NEWS CENTRE

Justice: reflecting on 2009

At the end of each year it is a common practice to look over the year that has been and note the highlights, the joys, the concerns and the achievements. The Institute Justice Network has made a very significant contribution to society in raising matters of injustice and calling for change during 2009.

The Institute Justice Core Group (Karon Donnellon, Faith Jones, Pat Lynch, Celestine Pooley, Carmel Heagerty) acknowledges the great work of all members of the Institute Justice Network and thanks them most sincerely for their commitment.

Specific Issues Committee Members in 2009:
Asylum Seekers and Refugees: Helen Owens, Geraldine Mugavin, Rosarii O’Connor 
Eco-Justice: Claudette Cusack, Mary Dennett, Marie Farrell, Kate McGrath
Indigenous Concerns: Rose Glennen, Anne McGuire, Daphne McKeough, Moira Truelson
Women and Poverty: Sally Bradley, Leonie Crotty, Angela Reed, Anne Ryan
Mercy Global Concern participants: Margaret Adams, Christina Aitken, Marie Butcher, Marg Hinchey, Pat Linnane, Carole McDonald, Carmel McDonough and Cathy Solano
Institute Justice Conference Committee: Sally Bradley, Claudette Cusack, Carmel Heagerty, Ann-Marie Herd, Angela Reed, Paula Sgherza

During 2009, the members of the Institute Justice Network have contributed almost 50 articles to Mercy M@tters, which included over 40 calls for action. Primarily, the articles have focused on the Institute’s four specific issues of Asylum Seekers and Refugees, Eco-Justice, Indigenous Concerns and Women and Poverty.

As you read the following snippets from various articles in Mercy M@tters 2009, consider the people struggling with the injustice, their own actions for change, and then reflect on your own response and action taken during the year or your plans for action in the future.

INDIGENOUS CONCERNS
As we approach the first anniversary of the Apology to the Stolen Generations… What action have you taken since the apology to gain a greater understanding of the complexity of the issues?

The Northern Territory Intervention… Using the “See, Judge and Act” framework we might ask:

  • “Is there anything you/we can do, no matter how small, to improve the situation?”
  • “Is there anyone we can influence to improve things?”
  • “What action can we take?”

An issue as complex as this requires our attention as it is having a profound affect on our brothers and sisters. Let’s not put our Indigenous brothers and sisters in the “too hard basket!”

Reconciliation: Are we there yet? How far have we progressed towards reconciliation, both personally, and as a nation? Reconciliation has been “on the agenda” and in our national discourse now for well over a decade. But how far have we come, personally, and as a nation?

It is not easy being black and living in the Northern Territory in spite of the fact that over 30% of the population is Indigenous. Discrimination is often practiced, though people would say it is not. The tyranny of distance is ever-present in terms of access to many services we take for granted and travel is both difficult and expensive. CatholicCare NT held the “Inaugural Northern Territory Strong Families Award Ceremony”.

WOMEN AND POVERTY
Women, the global financial crisis and fair trade
Notwithstanding the current financial crisis and recession, women worldwide bear a disproportionate burden of the world’s poverty and are trapped in complex financial situations. In Papua New Guinea, 80% of food is produced by women. Poverty in Timor-Leste continues at alarming rates and female prostitution is becoming an increasingly accepted way of supporting financial needs.

The projects of Mercy Works Inc. and its various undertakings remain high priority for the Sisters of Mercy in these two countries. The programmes engage in partnerships with communities to promote justice, self-reliance and to support displaced people and communities who are denied access to basic resources such as education, health care and social welfare. Become informed about Fair Trade practices and help stop exploitation of people.

In Africa, “Poverty Has a Female Face”
…a powerful and an inspirational experience for me. I will always hold vivid pictures and images in my mind and heart, some of them disturbing. One such image is the project called Mukuru Promotion Centre on the edge of the Nairobi slums. I found it both a shocking and a confronting place.

