Category Archives: Global Citizens

Supporting 101 Days of Prayer for a Peaceful Referendum

Logo From Sudan Catholic Bishops Web

Logo From Sudan Catholic Bishops Web

The Sudan Catholic Bishops have urged southern Sudanese to choose a life of freedom with justice and equal rights for all during the forthcoming referendum.

All the Bishops from all the states in Sudan gathered for an extraordinary plenary meeting in Juba to deliberate on the current situation in the country and delivered their message of hope.

The President of Sudan Catholic Bishops’ Conference, Bishop Rudolf Deng Majak told the press on Thursday in Juba that there are still worrying signs in Sudan that discourages integration of the north and the south. (See interview on Sudan Radio here)

SCBC Pastoral A future full of hope A Mesage of Hope and a Call to Action. Addressed to all the people of Sudan, the Sudanese leaders, and all people of good will

Sudanese Bishops Call for Peaceful Vote

101 Days Campaign Poster (pdf file)

Spanning the 101 days between the United Nation’s International Day of Peace on September 21, 2010, and the Church’s World Day of Peace, January 1, 2011, a campaign has been launched to help Catholics become advocates for peace. The campaign brings together the Sudan Catholic Bishops, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) and Catholic Relief Services, in an urgent call for peace.

Sudan is a nation with a long history of war, and finds itself at a historic crossroads. The country is bracing for a January 11 referendum, a crucial provision of the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement, on whether the South will secede from the North. If the referendum comes off peacefully, with an outcome that is respected by all, it could lead Sudan into a new era of peace and prosperity. If it does not, the result could be catastrophic violent conflict.

Sister Patricia Murray is the Executive Director of the initiative “Solidarity with Southern Sudan”, she tells Vatican Radio’s Festus Tarawalie more about it… “one of the challenges in a country that has suffered from long periods of war is – as one young man said to me – is: “I have to learn to make peace” – he said “I’ve learnt how to make war, but now teach me how to make peace (Source: Vatican Radio Web)

Solidarity with Southern Sudan trains teachers, nurses and pastoral personnel in several locations throughout Southern Sudan. This initiative was inspired by the 2004 Rome Congress on Consecrated Life, Passion for Christ Passion for Humanity.

Action: Print, pray and distribute the Prayer Text for 101 Days of Prayer for Sudan

Death Row Prayers Continue as Final Appeals Lodged

Monday 16 August 2010

Brisbane’s Catholic Justice and Peace Commission is calling on Catholics to continue praying for the three members of the Bali Nine who have now all lodged their final appeals against their death sentences to Indonesia’s Supreme Court.

The Commission has held an annual Good Friday prayer vigil for those on death row around the world since 2008 and has started an additional monthly prayer vigil this year in the Brisbane Parish of Corinda-Graceville, the home parish of Scott Rush, one of the three Australians on death row in Bali.

Scott Rush lodged his final appeal against his death sentence in July and the other two Australians, Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran, lodged their appeals last Friday.

The Commission’s Executive Officer, Peter Arndt, urged Catholics to pray for all three Australians and their families.

“Whatever their wrongdoing, they all have a right to life and should not face execution as punishment,” Mr Arndt said.

“All these men and their families are facing enormous stress and pain and need our prayers,” he said.

“One of the Indonesian lawyers lodging the appeals last week said that the death penalty on his client violated his right to life which is guaranteed by the Indonesian Constitution,” he said.

“We strongly oppose these death sentences for the same reason,” he said.

Church Teaching effectively rejects the use of capital punishment as a violation of the right of every human being to God’s gift of life,” he said.

“Our Commission will also be urging our Federal politicians to do everything they can to support these three men and to encourage the Indonesian Government to abandon its use of the death penalty,” he said.

The Commission’s next prayer vigil will be held at Christ the King Catholic Church, Churchill Street, Graceville, next Tuesday 24 August at 7 p.m.  All are welcome to join with the Commission and the local Parish community in prayer for the three Australians and all those on death row around the world.

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 when required.  The views expressed in it do not necessarily represent the views of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Brisbane.

Christians Urged to Engage in Election with the Eyes of Faith

Monday 26 July 2010

Brisbane’s Catholic Justice and Peace Commission has urged Christians to get involved in the current Federal election with their faith as their guide.

The Commission’s Executive Officer, Peter Arndt, said that it was important for Christians to promote values which are at the heart of Christian faith.

“We hope that Christians will actively engage their local candidates in discussions about the values which shape their views on important social issues from taxation to foreign aid,” Mr Arndt said.

“Values such as the inalienable dignity of every human being, the common good and putting the welfare of the weakest and the most vulnerable first are values that Christians can encourage politicians from every party to embrace in every policy they adopt,” he said.

