Justice & Peace Workers' Bulletin

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January - March 2011, No. 1

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1. A Silent Moment

2. What’s Going On in Asia?
HONG KONG   JPIC Gathering: Human Rights Instruments for Advocacy
    Journey with Justice and Peace Workers
INDIA   JPC-Mumbai speaks with the UN Special Rapporteur
PAKISTAN   Statement of Church leaders on the assassination of Federal Minister for Minorities
    NCJP’s Action in Response to issues in Society
PHILIPPINES   Solidarity for HANJIN Workers in Subic
SINGAPORE   Think Centre’s submission to UPR of Singapore
SRI LANKA   Testimony Therapy for the Holistic Wellness of Our Ex-Prison Survivors and their Families

3. Issues of Concern
JPW Theme: Minority Peoples
JPW Theme: Cluster Bombs/ Landmines
JPW Theme: Women in Crisis

4. Listen to the Peoples
Pope Benedict XVI’s World Day of Peace Message 2011
Bishop Tong calls on Beijing to free activists (Hong Kong)
Sharing on New National Education Policy (Pakistan)
Resumption of Peace Talks (Philippines)
Think Centre’s International Human Rights Day Message (Singapore)

5. Justice and Peace Resources
Tamils and Muslims in Sri Lanka (Sri Lanka)
Book on Social Teaching of Pope John Paul II by CBCI-JPD
Chinese Translation of Compendium of the Social Doctrine
Tips for Reading CST Documents
DTP Human Rights, Advocacy and Business Programme
Short Courses by the Center for Peace and Conflict Studies (CPCS)
International Conference on the Family

 

1. A Silent Moment

Church has the right, indeed the duty, to proclaim justice on the social, national and international level, and to denounce instances of injustice, when the fundamental rights of people and their very salvation demand it

-- 1971 Synod, Justice in the World

Response:

Holy Spirit, help us listen and help us become doers of your word.
We recall the poor of the world, especially those without enough food this day.
We recall the victims of the recent earthquakes in New Zealand and Japan.
We remember the people of Afghanistan and Pakistan who are caught up in ongoing war and violence.
We remember the people on Libya and other nations that are struggling for political freedom and change.
We remember our planet earth which is so stressed by overuse and abuse.
We keep in mind those in prison and jail.
We keep in mind those in hospitals and nursing homes.
We look into our own hearts and at our own action and inaction.

Source: Education for Justice

2. What’s Going On in Asia?

Hong Kong

JPIC Gathering: Human Rights Instruments for Advocacy

One of the most disputable social issues of Hong Kong in 2010 is the constitutional reform: the argument has struck on the definition of universal suffrage.

However, focus on democratic development in Hong Kong seemed to be fading as the proposal of constitutional reform was passed.  At the first JPIC Gathering in January 2011, the Asian Center for the Progress of Peoples invited Andre Frankovits, an experienced human rights worker and trainer, to share how to use human rights instrument “at home”.  In spite of the topic, Andre reminded that human rights instrument is only one of the many tools that can be used to achieve goals of greater equity and democratic participation, and there are many other means that can be used.

It has always been misunderstood that human rights instruments, such as the international human rights treaties, treaty-based and charter-based mechanisms at the United Nations (UN), can only be used by those who can attend the UN meetings. “The work started long before the [UN] meetings…… There is not much use of just attending the meetings and shouting at the diplomats,” Andre said.  “And the human rights instruments can have an impact when used strategically in the domestic sphere.”

To illustrate how to make the best use of the occasions at UN level, Andre recommended a video on “Australian NGO lobbying in Geneva on the occasion of the periodic review of Australia on 27 January 2011”: <http://www.hrlrc.org.au/content/universal-periodic-review-ngo-delegation-updates/#17jan11>

Some participants also recognized that, although “human rights” is a common word used in Hong Kong, especially among social justice concerned groups, they may not understand clearly about the concept of human rights and its usage.

Andre also shared his recent research on the UN human rights committees’ recommendations on democratic development in Hong Kong. According to Hong Kong’s human rights commitments as a party to various human rights treaties, its current interpretation of universal suffrage does not meet its human rights obligations.

In Hong Kong, human rights was always projected as a “value”, this JPIC Gathering broadened the participants’ understanding on human rights as a tool and to explore resources to sustain their promotion of democratic development even if the proposed reform has been passed.

Source: Wanyu from the Asian Center for the Progress of Peoples

 

Journey with Justice and Peace Workers

The beginnings of the JPW Asia-Pacific Forum started in 1997, but it was only in 2003 when I actually had a chance to attend my first networking meeting which was in Sri Lanka.  There I started my journey of meeting groups of "Church people" who are involved in justice, peace and integrity of creation, human rights and advocacy work in their respective countries, in specific sectors, issues of concern, as well as areas (education, formation, mobilization, advocacy training, etc.), some have worked for decades, some have just started their role in their offices, and many are “in-between...” 

The most touching moment during my JPW time was in 2005, listening to JPW veterans (priest and sister from Japan) who have been working for justice and peace for 20-30 years and still actively involved.  At that time, I was ACPP Coordinator for only 2-3 years and was about to give-up.  Instead, I extended for a few more years...

One of the things I learned from my time at ACPP is that there are indeed many people in the Church who are doing fantastic work in terms of social justice, some with structural and moral support of the hierarchy, while others have to struggle a bit more or a lot more.  All have their own challenges, but many stand out because they continue their effort and struggle even without practical support or structural/ institutional affiliation, and those who find opportunities to do more in promoting justice whatever status they are in.  For me, they are inspiring living proof that while it helps sometimes to have a formal structure to enhance solidarity (there are many already), there is also a rare advantage of a less formally structured group as long as the people involved are personally committed.  This advantage and nature of the JPW network should be acknowledged and kept as a "secret weapon" when the formal structures fail.

