Every year Pax Christi members around the country commemorate the anniversaries of Hiroshima and Nagasaki on the 6th & 9th August. This year is even more important as we mark the 70th anniversary of the first use of nuclear weapons and mourn that they are still with us – 70 Years on!
In 1945 the death toll in Hiroshima was estimated at between 100,000 – 180,000 and in Nagasaki between 50,000 and 100,000. 70 years on and nine countries, including the UK, possess more than 17,000 nuclear weapons. Trident, the UK weapons programme, is eight times more powerful than the atomic bomb that was dropped on Hiroshima.
Pat Gaffney, General Secretary of Pax Christi, says: “This is an ideal time to engage people in thinking about the reality of nuclear weapons today. Tragically, they have not been confined to the history books: they are still with us and as Christians we should be doing all we can to ensure that our Government does not renew its commitment to Trident, Britain’s nuclear weapons programme, in 2016. Pope Francis has reminded us that spending on nuclear weapons squanders the wealth of nations and that resources would be better invested in the areas of integral human development and the fight against poverty.”
This year Pax Christi members in London, Liverpool, Coventry and Kent will hold vigils and run information stalls on the anniversaries of the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
In London, a stall and times of prayer will be held outside Westminster Cathedral on 6th August between 10.00 am – 5.00pm and on 9th August between 1.30 pm and 5.00pm. In addition, the Pax Christi ICON of Peace will be on display in St Patrick’s Chapel, Westminster Cathedral, for private prayer and reflection for peace, between 3rd and 17th August.
In Liverpool there will be a stall and display in the Metropolitan Cathedral between 10.30am and 3.00pm on 6th and 9th August.
In Coventry, the Annual Hiroshima Vigil will be held in the Chapel of Unity at Coventry Cathedral at 6.00pm on 6th August. In Aylesford Priory, Kent, a vigil will be held in the Choir Chapel from 8.20pm on 6th August.
You can find resources to help you plan your own Hiroshma or Nagasaki event here
In what many believe is a first in U.S. history, Congress has decided to give away a sacred Native American site to a massive foreign mining company. (1) We’re joining a last ditch effort to save this land before copper mining begins and this land is irreversibly destroyed.
Republicans in Arizona have been attempting for years to trade away the beautiful national forest lands at Oak Flat in Arizona, which are considered holy by the Apache tribe. And until recently, they’ve failed for lack of support. But last December, in a deeply cynical and undemocratic move, Senators John McCain and Jeff Flake snuck last minute language into a must-pass defense bill transferring the land directly to the Rio Tinto mining company. (2)
Apache tribal leaders are planning a caravan to Washington, D.C. this month to protest this outrageous land giveaway. We’re joining thousands of activists to help amplify their message and pressure Congress to stop the Apache land grab.
Sign the petition: Stop the Apache land grab and protect Native American holy land from copper mining.
The Magna Carta of integral ecology: Cry of the Earth, Cry of the poor
By Leonardo Boff, theologist and ecologist
Before making any comment it is worth highlighting some peculiarities of the Laudato Si’ encyclical of Pope Francis.
It is the first time a Pope has addressed the issue of ecology in the sense of an integral ecology (as it goes beyond the environment) in such a complete way. Big surprise: he elaborates the subject on the new ecological paradigm, which no official document of the UN has done so far.
He bases his writing on the safest data from the life sciences and Earth. He reads the data affectionately (with a sensitive or cordial intelligence), as he discerns that behind them hides human tragedy and suffering, and for Mother Earth as. The current situation is serious, but Pope Francis always finds reasons for hope and trust that human beings can find viable solutions. He links to the Popes who preceded him, John Paul II and Benedict XVI, quoting them frequently.
And something absolutely new: the text is part of collegiality, as it values the contributions of dozens of bishops’ conferences around the world, from the US to Germany, Brazil, Patagonia-Comahue, and Paraguay. He gathers the contributions of other thinkers, such as Catholics Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, Romano Guardini, Dante Alighieri, the Argentinian maestro Juan Carlos Scannone, Protestant Paul Ricoeur and the Sufi Muslim Ali Al-Khawwas. The recipients are all of us human beings, we are all inhabitants of the same common home (commonly used term by the Pope) and suffer the same threats.
Pope Francis does not write as a Master or Doctor of faith, but as a zealous pastor who cares for the common home of all beings, not just humans, that inhabit it.
One element deserves to be highlighted, as it reveals the “forma mentis” (the way he organizes his thinking) of Pope Francis. This is a contribution of the pastoral and theological experience of Latin American churches in the light of the documents of Latin American Bishops (CELAM) in Medellin (1968), Puebla (1979) and Aparecida (2007), that were an option for the poor against poverty and in favor of liberation. Continue reading ARTICLE BY LEONARDO BOFF ON THE POPE’S ENCYCLICAL→
UNITED NATIONS, Jul 14 2015 (IPS) – Whether in Palestine, Ukraine or Somalia, wars result in millions of children threatened by the brutality of armed conflict.
