace Commission urged the Federal Government to abandon policies which detain asylum seekers and refugees in remote locations for prolonged periods.

The call was made following recent protests and violent incidents in a number of the Government’s immigration detention centres.

The Commission’s Executive Officer, Peter Arndt, said that the Government’s policies are adding to the suffering of deeply traumatised people and contributing to a grave injustice.


“The Government’s insistence on detaining asylum seekers in remote, overcrowded locations for prolonged periods is simply outrageous,” Mr Arndt said.


“These are people who have suffered much before they get here and, when they arrive here to seek protection, they are subjected to prolonged and harsh treatment which can only add to their stress and anxiety,” he said.


“The Government’s requirement that people who have been accepted as refugees must wait for long periods in these dreadful detention centres for ASIO security clearances is a totally unnecessary further impost,” he said.


“If we are happy to let tourists and students come into our country without locking them up awaiting a security clearance, why can’t we let these genuine refugees out into the community while these clearances are sought?” he said.


“Is it any wonder that people who are already mentally fragile and stressed react to this seriously unjust processing regime with protests and riots?” he said.


“Add to this the fact that there are still many children locked up in these centres exposed to all this anger and violence and you have an appalling state of affairs,” he said.


“The last thing we need is detention centre staff and police using force to respond to the frustration and anger of detained refugees,” he said.


“The people locked up in these centres have only exercised their right to seek protection from persecution and what they have been subjected to in return is a deplorable abuse of their human rights,” he said.


“The Government’s policies are to blame for what has happened on Christmas Island, at Curtin and Weipa, not the refugees,” he said.


“The Government is subjecting asylum seekers and refugees to the prolonged, mandatory detention which it said it would end even though it knows this causes more mental stress and anguish for asylum seekers,” he said.


“We urge the Government to stop using and building detention centres in remote areas, to stop detaining mentally fragile and traumatised people for prolonged periods, to stop the use of violence to deal with detainees’ frustrations and complaints and to stop detaining children in these centres,” he said.


“Justice demands that the claims of asylum seekers be processed speedily and in accordance with the provisions of all the international human rights conventions and that all claimants be treated with respect and dignity while their claims are processed,” he said.


“This is not happening in Australia now and it must stop,” he said.

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.


Politicians Must Stop Using Asylum Seekers as Political Football

Media Release

Monday 21 February 2011

 Brisbane’s Catholic Justice and Peace Commission has called on both the Government and the Opposition to stop using asylum seekers as political footballs.

The Commission’s Executive Officer, Peter Arndt, said that the behaviour of both sides of politics last week over the handling of asylum seekers attending funerals of family members was deplorable and insensitive.

“Both sides of politics are clearly shaping their decisions and comments to pander to mean-spirited attitudes towards asylum seekers within the community,” Mr Arndt said.

“It is high time that all our politicians gave leadership on this issue rather than giving in to the callous, negative attitudes of some in the community,” he said.

 “Raising questions about the Government flying twenty-two asylum seekers from Christmas Island to Sydney to attend the funerals of family members on the very day of the funerals is heartless and insensitive,” he said.

“Sending nine year old Iranian orphan, Seena, back to Christmas Island instead of to family in Sydney is an equally deplorable act,” he said.

“These actions seem to have no regard or respect for the Christmas Island asylum seekers as human beings who have gone through immense trauma,” he said.

“They seem to be no more than tools to score points or get a cheap headline,” he said.

“Seena and all the other asylum seekers on Christmas Island and elsewhere in Australia deserve not only compassion, but justice,” he said.

 “All human beings, especially those who have experienced great trauma, deserve to be treated with dignity and respect as a matter of justice,” he said.

“We should not be locking up traumatised people in overcrowded facilities in remote, isolated locations with inadequate support services for long periods, as the recent Ombudsman’s report says,” he said.

 “Australia should not have a thousand children like Seena in detention if it has any sense of decency and justice,” he said.

 “Our political leaders should know better,” he said.

 “How can they speak with any authority when they criticise other countries for abusing human rights if they do not respect human rights in the way they treat asylum seekers in our own country?” he said.

 “We as Christians should be making it clear to our politicians that we want them to treat asylum seekers with compassion and justice,” he said.

“We have a responsibility to speak up for our sisters and brothers in need,” he said.

 “We should all be making it clear to our leaders and our MPs that we will not tolerate the political games we have seen over the past week,” he said.

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.