JPWs are scattered all over the world, in Asia-Pacific, in each country, in each community, etc.  Sometimes they are able to settle their own concerns locally and this reflects their experience and knowledge of the situation enough to resolve among themselves.  Other times, they identify that they need some more help from "outside" and when they are clear of what this help would be, they could approach the appropriate groups for the help they need.  Outside groups need to trust their local wisdom and consider their own scope and experience and decide how best to help them.

The role of JPW Asia-Pacific Forum and its networking meetings, are to link these people together in order to facilitate access to each other's work, resources, experience, expertise, facilitation, solidarity action.  They may not need to "use" them in their whole lifetime, but the gathering of people and the interaction, the sharing of common issues and common challenges and exploring of possible solutions, such networking is humanly important to build the bond that lends solidarity to each other whenever we know that our friends are in trouble.  How to do it effectively is another story that needs further discussion and processing through interaction, communication and specific skills training.

I feel that this is the role that ACPP is able to provide to the regional JPW network - to facilitate a venue for meeting, discussion, sharing, analyzing, networking, solidarity.  This is why I personally involved myself and ACPP in co-organizing the JPW networking meetings in Pakistan (2005), Manila (2008) and Cambodia (2010). 

Through other ACPP activities, I also learned that networking is a very misunderstood word (just like "advocacy") and while all claim its importance, there are practical difficulties, even for groups which are already within the same city, they don’t manage to meet!  I have hoped to be able to do more in this aspect, but it is also true that this is an on-going situation that needs on-going commitment.   

In spite of all the challenges, I really enjoyed and feel that all JPWs should be able to experience such inspiration and fulfillment even once in their journey.  As I say this, I hope that whoever will take up the role of continuing the JPW Asia-Pacific Forum, at ACPP and in the JPW Co-organizing Team and the network, all the best to you and remember to find your role and joy in doing it!

Please continue to support ACPP to keep this network going.

Since JPW is not a "membership" or official structure that commands action or make compulsory commitments of those in the network, it can be said that we are only "few" and such "endangered species" is so rare that when we have identified each other, we should take care of each other.  I treasure all the friends I have made and kept through this network.

As I leave my 10 years of fulfilling and meaningful time at ACPP, filled with good memories, encouragement, support and inspiration from the network, colleagues and friends, I express my deep gratitude to you all who have shared your stories, commitment, friendship and support to me and to ACPP all these years.  I enjoyed my journey because of YOU!  I always like to think that I am only leaving ACPP, but not justice and peace involvement (although my JP involvement was mainly through ACPP). I am hoping that I can still be blessed with such opportunity to meet and work with inspiring and committed people, like you, who are making a difference in the lives of people in the marginalized sectors of the society.  Please keep in touch!

Source: Linda from the Asian Center for the Progress of Peoples


India

JPC-Mumbai speaks with the UN Special Rapporteur

The Justice and Peace Commission of the Archdiocese of Mumbai (JPC-Mumbai), together with representatives from the Western Region of Maharashtra, Gujarat and Rajasthan, attended the meeting with the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of Human Rights Defenders, Ms Margaret Sekaggya, on 17 January 2011, when she visited India to "evaluate the situation of human rights defenders in the country."

Below are highlights of the sharing by the representative of JPC-Mumbai, Pamela.

Pamela spoke on issues of the Project-Affected Persons (PAPs) in the Mumbai Airport Land eviction issue [see ACPP’s UA101213(7) <http://www.acpp.org/uappeals/2010/10121307.htm>], particularly about the youth arrested, harassed and given false charges for resisting the eviction process; and on the case of Arun Fereira, a rights activist labelled as a "Naxalite" and arrested more than 2 years ago, with the state allegedly filing false cases against him for crimes occurring while he was in custody.  A Jesuit participant also spoke about the issue of dumping grounds in Uttan, Thane district in Maharashtra [see ACPP’s UA100308(2) <http://www.acpp.org/uappeals/2010/100308.htm>] on behalf of activists, local clergy, and a retired judge, who were given false court charges that subsequently restricted their movements and required them to appear in court many times.

The Special Rapporteur met approximately 50 persons who are like-minded persons fighting their own battles to claim justice for the powerless or marginalized.

Cases shared ranged from victims of abuse in the Gujarat-Godhra riots, Dalit issues, tribal rights, oppression of women, widows with properties being labeled as witches, empowerment of masses on their rights and entitlements, and intimidation of witnesses in the Gujarat riots that also reflects delay in justice processes.  There were also complaints how trade unionists were being labeled as Maoists and picked up by police; their situation is similar to human rights defenders or environmental activists or anyone who voiced opinions and hence face death threats, torture, arbitrary arrests, kept under surveillance, forcibly displaced; and offices raided and records stolen – stories which many human rights advocates could relate to their experience. 

“I was inspired by the many experiences, stories of courage and conviction, stories of hatred and revenge and stories of victory and peace which made me stand tall and  speak with conviction for the cause of justice. This exposure and experience has built me powerfully and as I conclude this sharing I salute all the persons who deposed with the message from James 1:12 Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life, which the Lord has promised to those who love Him,“ , Pamela, shared. 