“We have a calling to be witnesses and agents of justice and peace and we can do that by getting involved in the election and, just as importantly, after the election,” he said.

“The Church should not be telling Christians how to vote, but the Church can be a voice for people who do not have power or influence,” he said.

“While we won’t tell Christians how to vote, we will try to give them opportunities to hear representatives of major parties and to ask them questions on important issues,” he said.

The Commission has sent parishes a guide to help them organize meetings so that local candidates’ views on important issues can be heard and discussed.  Prayers focused on the elections have also been distributed.

In addition, the Commission is working with representatives from the Anglican and Uniting Churches to organize two forums at which Senators and Senate candidates from the ALP, LNP, Greens and Family First will speak and be questioned on a range of election issues.

The first forum will focus on Mental health, refugees, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander policy  and climate change.  It will be held on Wednesday 4 August at 6.30 p.m. for 7 p.m. at the Broadwater Road Uniting Church, 481 Broadwater Road, Mansfield.

The second forum will be held on Monday 9 August at St Paul’s Uniting Church, corner of Mimimine Street and Webster Road, Stafford at 6.30 p.m. for 7 p.m.  Its focus will be taxation, poverty, housing and homelessness.

In both forums, a series of questions will be addressed to the party representatives by a panel representing the three churches followed by a period of questioning from the floor.  All are welcome to these forums.

The Commission also hopes that a meeting at which a thorough examination of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander policy can take place will be arranged with the collaboration of Indigenous Christians.

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.

World Refugee Week 2010

World Refugee Week 2010 k theme was  Freedom from Fear.  The Refugee Council of Australia produced a series of resources for the Week including a poster, facts and figures about refugees, an event planning guide and teacher materials.
Fr Pan Jordan op and Sr Wendy Flannery rsm at World Refugee Rally , Brisbane June 20 2010

Fr Pan Jordan op and Sr Wendy Flannery rsm at World Refugee Rally , Brisbane June 20 2010

Among the more than 200 people who gathered in Reddacliff Square, Brisbane  on World Refugee Day, June 20, were representatives from parishes, religious communities and  the Brisbane Catholic  Justice and Peace Commission.

Fr Pan Jordan OP was one of the speakers and spoke of  the plight of Tamil refugees.Fr Jordan quoted the report from the International Crisis Group which has gathered evidence of the ongoing human rights abuses among Tamils. He also called on the Federal Government to lift the suspension of processing of refugee claims by people from Afghanistan and Sri Lanka.

In a recent statement the Brisbane Catholic Justice and Peace Commission noted that many significant international organisations and some major Sri Lankan bodies such as the Superiors of Major Religious Congregations have expressed serious concerns about the Sri Lankan Government’s lack of commitment to the rule of law, democracy, proper governance, human rights and freedom of the media.They also have doubts about the Sri Lankan Government’s commitment to political reconciliation which will see minorities such as the Tamils freed from discrimination and oppression.

Refugee Week 2010

Refugee Week
ImageWorld Refugee Week runs from Sunday 20 June to Saturday 26 June.  This year’s theme is Freedom from Fear.  The Refugee Council of Australia has produced a series of resources for the Week including a poster, facts and figures about refugees, an event planning guide and teacher materials.  The resources are available atRefugee Council

The Brisbane CJPC has also produced a resource for reflection and action: Welcoming the Stranger

A broad coalition of community groups, including the Commission, have joined together to organise a rally and march to express opposition to the actions and policies of both the Government and Opposition in relation to refugees and asylum seekers.  This is an opportunity to publicly reject the lack of compassion and respect for the dignity of those seeking asylum in Australia.  The rally will be held on World Refugee Day, Sunday 20 June, at 1 p.m. in Brisbane Square (next to Treasury Casino), George Street, Brisbane.  For more information, contact Paul on 3392 3843 or e-mailrefugeeday2010@gmail.com

Other World Refugee Week activities in Brisbane include:

  • Candlelight Walk & Lantern Parade, celebrating the contribution of refugees and remembering those in refugee camps around the world, Friday 18 June, 5.30 p.m., Southbank Cultural Forecourt near Wheel of Brisbane, safe candles provided, concert to follow at Suncorp Piazza.
  • World Refugee Week Film Festival, Sunday 20 June, 6 p.m., Yungaba, 120 Main Street, Kangaroo Point, presented by the Romero Centre, BEMAC and the Australian World Refugee Film Festival, $25 ($15 concessions), enquiries and bookings to 3846 3250 or admin@romerocentre.org.au
  • World Refugee Week Festival, music, dance, art, workshops, sport and food, Annerley Soccer Club grounds, Ridge & Juliette Streets, Annerley, 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.

