23 May 2011
The HIV/AIDS pandemic is still a major health concern in the world with an estimated 33 million people currently living with the infection – 67% in sub-Saharan Africa where the Christian Brothers have made the liberation of oppressed youth from HIV/AIDS a major focus.
Children are often the forgotten victims of this pandemic. An estimated 800 children die of AIDS-related diseases each day. The evidence that treatment is very successful in children living with HIV is clear, yet significant obstacles remain to prevent hundreds of thousands of children from obtaining the care they need.
The Caritas campaign is targeting both governments and pharmaceutical companies to ask them to do more to prevent mother to child infection in the first place (the fact that it is virtually unheard of in the developed world indicates that it is preventable) and to develop and increase the availability of child-friendly medication to treat HIV.
Resource materials are currently being distributed to all Edmund Rice Schools around the world to enable them to participate in the campaign in the hope that schools who supported the campaign in the past will do so again with a new group of students, and that they will be joined by many more of the estimated quarter of a million students in Edmund Rice schools around the world.
Acting together the Edmund Rice Network has the potential to be a powerful force for justice.
The scientists called for urgent reduction of carbon dioxide emissions and reductions in methane and other pollutants that warm the air, and for improved observation of mountain glaciers to better track their changes.
"We appeal to all nations to develop and implement, without delay, effective and fair policies to reduce the causes and impacts of climate change on communities and ecosystems, including mountain glaciers and their watersheds, aware that we all live in the same home" the report said.
"We are committed to ensuring that all inhabitants of this planet receive their daily bread, fresh air to breathe and clean water to drink as we are aware that, if we want justice and peace, we must protect the habitat that sustains us."
The statement is consistent with previous Vatican statements and actions. In 2008, the Vatican installed photovoltaic cells on the roof of its main auditorium. A year later it installed a solar cooling unit for its main cafeteria. The Vatican has also joined a reforestation project aimed at offsetting its CO2 emissions.
At the same time according to the latest report from the Australian government Climate Commission "Global warming is real, man made, and could cause the world's sea level to rise a metre by the end of the century, much higher than previously thought". The report also warns that "the costs of not doing something about climate change will almost surely be far, far greater than the costs of doing something about it"
Despite the overwhelming scientific consensus in regard to the threat posed by climate change, enough people remain unconvinced or remain unwilling to accept the necessary changes to their lifestyle to persuade governments to act.
Yet as President Tong of Kiribati has said "We need to make sacrifices to provide a future for our children and grandchildren" and as leader of a country whose very existence is threatened by rising sea-levels he added "knowing what we do today, carrying on as business-as-usual is irresponsible and immoral. Failing to take action borders on an act of criminality."
In an article which appeared in a recent newsletter, it was pointed out that overwhelmingly asylum seekers arriving in Australia are genuine refugees and their relatively small numbers place little burden on the Australian tax-payer.
The article goes on to criticise both major parties "Sadly - despite these realities - the management of our nation's asylum policy is in the hands of an Opposition who repeatedly demonstrate they have no conscience in beating up the issues, and a Government who still show no back-bone to achieve the common-sense and compassionate management outlined in the policy platform which they taken to successive elections."
The comments were sparked by the recent announcement by the Australian government of a deal whereby 800 asylum seekers who arrive in Australia by boat will be transferred to Malaysia in return for resettling additional refugees from Malaysia over the next four years. The deal was also criticised by the Refugee Council of Australia for ignoring Malaysia’s record of mistreatment of asylum seekers and refugees, described as one "of the most inhumane refugee policies in Asia".
Speaking on behalf of the Australian Catholic Bishops the Australian Catholic Migration and Refugee Office has also renewed its call to end mandatory detention, citing serious mental health concerns about the impact of detention on vulnerable people. "Mandatory detention inflicts extreme suffering and frustration on already vulnerable people. We are all witnesses to the human cost of immigration detention. The government cannot deny that prolonged detention will likely result in instances of suicide. The fact that five asylum seekers in the last seven months have died, weighs heavily on the social conscience of Australia" the statement concluded.
During her six days in the country, Pillay will visit Darwin, Cairns, Sydney and Canberra. She is due to meet a number of parliamentarians and officials, including the Governor-General, the Prime Minister, the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, ministers dealing with indigenous affairs, immigration and citizenship, and the Attorney-General. She will also visit an immigration detention facility and meet with migrant communities and asylum seekers.
The UN human rights chief will focus broadly on the following issues: the legislative protection of human rights in Australia, discrimination against indigenous people, treatment of refugees and asylum seekers, as well as Australia’s international and regional policies with regards to human rights.
Postscript: The statement issued by the High Commissioner for Human Rights at the conclusion of her visit can be fond here