Press release about the Special Rapporteur's visit can be found at:

<http://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=10664&LangID=E>

Source: Sharing from Pamela/ Justice and Peace Commission – Mumbai


Pakistan

Statement of Church leaders on the assassination of Federal Minister for Minorities

Below is a press statement by Church leaders in Pakistan, after the assassination of Mr. Shahbaz Bhatti, Federal Minister for Minorities, on 2 March 2011.  Two months ago, on 4 January 2011, another campaigner against blasphemy laws, Governor Salman Taseer was also assassinated by his own body guard.  It raises concern about violence against persons expressing freedom of conscience and expression, as well as protection of citizens in Pakistan through proper investigation and punishment of those acting in violence.

While the country is still tense after the murder of two politicians, the news of recent burning of the Holy Quran (in Florida, USA on 20 March) has intensified the situation.  When an issue is abused by extremists and used as an excuse to attack others, everybody in the country, including Muslims, are put under imminent danger.   Let's keep all citizens of Pakistan in our prayers.

For more details, please refer to the following news: 

Christians in fear after Quran burning- Women flee for fear of attack, two Christians killed, more protests expected <http://www.ucanews.com/2011/03/24/christians-in-fear-after-qur%E2%80%99an-burning>

 

Assassination of Mr. Shahbaz Bhatti,

A Press statement by the Church leaders in Pakistan

We the Church leaders in Pakistan express our deep grief on the assassination of Mr. Shahbaz Bhatti, the Federal Minister for Minorities. We believe that the country has lost in him a patriotic statesman and a campaigner for interfaith harmony. Mr. Bhatti’s assassination underlines the issue of protection of religious minorities, life and liberty. The government needs to go beyond the rhetoric of ‘minorities enjoying all the rights in the country’ and take practical step to curb extremism in Pakistan.

We would also like to appeal to the Federal and Provincial governments to wake up to the challenge of protection of the citizens of Pakistan. If the country becomes a killing field of the democrat and liberal individuals who exercise their freedom of conscience and expression, it would embolden the criminals trying to take charge of the country. The religion has been massively abused to cause harassment and suffering of the people. The reign of terror and bloodshed should be dealt with by administrative and reformative actions on urgent basis.

While the exchange of condolence is due from and to every citizen, we express our solidarity with Mr. Bhatti’s family and the All Pakistan Minorities Alliance his political party on this profound loss.

In view of the criminal killing of Mr. Shahbaz Bhatti, three days mourning will be observed from 3rd March 2011 and all Christian institutions in the country will remain closed.

 

NCJP’s Action in Response to issues in Society

Flood Relief Activities

In July 2010, heavy monsoon rains affected Pakistan badly.  According to the Pakistan government data, the flood directly affected about 20 million people, mostly by destruction of property, livelihood and infrastructure.

The National Commission for Justice and Peace (NCJP) organized relief activities in affected areas, distributing provisions (food and non-food) among 2,500 families.

Volunteers unloading relief goods.

 

Fr. Emmanuel Yousaf, National Director of NCJP, distributing relief goods among the victim families.


NCJP urges government to provide minority students with religious education relevant to their religion

On 13 and 14 October 2010, a delegation comprising religious and political leadership of the Christian community, led by Peter Jacob, Executive Director of NCJP, met with Mr. Fazl-e-Rahim Marwat, Chairman of Textbook Board and Mr. Sardar Hussain Babak, Provincial Minister for Education, Kyber Pkhtunkhwa province, at the provincial capital, Peshawar.

The delegation urged the government to provide students of religion minorities with subject regarding their own religions.

In Pakistan, Islamiat (Islamic studies) is a compulsory subject from Grade 1 to 12.  Ethics, an optional subject has been introduced for the students belonging to religion minorities.  For issues relating to the religious studies policy, please refer to “Sharing on New National Education Policy” under “Listen to the Peoples”.

NCJP delegation discussing with Chairman of Textbook Board of Kyber Pkhtunkhwa


NCJP launches “Pakistan ka Muqdma” (The case of Pakistan in the UN)

National Commission for Justice and Peace (NCJP) launched a book “Pakistan ka Muqadma” at Lahore on 9 December 2010.  Prominent personalities from civil society shared their comments on various aspects of the publication.  About 300 men and women from different walks of life joined the ceremony.

The book brings the Urdu translation of State, NGO’s and United Nation’s report under “Universal Periodic Review” (UPR).  The publication is compiled by Mr. Peter Jacob, Executive Director of NCJP.

Peter Jacob (first from the right) at the book launching.

Source: National Justice and Peace Commission - Pakistan


Philippines

Solidarity for HANJIN Workers in Subic

Hanjin Heavy Industries and Construction – Philippines Incorporated (HHIC-Philippines) or HANJIN, is a Korean ship-building company inside Subic Freeport and Economic Zone.  It is the 4th largest ship-building factory in the world and has exported 14 vessels worth at least sixty million US dollars each from 2007 to 2010.

Currently, more than 17,000 ship-building workers and construction workers are hired by HANJIN, through various sub-contractors on a contractual or part-time basis (some with contract periods of five to ten years), and their salaries are reportedly less than what the company had promised them, even less than the minimum wage rate in the country, and one-tenth of their Korean counterparts, making the facility even more globally-competitive in the shipping industry.

The National Secretariat for Social Action of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP-NASSA) and the Urban Missionaries of the Association of Major Religious Superiors of the Philippines (UM-AMRSP) have raised the following concerns about the workers’ issues:

Fatal accidents and non-compliance to Occupational Health and Safety Standards
After an alarming series of accidents reported at HANJIN, the Senate Labor Committee of Congress moved to investigate and found HANJIN remiss in implementing necessary occupational safety measures, such as providing safety gadgets and personal protective equipment, in such a hazardous work environment.  There are also no full-time doctors or hospital facility.  The findings also attributed frequent accidents to sub-contracting.  Moreover, HANJIN clearly violates Philippine laws, especially on Occupational Health and Safety Standards, as well as security of tenure of the Labor Code.

