NEWS CENTRE

A TIME OF SADNESS – A CALL TO PRAYER

A call for prayer and concern that goes beyond personal grief.

On Saturday, October 24, in the town of Chinchilla, Southern Queensland, a funeral service will be held for farmer, George Bender. Some of you may have heard of George through media reports in the past week. Sadly George took his own life, seemingly no longer able to cope with the unrelenting burden which the Coal Seam Gas industry had imposed upon him. For some time, CSG companies sought to gain access to George’s land and he had fought a courageous and tireless campaign to keep them off his property.
 
On Monday and Tuesday of this past week, a visit to the region had been organised on behalf of the Sisters of Mercy. Sr Aine O’Connor rsm (Mercy Global Action coordinator at the United Nations) and Sr Denise Boyle fmdm (Mercy Global Action), Dr Mark Copland and Sr Deidre Gardner (Social Justice Commission in the Diocese of Toowoomba),  along with Sr Margaret Endicott rsm (ISMAPNG Mission Team) planned to visit Chinchilla to meet with some of the farming families and to see first-hand the impact of Coal Seam Gas on the land, water, air, health and life of the local community. Many months ago when they organised the visit, they had no idea that the week before they were due to be in this region, one of the leading farmers would take his life.
 
As part of the visit, a public meeting had been organised as well as a tour of some of the properties. Following this tragedy, the local community requested the visit still go ahead. Ahead of the public meeting, the Bender family released a media statement (which can be viewed at http://www.queenslandcountrylife.com.au/story/3434983/bender-family-statement/) and were present at the gathering which included memorial prayers led by local Uniting and Catholic clergy, followed by a presentation from Aine O’Connor. George’s wife, Pam asked for the prayers of the sisters during this time and especially on the day of George’s funeral.
 
In responding to her request, I would ask you to please pray for the Bender family, as well as the people of Chinchilla who have been working tirelessly for the protection of the land, water, air and community health. Please also pray that this tragedy is a wakeup call and an imperative to our governments to seek for the just and correct way forward in regard to this critical issue.
 
 
Sr Berneice Loch – Institute Leader
Institute of Sisters of Mercy of Australia and Papua New Guinea

Photo: Pandora Karavan