25 February 2007


The 25th March 2007 is the 200th anniversary of the abolition of the trans-Atlantic slave trade, an event that will be remembered in many countries around the world on that day.

Unfortunately a modern day form of slavery is still with us. Trafficking in people, particularly women and children, worth an estimated $7 billion per year on a global black market, is alive and well and increasing.

People Trafficking especially affects those who are vulnerable and poor and is happening now in almost every country in the world including Australia.

Stop the Traffik is a global campaign which aims to expose people trafficking and lead governments to action to address this problem.

Visit the above website to sign the declaration of support for the campaign.

For further information you can also visit the Good Shepherd Social Justice Network or the Anti-slavery websites.


The power of public opinion – particularly in an election year, has been clearly demonstrated in recent weeks in Australia with some signs of a softening of the government’s stance towards the ongoing imprisonment without trial of David Hicks.

Likewise after years of denial the Australian government has reluctantly acknowledged the reality of climate change and realised that it needs to appear to address the issue.

Both of these shifts can be attributed to an increased level of awareness and concern amongst members of the general public rather than to any principled policy position on the part of government.

Referring to the failure of the US government to provide leadership on a range of issues, NY Times columnist Bob Herbert recently noted that :-

"The most effective answer to this leadership vacuum would be a new era of political activism by ordinary citizens. The biggest, most far-reaching changes of the past century — the labor movement, the civil rights movement, the women’s movement — were not primarily the result of elective politics, but rather the hard work of committed citizen-activists fed up with the status quo. It’s time for thoughtful citizens to turn off their TVs and step into the public arena. Protest. Attend meetings. Circulate petitions. Run for office. I suspect the public right now is way ahead of the politicians when it comes to ideas about creating a more peaceful, more equitable, more intelligent society."

Hopefully these words and the signs already noted provide encouragement for readers of this bulletin to continue to take action for justice.

Get Up is an example of an issues-based grassroots movement whereby citizens can voice their concern about isues confronting our society. The growth in the number of people participating in Get Up campaigns is both a measure of the level of concern on these issues in the community and of the effectiveness of such campaigns.

Even if you have not acted on any of the issues raised in the past, now would be a good time to add your voice to those calling for change and to help build on the momentum that has currently been generated.


In a rare display of unity, representatives of thirty-six Christian churches in the United States including all mainline groups, Catholic, Protestant, Pentecostal/Evangelical, Orthodox and Racial/Ethnic, formally came together recently to issue a joint statement on poverty.

Christian Churches Together was formally launched after six years of conversation, fellowship, worship and prayer together.

"Our faith in Christ who is the truth compels us to confront the ignorance of and indifference to the scandal of widespread, persistent poverty in this rich nation. We must call this situation by its real names: moral failure, unacceptable injustice." the leaders of CCT declared, "We believe that a renewed commitment to overcome poverty is central to the mission of the church and essential to our unity in Christ."

Whilst the focus of CCT is on poverty within the United States, the call obviously resonates even more loudly at a global level. If the religious faith of individual Christians has any credibility at all it must lead to support for the calls such as that to Make Poverty History


The need for food is basic to our survival. Producing and distributing food is a central activity to our economy and environment.

The unequal distribution of food resources, whereby obesity can be a major concern in some parts of the world whilst much of the world’s population suffers from malnourishment, is an obvious issue of injustice that demands action.

In recent times other issues of concern in regard to food production have come to the fore, whether it be environmental concerns regarding the practices of fast food giants such as McDonalds, see the McSpotlight website, concerns about Genetically Modified Foods, see the New Scientist website, or the Ethical Treatment of Animals in food production see the PETA website, to name just three such issues.

The Sacred Foods Project is an interfaith effort to promote a greater understanding of how to grow, process and market food according to religious teachings and ethics.

9 February 2007


The major report issued by over 2000 scientists last week has effectively ended the debate about the reality of climate change. It is real, we have caused it and its impact will be catastrophic unless urgent action is taken.

Now that world leaders have (reluctantly in many cases) been forced to acknowledge the reality of the problem the first step towards finding a solution has been achieved, but the more difficult step on agreeing on what needs to be done has yet to be addressed.

A TV advertisement was launched on three continents this week (but not Australia) urging world leaders to ‘wake up ‘ to the impending disaster that threatens.