Union Repression: While HANJIN released a memorandum adopting safety measures, it was used to suppress the workers’ right to self-organization and to divert public attention by putting blame on the workers.  More than 60 workers, mostly union officers and active union members, have been terminated under the pretext of health and safety violations.

Maltreatment: Local workers have been subjected to slapping, kicking and verbal abuse from their Korean counterparts.  There was a reported incident that Filipino workers who have acted in defense against Korean foremen’s hitting and slapping, and caused cuts and bruises on the foremen, were terminated and jailed, and 40 others were suspended.

According to a statement of the HHIC-Philippines Workers Union (HHIC-PIWU) and the Samahan ng Manggagawa sa Hanjin Shipyard (SAMAHAN) on 30 January 2011, with the intervention of CBCP-NASSA and UM-AMRSP, the Union has been successful in getting a Registration Certificate of the Workers Association released; and a Task Force Hanjin has been formed by the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) to monitor the compliance of HANJIN to the labour standards.  Furthermore, after a dialogue between UM-AMRSP, HANJIN workers and MAKABAYAN (Workers for People’s Liberation) with the Bureau of Labour Relations (BLR), and a letter from Bishop Broderick S. Pabillo, Chairperson of CBCP-NASSA, a favourable decision (acknowledgement) was granted by the National DOLE-BLR for the Union’s registration on 28 October 2010.

However, in November 2010, a motion for re-consideration to nullify the decision on the Union registration was received.  It was filed by an affiliate company and a main contracting company at Subic, which is not a party to the application for registration.  It was quite disturbing as the threat came before the Registration Certificate was received from the National DOLE-BLR.

The Union is therefore calling for pro-active action, such as sending a letter to the National DOLE-BLR asking for the (re)issuance of the union registration decision and registration certificate for the union. 

UM-AMRSP has suggested the following for campaign and advocacy: to keep calling for a safe working environment and strict implementation of health and safety measures at the facility; call for an end to sub-contracting schemes and for HANJIN to employ workers directly as provided for by the Article 279 of the Labor Code of the Philippines; stop all kinds of mistreatment to local workers; uplift workers’ conditions with reasonable compensation, healthy and safe food and better working conditions; and help spread the issues by inviting a representative from the HHIC-PIWU to speak in the community, schools or gatherings.

Meanwhile, as the registration of workers’ union at HANJIN was being prevented due to the appeal of management, the workers continue to organize themselves and ensured immediate services such as medical aid for accidents, legal services and medico-legal assistance.  After a workers’ forum conducted with the Social Action of Diocese of Iba, workers shared their stories and experiences inside HANJIN, and it was reported that the management and Korean supervisors have lessened their abuses but still punishing in other ways.  The general manager of HANJIN reportedly did not want the Union to be formed, but they were willing to dialogue with the workers.

The Church should accompany HANJIN workers in their struggle, to ensure that management comply with the safety standards and treat the workers with respect.  In a call for support and solidarity with HANJIN workers <http://nassa.org.ph/?p=153> dated 29 October 2010, signed by Most Rev. Broderick S. Pabillo, Chairperson of CBCP-NASSA, together with the representatives of Social Action Center of Zambales and UM-AMRSP, all peace-loving Filipinos and advocates for justice are urged to support HANJIN workers for a humane treatment and safe working environment, accountability from government officials, and demand HANJIN to observe and respect Philippine laws.  Advocates for justice and peace are invited to:

  • Call upon the new Administration of President Aquino to review the investment contract of HANJIN;
  • Demand DOLE, Commission on Human Rights and Labour Committees of the Senate and House of Representatives to guarantee safe working conditions and;
  • Demand that HANJIN take full responsibility and be accountable for the accidents, injuries and deaths of workers and pay appropriate compensation due to the workers and their families.

UM-AMRSP has issued a fact sheet on the HANJIN issue at its August 2010 newsletter.  Please contact <um77amrsp@yahoo.com> for a copy or for more details.  More information on the Church groups’ view on the issue can be found in the abovementioned “Call for support” which has suggested addresses to send appeal letters to.

Sources: Sr. Mapet from National Secretariat for Social Action of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP-NASSA) and Lourdes from Urban Missionaries of the Association of Major Religious Superiors of the Philippines (UM-AMRSP)


Singapore

Think Centre’s submission to UPR of Singapore

The first Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of Singapore to the United Nations (UN) Human Rights Council (HRC) is scheduled for May 2011.  In November 2010, Think Centre, a non-government organization in Singapore, made a submission of stakeholder’s information to the UPR of Singapore, comprising of two independent reports: a singular stakeholder submission and a joint submission incorporating national consultation input from other civil society stakeholders.  The aim is to enhance protection and enjoyment of human rights and democracy.

In the process, Think Centre coordinated civil society consultations that provided space for concerned individuals and NGOs to share their views on human rights issues and recommendations.  Other information was drawn from public sources such as news articles, court rulings, relevant socio-political blogs, and official web sites of political parties.

The reports highlighted areas where the government needs to remedy well-documented human rights problems and ensure compliance with the international human rights standards.  The reports also called for full recognition and fulfillment of Singapore’s obligation under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), especially Conventions that Singapore has ratified.