Amnesty International is running an on-line petition directed at local MPs calling for an end to the Government’s freeze on the processing of Sri Lankan and Afghan asylum claims and for an end to ‘an ugly game of politics with utter disregard to the cost of human suffering.’ The message of the petition is: ‘this is not how we treat vulnerable people in Australia. And as your constituents, we will not stand for it.’ Personalised emails directed to the individual’s particular electorate can be sent via the following Amnesty webpage: Amnesty

Commission Calls on Australia to Back Sri Lankan War Crimes Report

Monday 24 May 2010

Brisbane’s Catholic Justice and Peace Commission has called on the Australian Government to support the recommendations of the International Crisis Group’s (ICG) report on possible war crimes in the last year of the Sri Lankan civil war which ended a year ago.

The ICG report says there is compelling evidence to suggest the Sri Lankan military intentionally shelled civilians, hospitals and humanitarian operations and that the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Elam (LTTE) intentionally shot civilians and caused them suffering.

It says that it has collected a compelling case to warrant an international inquiry into possible war crimes on both sides of the conflict.

The ICG has put together its report with the help of eyewitness reports, photographs, videos, satellite images, electronic communications and documentary evidence.

Apart from calling on the United Nations to undertake an international inquiry into possible war crimes during the last year of the conflict, the report makes recommendations for action to a number of countries including Australia.

Among these recommendations, the report calls for targeted sanctions such as the imposition of travel restrictions on Sri Lankan officials and their families.

The Justice and Peace Commission’s Executive Officer, Peter Arndt, said that the ICG report criticizes countries like Australia for turning a blind eye to the evidence of human rights violations during the conflict.

“It is important that those responsible for human rights violations be held accountable for their actions,” Mr Arndt said.

“Many governments like the Australian Government want to forget all about the dreadful things which were done both by the Sri Lankan military and the Tamil Tigers, but this is a grave injustice to the thousands of Tamil civilians who were killed and maimed in the conflict,” he said.

“There is no hope for political reconciliation and peace in Sri Lanka if those responsible for these injustices are not held accountable for them,” he said.

“Pope Paul VI and Pope John Paul II often said there is ‘no peace without justice’,” he said.

“In a petition with over two thousand signatures which we submitted to the Senate last year, we called for a credible investigation into human rights violations in Sri Lanka and we continue to urge the Australian Government to support this,” he said.

”If we believe in the Gospel of Jesus Christ, we must believe that the lives of the individual Tamil civilians who suffered at the hands of the Sri Lankan military and the Tamil Tigers mean something,” he said.

“They are the mothers and fathers and sons and daughters of human beings just like us and they deserve justice,” he said.

“We hope Catholics will read the ICG report and tell their local MP that they want Australia to take strong action for the sake of all those who have suffered in Sri Lanka,” 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.

Wage Justice

Wage Justice
ImageAustralia at the Crossroads: A Time to Set new Rules is the title of the Australian Catholic Social Justice Council’s Pastoral letter for the Feast of St Joseph the Worker released on 1 May.  The pastoral letter considers the position of the most vulnerable Australians as the minimum wage and safety net wages decline.  For the full text of the letter, go tohttp://www.socialjustice.catholic.org.au/

The Church & Justice

The Church & Justice
ImageEvery day, staff in agencies like Catholic Care and Vinnies provide support to families struck by unemployment and the grind of poorly paid, insecure and intermittent work. They experience, first hand, the poverty caused by a market that has not provided worthwhile employment opportunities or training that would allow people to get into the workplace and bargain for pay above safety net wages.

They have also witnessed the impact of public policy that has sought to increase worker productivity by deregulating workplaces and to lift participation in the workforce by restrictions on social security. Broadly speaking, these changes may have benefited highly paid workers and unemployed people with skills. They have been of little benefit for workers and unemployed people who have minimal bargaining power and remain ‘unattractive’ to the market. The clearest indication of this is the declining value of minimum wages and income support.

ACSJC, Pastoral letter for the Feast of St Joseph the Worker 2010

Commission Urges Fairness and Compassion for Asylum Seekers

 

Wednesday 31 March 2010

 Brisbane’s Catholic Justice and Peace Commission has urged Catholics to be voices for fairness and compassion for asylum seekers in the current debate over the treatment of asylum seekers arriving by boat.

The Commission’s Executive Officer, Peter Arndt, said that comments by politicians in both the Government and the Opposition and a recent front page article in the Sunday Mail have the effect of de-humanising asylum seekers and robbing them of their God-given dignity.

“We appeal to Catholics to defend the right of people to seek asylum in our country and to be treated as human beings and not as demons to be feared or as objects to be used for political or commercial benefit,” Mr Arndt said.

 “Both major parties are trying to show that they are tough with boat arrivals and they are causing a lot of suffering and unfairness for people seeking asylum,” he said.