The numbers speak for themselves: more than 300,000 child soldiers are currently exploited in situations of armed conflict and six million children have been severely injured or permanently disabled, according to UNICEF.
The past year was one of the worst ever for children affected by armed conflict due the alarming rise in abductions, especially mass abductions, of children and adults in Nigeria, Iraq, Syria and South Sudan.
Likewise, an estimated 20 million children are living as refugees in neighbouring countries or are internally displaced within their own national borders as a result of conflict and human rights violations.
And the U.N. Secretary General’s most recent report, published on June 5, shows that in too many countries, the situation for children is getting worse, not better.
“There is still room at the individual agency level to strengthen safeguards towards prevention of child rights violations,” Dragica Mikavica, advocacy officer of Watchlist, a network of international non-governmental organisations, told IPS.
“For instance, more recently, Watchlist has been lobbying for the U.N.’s Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) to develop a policy that would ban states placed on the Secretary-General’s ‘list of shame’ from contributing troops to peacekeeping forces in other countries,” she added.
Jo Becker, Children’s Rights Advocacy Director of Human Rights Watch, agrees that the U.N. could better protect children from armed conflict in several ways.
“When governments or armed groups refuse to agree to such steps and continue abuses, the Security Council could be much more aggressive in imposing targeted sanctions, such as arms embargoes, or travel bans and asset freezes on the leaders of such groups,” she told IPS.
“The SC should also refer such cases to the International Criminal Court for investigation and possible prosecution,” she added.
The past year was one of the worst ever for children affected by armed conflict due the alarming rise in abductions, especially mass abductions, of children and adults in Nigeria, Iraq, Syria and South Sudan.
In addition to kidnappings, thousands of children were killed last year in different parts of the world.
In Iraq, for example, 2014 was the deadliest year for children since the U.N. first started systematically documenting violations against children in 2008, with nearly 700 children killed and almost 1,300 abducted – and these are only the recorded cases.
Likewise, in Palestine, the number of children killed by Israeli forces jumped to 557, more than the number killed in the last two military operations there combined.
In order to step up the fight against this violence, the U.N. Security Council unanimously adopted on June 18 Resolution 2225, which strengthens the international community’s mobilisation in support of children in armed conflict and condemns their abduction.
The resolution, tabled by Malaysia and sponsored by 56 member states, added abductions as the fifth violation that can trigger a listing of a party to the conflict to the Secretary-General’s “list of shame.”
This list facilitates greater monitoring of abductions and ensures that parties which engage in this particular crime are included on it. Once listed, the U.N. is able to engage the listed parties in negotiating action plans to stop this and other violations from occurring.
The vast majority of these abductions are carried out by non-state groups, including terrorist organisations such as Boko Haram and ISIS, which see mass kidnapping as a shining symbol of success.
Raising the profile of the abduction of children at the highest level – such as in form of a Security Council resolution – also endows child protection actors with greater capacity to advocate for response surrounding this egregious violation.
However, as UNICEF Deputy Executive Director Yoka Brandt argues, abduction is often only the first in a series of grave violations, followed by sexual assault and rape, indoctrination, recruitment as child soldiers and murder.
“Each offence blights that child. It robs her of her childhood and threatens her ability to live a full and productive life,” she said in an open debate on Children and Armed Conflict at the Security Council on June 18.
Brandt also stressed the importance of providing critical support to children after their release so they can resume “normal life.”
“These children are victims and must be treated as such. They’re inevitably burdened by physical wounds and psychological scars,” she said.
Raising awareness remains a critical point in the battle against the brutality suffered by children in situations of armed conflict.
Social media has proven a valuable tool for raising the public profile of the atrocities committed against children, especially mass abductions in contexts like Nigeria, Syria and Iraq.
“Social media contributed to internal U.N. debates around abductions of children, as the world could not turn a blind eye on what was happening to children last year,” Mikavica told IPS.
“All of this resulted in concrete actions by the Council at the last Open Debate as seen through trigger expansion,” she added.
However, as Becker told IPS, it’s important to keep in mind that although social media has been exceptionally effective in raising awareness of mass abductions of children by Boko Haram and other armed groups, it’s just a tool, not a substitute for action, which remains the real challenge for the U.N. and other international organisations.
QUITO, ECUADOR Pope Francis has strongly reaffirmed his recent environmental encyclical letter Laudato Si’, telling students and teachers in a moving visit to the Catholic university here that ecological care can no longer be just a recommendation but a requirement.