Key recommendations include:

  • Review and repeal outdated legislations and clauses in legislations that curtail fundamental freedoms;
  • Stop and abolish the practice of cruel, inhumane, or degrading punishment, such as mandatory caning and death penalty;
  • Convene an independent national human rights Institution that includes independent thematic experts and commissioners; and
  • Ensure that all workers including migrant workers are entitled to the same rights as the local workers with no discrimination.

The UPR submissions are available at the Think Centre’s web site: <http://www.thinkcentre.org/article.cfm?ArticleID=3063>.

Source: Think Centre - Singapore


Sri Lanka

Testimony Therapy for the Holistic Wellness of Our Ex-Prison Survivors and their Families

Here are some highlights of “Testimony Therapy for the Holistic Wellness of Our Ex-Prison Survivors and their Families” organized by the Human Rights Office – Kandy.

The second Ceremonial delivery of testimonies for the year 2010 took place on the 27 November 2010.  Around 60 participants, including some of the survivors who have already gone through the process of testimony therapy, took part in the celebration, with the Vicar-General of the Diocese of Kandy, Very Rev. Fr. Milroy Fonseka.  There were 6 religious as well, and Paul McAdams and Bing of Equitas Canada were the guests-of-honor.

Fr. Nandana shared his vision and his experiences of the prison ministry encouraged the survivors and their families, and pledged his support. The climax was when all the participants greeted the survivors and their family members. It was a touching moment, when the earlier survivors met and greeted the new survivors.  An atmosphere of celebration prevailed, while joyful songs were played.  The participants commended the survivors for their steadfastness and courage, and assured them of their continued support. Visuals were then presented on the prison activities of the Human Rights office.  The whole group shared refreshments together with the survivors. 

The survivors were welcomed with Pottu, highlighting its meaning “We are with you” and with a Bharatha Natiyam. Like many others, the survivors were innocent and living very ordinary lives with their families.  While the country is undergoing reconciliation after the 3-decades civil war, the ceremony with highlights of Tamil cultural rituals and elements became extraordinarily encouraging.

Different forms of art, like drama, singing and dancing, have well provided means to restore the participants from the painful memory.

For more news of Human Rights Office - Kandy, please visit: <http://hrokandy.blogspot.com>.

Source: Fr.Nandana from Human Rights Office - Kandy

 

3. Issues of Concern

JPW Theme: Minority Peoples

Some developments concerning religious and ethnic minorities in the Asia-Pacific region include the following. 

Indigenous Peoples - Australian

Aboriginal Australians in the Northern Territory of Australia have been subjected to special Government measures since 2007.  This Northern Territory Emergency Response (NTER) was initiated in response to a report on abuse and neglect of children in a number of remote Aboriginal communities in the Northern Territory.  The actions taken under the NTER have caused a lot of complaints from Aboriginal people.  For a time, e.g., the Racial Discrimination Act was suspended so that it could not be used to object to any of the NTER measures.  Many Aboriginal people are still expressing outrage and concern about the NTER and its effect on their communities today.

A Living Letters Team of the World Council of Churches visited a number of Aboriginal communities in the Northern Territory in September 2010.  They were deeply concerned by what they saw.  The Living Letters Team’s report on their visit has now been released and is available at <http://www.ncca.org.au/files/Natsiec/2495_LivingLettersReport_Beyond_Intervention_2010_f_lowres_r.pdf>

More information about the situation is also available at the web site of Concerned Australians at http://www.concernedaustralians.com.au/

Source: Peter Arndt from Justice and Peace Commission - Brisbane

Political Prisoners in West Papua

Since the Dutch ‘handover’ of West Papua to Indonesia in the 1960s, the indigenous Papuans have been subjected to systematic and violent repression of any political resistance to the takeover.  Despite West Papua being a resource-rich province, the indigenous Papuans’ social and economic situation is very poor.  A number of political activists in West Papua are currently in jail for peaceful protests.  One of them, Filep Karma is in jail for raising the Morning Star flag, a symbol of the independence movement in the province.

In October 2010, some disturbing video evidence of Indonesian soldiers torturing a West Papuan man was published on the internet.  West Papuan activists say that this is not an isolated incident.

You can find more information on the plight of political prisoners in West Papua and the recent torture case at many sites including that of the East Timor and Indonesia Action Network (ETAN) <http://etan.org/>, the West Papua Project of the Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies at the University of Sydney <http://sydney.edu.au/arts/peace_conflict/research/west_papua_project.shtml>, and the Australia West Papua Association Sydney (AWPA) <http://www.zulenet.com/awpa/>

Amnesty International USA is campaigning on behalf of prominent political prisoner, Filep Karma <http://www.amnestyusa.org/individuals-at-risk/priority-cases/indonesia-filep-karma/page.do?id=1101238>, and Brisbane’s Catholic Justice and Peace Commission has recently launched a letter writing campaign urging the Australian Government to pressure Indonesia to release political prisoners in West Papua and to end the violent repression of peaceful political activity <http://cjpcbrisbane.wordpress.com/>.

Source: Peter Arndt from Justice and Peace Commission – Brisbane

 

JPW Theme: Cluster Bombs/ Landmines

Signing the Convention on Cluster Munitions (Cambodia and Thailand)

The reported use of cluster munitions or bombs in the recent renewed hostilities along the border of Cambodia and Thailand is quite disturbing.  While both sides alleged that the other was launching or attacking with cluster bombs, they also denied such charges.  So far both sides denied having them at all.  

The Convention on Cluster Munitions currently has 108 signatories, being ratified by 48 states and became an international law for the States parties when it entered into force on 1 August 2010.  However, neither Thailand nor Cambodia has signed it.