 “All our politicians need to remember that Australia is a signatory to the international convention which recognises the right of people fleeing persecution and violence to seek asylum,” he said.

“We, as a  nation which says it respects and defends human rights, should not be trying to turn asylum seekers away or get other countries to hold them in unsatisfactory conditions,” he said.

“Whipping up fears that we are being over-run by asylum seekers is simply dishonest and leads to mis-treatment of people,” he said.

“We should remember that less than 25000 people have come by boat seeking asylum in Australia in more than 30 years,” he said.

“That is no flood and no reason to propose harsh and inhuman treatment of asylum seekers nor to create fear about boat arrivals,” he said.

 “We should also expect that the media should be responsible in covering the current asylum seeker debate,” he said.

 “The Sunday Mail’s recent front page story on asylum seekers being taken on a supervised shopping trip in Brisbane was regrettable,” he said.

 “The headline ‘They’re Here’ gives you the impression that the paper thinks we have something to fear,” he said.

 “People who seek asylum should have their claims for protection assessed and, if they prove to be legitimate, be recognised as refugees,” he said.

 “We should reject the attempts by fearmongers in politics and the media to foster resentment towards our fellow human beings,” he said.

 “As Christians, we see asylum seekers as our sisters and brothers,” he said.

 “It is our responsibility to defend their human dignity and to encourage our politicians and the community to treat them with compassion and fairness,” 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 when required.  The views expressed in it do not necessarily represent the views of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Brisbane.

Australia Should Challenge Sri Lankan Human Rights Record

Tamil Support Brisbane Australia

Justice in Sri Lanka Support Brisbane Australia

Monday 1 March 2010

Brisbane’s Catholic Justice and Peace Commission urged the Federal Government to take a stronger position on human rights violations in Sri Lanka in the wake of the European Union’s announcement of its plan to withdraw preferential trade benefits to the South Asian country in six months unless human rights concerns are addressed.

Sri Lanka benefits from trade concessions in the EU’s Generalised System of Preferences Plus (GSP+), an incentive scheme tied to the improvement of human rights and good governance.  The scheme provides tariff cuts to support vulnerable developing countries.

The European Union has repeatedly warned Sri Lanka that it must meet 27 international human rights conventions to retain its GSP Plus status.

Sri Lanka’s textile and clothing industry earned $3.47 billion in export income from the European Union in 2008.  Suspension of the tariff benefit foreshadowed by the February 16 announcement by the European Union could seriously affect the industry.

The Justice and Peace Commission’s Executive officer, Peter Arndt, said that the Australian Government should add its voice to those of many other Western nations who have expressed serious concerns about the treatment of Tamils during and since the final stages of the conflict between the Sri Lankan military and the Tamil Tigers last year.

“The treatment of Tamil civilians by both the Tigers and the military during the final stages of the conflict last year was appalling,” Mr Arndt said.

“Tamil civilians were killed and injured in great numbers by actions on both sides,” he said.

“Since the end of the conflict, the Sri Lankan Government received repeated criticisms from many quarters for its treatment of the hundreds of thousands of Tamils it detained in camps in the north of the country,” he said.

“Under pressure from the international community, the Sri Lankan Government accelerated the release of detainees late last year, but over 100000 people are still in the camps,” he said.

“Credible reports indicate that camp conditions are squalid,” he said.

“Despite claims of freedom of movement for those in camps, the truth is that people cannot leave without gaining approval and they must report regularly to police,” he said.

“For those who have returned to their home area, there appears to be little support or income,” he said.

“Throughout the whole of this period, the Government has restricted the capacity of international aid and human rights organisations to monitor the treatment of Tamil civilians,” he said.

“Journalists and critics of the Government, including Serath Fonseka who ran in the recent presidential elections, are arrested on what appear to be trumped up charges, are killed or simply disappear,” he said.

The International Crisis Group is one of many respected international organisations which have released reports and statements expressing grave concerns about the treatment of Tamils and critics of the Government,” he said.

“The International Crisis Group issued a report recently calling for the Sri Lankan Government to address the legitimate Tamil concerns about systematic discrimination against them,” he said.

“The European Union’s threat of removal of trade benefits is part of a very loud and prolonged chorus of concerns about human rights in Sri Lanka and Australia must join efforts to put an end to this dreadful state of affairs,” he said.

“We in the Church in Australia should also heed the cries of those who suffer in Sri Lanka and the concerns expressed by the Church in that country,” he said.

“On the same day as the European Union announcement, the Conference of Major Religious Superiors in Sri Lanka said there was a loss of faith in the democratic process and just governance,” he said.

“They called for the country’s political leaders to respect the rule of law and human rights and to uphold the principles of reconciliation, forgiveness, freedom of media, freedom of speech and the right to dissent,” 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.

Other CJPC Statements on Sri Lanka