Causes and effects of such poverty are manifold:
A culture of corruption is pervasive throughout Kenya…
The effects of climate change in Kenya are severe. The destruction of the Mau Forest has caused rivers to dry up and people walk many miles per day seeking water. Consequently crops have failed and famine is severe in the arid parts of the country.
HIV-AIDS continues to wreak havoc in families.
Maternal and child mortality rates are high.
Life expectancy is short compared with that in developed countries.
Violence: Violent crime, child abuse, and domestic violence are common phenomena in Nairobi.

ASYLUM SEEKERS AND REFUGEES
“The only reason a refugee leaves his country is to stay alive, to be safe. That is all.”

Question: What is the personal cost to a refugee?
Answer: Bewilderment, fear, uncertainty, isolation…
Question: What can I offer to a refugee?
Answer: ???

Who are the refugees around our area?
How involved are we in the issues that occur each day?

The situation faced by people escaping their homeland
Refugee Council of Australia, August 2008: Australia’s new prison-like immigration detention centre on Christmas Island… shocked by the scale of the security measures, with wire, caging, security grills and surveillance equipment throughout the complex… The new detention centre at North West Cape, which can accommodate 400 people (or 800 at “surge capacity”)

ECO-JUSTICE
World Environment Day look to a just, safer and more prosperous future for humanity, and any action, no matter how small, can contribute to the sustainable development of economies and communities around the world.

Actions For The Planet
Give yourself a cheer if you…

  • Used a carry bag for shopping.
  • Switched off appliances at the power source.
  • Recycled as much as possible.
  • Install energy saving light bulbs.
  • Use a clothes line, solar power, instead of clothes dryer to dry the washing.
  • Mulch plants well, add compost to your soil, consider drought tolerant plants and grow some herbs and vegetables.
  • Use public transport instead of your car at least once a week if you can.
  • Eat locally! Try shopping at a local butcher, fruit shop or bakery instead of doing all the shopping at a large supermarket. Why? Because food from supermarkets has often been transported thousands of miles to the detriment of the environment.

Remember that if each person acts change will happen.

“The water crisis is perhaps the most urgent ecological and human threat of our time and the first – and perhaps the most devastating – face of climate change. More children die each year of water-borne disease than from war, HIV-AIDS and traffic accidents combined… the global crisis is getting worse by the day and threatening millions more people every year. One of the fiercest disputes in the world is who gets to make allocation decisions over the world’s dwindling water supply."

Will we allow the creation of “water banks” where water is traded on the open market to those who can pay? Who will protect the needs of those who cannot? … everyone has the right to clean safe water regardless of ability to pay.

Numerous challenges were presented by the keynote speakers and delegates at the Mercy Justice Conference. A number of petitions and letters to politicians were circulated during and after the conference. An ongoing question for each of us is: "What does it mean to embrace the other…welcome difference?"

While there is constant progress and a great sense of hope, there continues to be much work ahead… let us take time to look again at what we are doing personally to build our understanding and develop respect to underpin our action. How am I responding to the call of the Gospel? There are hopes for a better world for all and the dream for humanity. What is your dream for our future? Who will bring it to reality?

As we ponder these reflections and questions, let us continue to pray these prayers highlighted during the year.

PRAYER FOR SOCIAL JUSTICE
God of yesterday, today and tomorrow…
Help us to recognise and respect values, culture and traditions of all people,
So that we can co-exist in peace and love and celebrate our diversity. (Source: ACSJC)

BLESSING
God bless our eyes, that we may recognise injustice.
God bless our ears, that we may hear the cry of the stranger.
God bless our mouths, that we may speak words of welcome to newcomers.
God bless our shoulders, that we may bear the weight of struggling for justice.
God bless our hands, that we may work together with all people to establish peace. .
God bless our hearts, that we may be transformed into witnesses of truth, justice and love.
(Source: Working Parties of SA Council of Churches)

Contact: Carmel Heagerty RSM, Institute Justice Co-ordinator
Email: Institute.Justice@mercy.org.au