This is surprising for Cambodia as it was heavily bombarded with cluster munitions during the Vietnam War, and Cambodia was a prominent and influential supporter of the Oslo Process that produced the Convention. 

The Landmine & Cluster Munition Monitor web site explained that there is a direct link between the failure to sign the convention and tensions with Thailand over Cambodia’s application for United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization’s (UNESCO) world heritage status for the site of Preah Vihear. 

Signing the convention also requires that parties “destroy their stockpile of cluster munitions within 8 years of entry into force” of the convention.

All weapons of war bring horror, and are dangerous to civilian populations.  After they are dropped from the mortars, they are designed to break open in mid-air, releasing bomblets over a wide area.  Some of these are mistaken for toys by children.  They often remain deadly and undetected for many years.  The Cambodian Mine Action Centre states there may be as many as six million mines still laid in Cambodian fields and small villages.

Thailand and Cambodia officially have prohibited landmines as signatories to the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty, and both should follow-up on that action by signing and ratifying the Convention on Cluster Munitions. 

Source: Bangkok Post <http://www.bangkokpost.com/news/local/222513/sign-convention-on-cluster-munitions>

 

JPW Theme: Women in Crisis

Cambodia as the 100th Country to Ratify the Optional Protocol to CEDAW

Women are commonly found to be vulnerable to human rights violation, especially in Asia, due to cultural reasons and social changes.  In the Justice and Peace Workers (JPW) Meeting  2010, “Women in Crisis” emerged as one of the major concerns among the participants.

It is encouraging that Cambodia, where the JPW Meeting 2010 was held, has become the 100th country to ratify a key international treaty that allows women who have been denied their rights in their own countries to have their claims reviewed directly by a UN committee of independent experts: the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW).

"Rights, also women's rights, without legal tools to make them a reality, can easily become mere illusions," said Cees Flinterman, Chairperson of the Working Group on communications under the Optional Protocol. "Therefore it is so important that States parties to the Convention provide for remedies, not only at the domestic level, but also at the international level.”

Although it is still a challenging work to ensure justice and human rights for women, this advancement of protection mechanism at international level will be a useful tool to resolve women in crisis.

Sources: Sr. Sutisa from Good Shepherd Sister and Office of High Commissioner for Human Rights

 

4. Listen to the People

Pope Benedict XVI's World Day of Peace Message 2011

The theme of this year's World Day of Peace is religious freedom. In his message, the Pope explains why religious freedom is essential for the individual human person and for the common good and expresses his sadness at the persecution, intolerance and violence experienced by various religious minorities. He mentions, in particular, the Church in Iraq where a number of violent attacks on churches took place towards the end of last year. The Message is at <http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/benedict_xvi/messages/peace/documents/hf_ben-xvi_mes_20101208_xliv-world-day-peace_en.html>

The World Council of Churches' Commission of the Churches on International Affairs has also recently adopted religious freedom as one of its four focus themes. The working group in this area will particularly focus on Church-State relations and inter-religious dialogue. See <http://www.oikoumene.org/index.php?RDCT=aa6571bf994ba6843269>.

Source: Peter Arndt from Justice and Peace Commission - Brisbane

Bishop Tong calls on Beijing to free activists (Hong Kong)

In his Christmas message in 2010, Bishop John Tong of the Hong Kong Catholic Diocese, urged for the release of jailed dissidents, Liu Xiaobo and Zhao Lianhai, likening them to the shining star that led three wise men to Jesus in Bethlehem, and prayed that they will soon be set free.

Liu, the Nobel peace laureate, is currently in prison for promoting human rights and Zhao, for uncovering truth about the tainted-milk scandal.

Bp. Tong also spoke up for civil rights and freedom of religion, saying they are a prerequisite to China enhancing its international reputation.

Although he previously steered clear of politics in his Christmas messages, this year he has touched on the sensitive Sino-Vatican relationship, saying that some mainland clergy were among the shining stars; these ¡§stars¡¨ include clergy from the underground Church who are behind bars for defending religious freedom, and clergy in the open Church who were forced to participate in a controversial Episcopal ordination of Fr. Joseph Guo by the state-backed Catholic Church on the mainland without the Vatican's approval as bishop of Changde, Hebei, and to a subsequent conference of mainland bishops.

In his Christmas Family Letter, Bp. Tong also spelled out his 4 dreams or challenge to all the faithful and wish for their realization in the upcoming Diocesan Year of the Laity:

1) To continue evangelization efforts,
2) to promote vocations,
3) to take care of faithful foreigners, and
4) to assume the role of bridge.

The Letter of Christmas Message can be found at:
http://www.catholic.org.hk/v2/en/message_bishop/y2010_xmas.html

Sources: South China Morning Post (SCMP), Sunday Examiner, Fides Service. <http://www.fides.org/aree/news/newsdet.php?idnews=28054&lan=eng>

 

Sharing on New National Education Policy (Pakistan)

Executive Secretary of National Commission for Justice and Peace (NCJP) - Pakistan, Peter Jacob, shared his comments in the Daily Times, November 2010 on the new National Education Policy (NEP) 2009 that brought attention to many vital questions.

Since 1947 there have been 5 national education policies, one plan, half a dozen official policy reviews, and a number of educational conferences, but education still failed to reach benchmarks or policy goals of mass literacy and education standards. The second education policy in 1972 brought a drastic and adverse change in the quality and content of the syllabus which was a reversal to ideals of emphasizing teaching ethics to all students versus making religion part of public education.