The advertisement can be viewed and an online petition signed at the AVAAZ website.

In the meantime the two major political parties in Australia sought to respond to public concerns on this issue. The Government announced a National Water Plan whereby it intended to take over the States’ powers in regard to water management in order to better co-ordinate the conservation of this precious resource, and the Opposition announced it would be convening a National Summit on Climate Change to forge a national consensus on how to respond to the crisis we face.

In other developments the Deputy Mayor of Sydney and Australian Greens’ candidate in the forthcoming local elections, Chris Harris, claimed that climate change could be significantly addressed by making Sydney a solar powered city by 2010. He pointed out that the technology is already in operation as 6.6 MW (soon to be 38 MW) of electricity at the Liddell Power station in NSW is currently generated using Solar Thermal power.

Nevertheless despite the obvious advantages of switching to solar power in Australia, the immediate prospects of that happening look bleak given the government’s preference for existing coal and nuclear options according to an article in the Sydney Morning Herald

You can find email addresses of your Parliamentary representatives to express your concerns on this issue at the website of the Parliament of Australia


The controversy over the continued treatment of David Hicks and calls for his release intensified following the foreshadowing of the new charges to be laid against him, forcing the Australian Prime Minister to acknowledge that public sentiment was shifting and that the case had not been handled well by the Americans.

In what appears to be a bizarre decision, Hicks is apparently to be charged with attempted murder, not because he actually attempted to harm anyone but because he would have done so if he had the opportunity.

Contrary to accepted legal practice, he can also be convicted on this charge based on evidence obtained by coercion and on hearsay testimony. Hicks will also not have the opportunity to challenge such testimony.

It is hardly surprising that few are convinced Hicks will receive a fair trial before the military commission , a view further reinforced by recent comments such as that made by the Officer in Charge of Guantanamo Bay who declared that there were no innocent detainees held in the facility – a claim that is supposedly to be tested in the hearing before the Commission.

You can participate in the campaigns calling for justice for David Hicks by visiting the Amnesty and Get-Up websites.

You can also join the novel and ever growing, online flotilla of protest demanding the closure of Guantanamo Bay.


The last remaining refugee held on Nauru as part of the so-called “Pacific Solution” was granted permission to live lawfully in Australia at the end of last month.

Muhammad Faisal (26) was detained on Nauru for five years after fleeing from Iraq because the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) made an adverse security finding against him.

No information was ever provided to Faisal or his fellow detainee Mohammed Sagar (who was recently accepted for resettlement in Scandinavia) as to the reasons for the security concerns. They had no access to evidence and could not challenge the findings.

During 2006, Faisal’s mental health had deteriorated to the point that he had to be hospitalized in Brisbane and early this year ASIO announced it had dropped its concerns against him.

The decision was welcomed by a spokesman for Amnesty International Australia who said “Offshore, remote and indefinite detention needs to be abolished. Security checks are necessary but clearly the system has failed and has gravely affected an individual's life,"


The announcement of the release of the last of the refugees held on Nauru coincided with the revelation reported in the "Melbourne Age" that $160 million spent on ‘migration management’ last year (mainly to imprison the two detainees on Nauru) came from Australia’s overseas aid budget.

The further revelations that $668 million of aid to Iraq was actually cancellation of interest owed by that country and the $235 million spent on peacekeeping in the Solomon Islands were recorded as aid showed that "Australians were being deceived into thinking their aid was increasing" according to Kate Wheen a co-director of AID/WATCH "If the public perception is that aid should alleviate poverty, then this is a massive deception about how our aid is being used” Ms Wheen added.

In the meantime two leading international Catholic development networks are targeting the world's richest and powerful countries with a campaign to "make aid work" which aims to ensure that international leaders meet promises to eliminate poverty in the world's poorest countries.

The Caritas Internationalis and International Cooperation for Development and Solidarity (CIDSE) networks yesterday launched the new campaign "Make Aid Work. The World Can't Wait" which aims to mobilise one billion Catholics to urge the world's most powerful leaders to keep promises made at the G8 Summit in Gleneagles in 2005.

In Australia the Make Poverty History website is running a campaign encouraging people to send an e-card to Federal parliamentarians asking them to do more to address global poverty in 2007 by allocating additional funding to overseas aid in the Federal budget.

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