In 1976, Islamic studies became a compulsory subject at all school levels, after General Zia amended Article 31 of the Constitution. For non-Muslim students, this policy disregarded Article 22 of the Constitution which prohibited teaching religion other than one's own.

While the subject of ethics was introduced for non-Muslims, there were many difficulties: most feared discrimination and a large majority ¡V around 1 million in 2010 ¡V were obliged to take Islamic Studies for grades. Moreover, there was unavailability of teachers and textbooks on ethics because publishers were not ready to risk their investment. As teaching Islamic Studies requires scripture to be carried in the school bag of students, there was also potential risk of abuse of blasphemy laws in schools, where non-Muslim students face injustices after allegations.

While enhancing the scope of teaching religion by providing Islamic Studies as an elective subject for the higher classes, the NEP also provides for setting up a Madrassa Education Authority under the Interior Ministry. However, it did not suggest any check on hate speech, distortions and religious discrimination in the education scheme and curriculum.

The substance of education should be a concern of all stakeholders. Pakistan needs to move from religion-centered education to values and civic education, from fake education to quality education. A quality education would be hard to achieve and growing intolerance, would be hard to tackle without a bold and clearheaded intervention in improving the curriculum for schools, colleges and universities.

If the government does not have the means and strength to keep religion apart from education, an option lies in accommodating religious diversity. Students belonging to other faiths should be allowed to learn their own religions. This might help the school environment by making a practical example of diverse traditions coexisting at least in the school atmosphere and the education policy and curriculums will acknowledge the existence of multi-religious traditions in Pakistan.

Source: Daily Times (http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2010\11\27\story_27-11-2010_pg3_5)

 

Resumption of Peace Talks (Philippines)

The news about the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) resuming peace talks during the 20th formal exploratory talks on 9-10 February 2011 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, was a good sign and opportunity to end the hostilities that have impeded the country's development.

To support the government's peace initiatives and to encourage public interest in the peace talk, the members of the civil society have launched series of activities, including the Candle Lighting for Peace on 8 February 2011.

In the joint statement released on 10 February 2011, the Peace Negotiating Panels of both sides reviewed and amended the Terms of Reference <http://www.scribd.com/doc/41958436/IMT-Terms-of-Reference> for the International Monitoring Team (IMT) by 12 months, to monitor ceasefire, humanitarian, rehabilitation, development and civilian protection agreements. Both have also renewed their commitment to continue efforts in the Ad Hoc Joint Action Group (AHJAG) for 12 months, reaffirming joint efforts against criminal elements.

The proceedings include presentation of results of consultations by the MILF panel and issues related to Commander Ustadz Kato, who was believed to have created a new armed group in Central Mindanao; GPH discussion on positive actions on cases of 25 individuals claimed by the MILF as political detainees. The MILF also submitted a revised draft of the Comprehensive Compact on its position on the negotiation for recognizing the bangsamoro identity and relevant territory, for the government's review.

The Parties agreed to meet again on 29 - 30 March 2011.

Meanwhile, the Philippine government had also negotiated separately with the National Democratic Front (NDF) in the last week of February 2011 in Oslo, to end another long-running insurgency.

The Statement is available at: http://www.gov.ph/2011/02/10/gph-milf-joint-statement-on-formal-exploratory-talks-on-february-9-10-2011/

Sources: The government Gazette, Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process <http://www.opapp.gov.ph/news.php?id=297> and Statement of GPH Chief Negotiator Marvic Leonen regarding the 20th Formal Exploratory talks with the MILF


Think Centre's International Human Rights Day Message (Singapore)

Kong Soon Tan, President of Think Centre (TC) in Singapore announced an ¡¥International Human Rights Day Message¡¦ on 10 December 2010 to celebrate International Human Rights Day. The message aspired Singapore to be a human right respected country, hoping that human rights would be respected, promoted and protected in the future.

Kong pointed out that human rights and democracy were interlinked and interdependent. Only a democratic culture would cultivate and enable the development of basic human rights in a society which was necessary for Singapore and the ASEAN countries.

Think Centre also demanded the Singapore government for:

  • Minimum wage;

  • Freedom of expression;

  • Fair judicial sentence;

  • Review and repeal of the discriminatory policies (such as the ethnic housing quota); and

  • Abolishment of the death penalty, corporal punishment and Internal Security Act.

Source: Think Centre <http://www.thinkcentre.org/article.cfm?ArticleID=3066>

 

5. Justice and Peace Resources

Report on Tamils and Muslims in Sri Lanka (Sri Lanka)

Minority Rights Group International (MRG) has released a report indicating that human rights violations, repression and marginalisation continue to occur for Tamils and Muslims in Sri Lanka following the civil war which ended in May 2009. A link to the report titled No War, No Peace: The Denial of Minority Rights and Justice in Sri Lanka can be found on http://www.minorityrights.org/10458/reports/no-war-no-peace-the-denial-of-minority-rights-and-justice-in-sri-lanka.html

Source: Peter Arndt (Minorities Peoples Group from JPW 2010)


Book on Social Teaching of Pope John Paul II by CBCI-JPD

Book Release.JPG

"Social Teaching of John Paul II - Commemorating His Pastoral Visit to India in 1986" was released on 4 February 2011 in India during a symposium on the "Teachings of Pope John Paul II" organised by the Catholic Bishops' Conference of India Office for Justice, Peace and Development (CBCI-JPD). This book was published by the CBCI-JPD and was authored by its Executive Secretary, Fr. Charles Irudayam.

JPD office member, Bishop Gerald Almeida of Jabalpur, while presenting the book, highlighted the contribution of Pope John Paul II to Catholic social teaching. He described the book as a valuable tool for understanding Pope John Paul II's social teaching.

Fr. Soosai Arockiasamy, Professor of Moral Theology in Vidyajyoti, New Delhi, called the book as a practical guide beneficial to church leaders and students of theology. He said the book was a source of inspiration to an authentic living out of the social content of the gospel in the local churches as embodied in the life of Pope John Paul II.

Source: National Commission for Justice, Peace and Development of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of India (CBCI-NCJPD).


Chinese Translation of Compendium of the Social Doctrine

The Chinese version of the Compendium of the Social Teaching of the Church was launched in Hong Kong on 20 March 2011.

The entire translation process, completed in accordance to the norms of Liturgical text translation, as required by the Congregation of Rites, took 6 years. Volunteers working on part-time basis were involved in translation, repeated revisions (no less than 8 times), consultation, editing, computer work, design, proof-reading, etc. To facilitate people's understanding, all technical terms are explained in a 'translator's note' the first time each appears. Even some non-religious terms need clarification, eg,. the terms anthropology and socialization. These Chinese terms may lead people to think of their social science definition, but they have a more specific meaning in social doctrine. Great care has been taken in translation for the people who never receive theology training may understand.

The Compendium sums up the Popes' social teachings during the past 120 years, except the latest 'Caritas in Veritate' but it is very complete and comprehensive enough to cover entirety of social life and detailed enough to allow people to grasp the nature, truth and principles of all the various social life aspects.

Part 1 deals with the nature of social doctrine and its major principles. Part 2 deals with various social life aspects of these principles (common good, subsidiarity, participation, solidarity and social values).

The Compendium is addressed to all people, Catholics, and those without fatih tradition. It teaches people how to live a Christian life on personal/ individual and social levels. It teaches family life/ value, attitude towards 'money' and material things, the meaning of work, charity and an environmentally-friendly. For Catholics who resent social involvements and care less of the Church's social teaching, ultimate cause is that of authentic Christian faith: something is lacking or distorted in their faith.

The Pontifical Justice and Peace Council offers the Compendium as a timely gift to all Christians and humanity. With the Chinese translation made available, it is the responsibility of Chinese Catholics to make this teaching known among Chinese population.

Source: Justice and Peace Commission of the Hong Kong Catholic Diocese


Tips for Reading CST Documents

As the anniversary of major Catholic Social Teaching (CST) documents approaches, we are challenged to re-read and reflect on their contribution to our understanding of social issues, but often times, we are unsure of how to approach the reading.

The Australian Jesuits have published a document on Tips for Reading Catholic Social Teaching Documents.

For example, we are to consider the context of when the document was written, but NOT judge as though they were written today; look for the purpose of writing the document, instead of assessing them in terms of the objectives they were not attempting to address. On the content, use quotes to illustrate the key points, NOT as "proof texts" to make a predetermined point.

The guide, prepared by Sandie Cornish (JPW participant in 1999 and 2001) is available at: http://www.faithdoingjustice.com.au/docs/TipsForReadingCSTDocuments.pdf

  • Source: Australian Jesuits <www.faithdoingjustice.com.au>


  • Short Courses by the Center for Peace and Conflict Studies (CPCS)

    The Center for Peace and Conflict Studies (CPCS) is offering the following short courses in Phnom Penh, Cambodia:

    1) Reflecting on Peace Practice (13 - 17 June 2011)
    2) Fundamentals for Peace and Conflict Work (8 - 13 August 2011)
    3) Intra-Organizational Conflict Management (13 - 15 October 2011)

    Reflecting on Peace Practice (RPP) is an experience-based learning process which aims to analyze experience at the individual program level across a broad range of contexts, with the goal to improve the effectiveness of international peace-building efforts.

    Fundamentals for Peace and Conflict Work (FPCW) is an introductory course for people who are working on the field of conflict and peace issues, and want to examine or deepen their individual commitment toward peaceful social change.

    Intra-Organizational Conflict Management uses recognized tools and frameworks for conflict transformation to organizations, looking at strategies for handling intra-organizational conflict especially leadership, communication and decision making styles.

    For more details, please visit: http://www.centrepeaceconflictstudies.org/courses/

    Fee: Each course costs US$500 per participant (includes hotel accommodation with breakfast, lunch, airport pick up, course materials and handouts. Travel expenses to and from the training are not included in this fee.)

    Those interested to attend the courses, kindly email to: bahtlatumbo@yahoo.com

    Source: Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies (CPCS)


    International Conference on the Family

    The fourth International Conference "In Defense of the Family: Family, Children and Culture", organized by Service and Research Institute on Family and Children (SERFAC) will be held on 16 - 20 June 2011, in Bangkok, Thailand.

    Families and children across the world face many challenges. These weaken the moral, spiritual, institutional and social fabric of society. These crises are manifested in increasing breakdown in marriage and family relationships, increasing feelings of meaninglessness, alienation, increasing violence and abuse of children, increasing incidences of mental illnesses, addiction, and delinquency and increasing rates of suicides especially among the young people.

    The International Conference aims at gathering sisters and brothers, to bless and encourage each other when they pray and work for the well being of families. Conference contains talks, workshops, and seminars. For more information please visit: www.defendfamily.org

    Deadline for application:

    10 May 2011 (for overseas applicants)
    30 May 2011 (for India applicants)

    To know more about SERFAC, please visit: www.serfactransnational.org

    Source: Service and Research Institute on Family and Children (SERFAC)

     

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