In words many have been waiting for during the pontiff’s three-day visit to a country bordering the Amazon rainforest, Francis told those at the Pontifical Catholic University of Ecuador “one thing is clear.”
“We can no longer turn our backs on our reality, on our brothers and sisters, on mother earth,” the pope continued. “It is no longer licit for us to ignore what is happening to our surroundings as if certain situations did not exist or have nothing to do with our reality.”
“Again and again comes the strength of that question of God to Cain: ‘Where is your brother?'” he said. “I ask if our response continues to be: ‘Am I my brother’s keeper?'”
With such a strong reference to the Old Testament story of Cain’s slaying of his brother Abel, Francis appeared to be forcefully saying Tuesday that humanity is destroying the Earth but is not taking responsibility for the destruction.
The pontiff’s remarks may also carry special significance for many in Ecuador, where public debate has been sparked by President Rafael Correa’s plan to open resource mining in an internationally recognized nature reserve on the country’s eastern border with Peru.
In a meeting later Tuesday with members of Ecuadorian civil society, Francis touched upon the mining issued much more directly.
“Exploitation of natural resources, so abundant in Ecuador, must not seek immediate benefit,” he said at that meeting, held at Quito’s 16th-century Church of St. Francis.
“Being administrators of this richness we have received, we have an obligation towards society as a whole and towards future generations, to which we cannot hand down this heritage without a proper care of the environment,” he told those at that event.
The pope told the students and educators at the Catholic university that God gave humanity a mission by asking it to care for the environment.
“God does not only give us life: he gives us the Earth, creation,” Francis said. “He does not only give us a partner and endless possibilities: He also gives us an invitation; he gives us a mission.”
“He invites us to be part of his creative work and he says: ‘Cultivate! I am giving you seeds, soil, water and sun; I am giving you your hands and brothers and sisters,'” said the pontiff.
Creation, said Francis, “is a gift to be shared.”
“It is the space that God gives us to build up one another, to build an ‘us,'” said the pope. “The world, history, time — this is where we build the ‘us’ with God, the ‘us’ with others, the ‘us’ with the Earth.”
Francis, the first pope from the Americas, has been visiting Ecuador since Sunday as part of a weeklong sojourn that will also see him visit Bolivia and Paraguay.
Public reaction to the pontiff’s visit has been overwhelming, with two Masses celebrated by Francis Monday and Tuesday each attracting crowds of over a million people. Many have been camping out, or traveling extreme distances, to chance an in-person view of the pope.
Ecuadorian debate has focused on president Correa’s plan to allow mining operations in Yasuni National Park, a 2.5 million acre large nature preserve that has been called one of the most biologically diverse places on Earth and is also home to several uncontacted indigenous tribes.
Several local Catholic leaders said they had written letters to Francis, asking him to address the issue in his private meeting with Correa Monday afternoon.
Maribel León, an Ecuadorian who is the coordinator for missionary formation for the Quito archdiocese’s Pontifical Mission Societies, said the pope could point to his encyclical “to make our government understand that what [Correa] is doing to our environment is not positive.”
Correa, León said, is “taking our natural wealth, changing it for a financial wealth and eliminating the peoples’ living there.”
Francis told the civil society leaders Tuesday that the goods of the Earth “are meant for all and even though some might claim property, they are always under a social mortgage.”
“Thus the concept of economic justice, based on the principal of commerce, is superseded by the concept of social justice, which upholds the fundamental right of people to a dignified life,” he said.
With the educators and students Tuesday afternoon, Francis called on both groups to take specific actions to care for environment. He asked educators to teach students a critical sense to care for the world and students to use their studies to express solidarity with those less fortunate.
“It is urgent that we keep reflecting on and talking about our current situation,” the pope told all present. “We need to ask ourselves about the kind of culture we want not only for ourselves but for our children and our grandchildren.”
“We have received this earth as an inheritance, as a gift, in trust,” he continued “We would do well to ask ourselves: What do we want to leave behind? What meaning do we want to give to our lives? Why have we been put on this world? For what do we work and fight?”
“As a university, as educational institutions, as teachers and students, life challenges us to respond to the questions: ‘What does this world need us for?’ ‘Where is your brother?'” said Francis.
The pope also spoke with the members of civil society about how different types of people can work together.
“The respect for others which we learn in the family finds social expression in subsidiarity,” he told the leaders.
“Assuming that our choices are not necessarily the only legitimate ones is a healthy exercise in humility,” said Francis. “In acknowledging the goodness inherent in others, even with their limitations, we see the richness present in diversity and the value of complementarity.”
“Individuals and groups have the right to go their own way, even though they may sometimes make mistakes,” the pope said.
The pontiff is to meet on Wednesday morning with Ecuadorian clergy and religious before heading on to Bolivia.
By many accounts, Peru is doing well. Investments have poured into the mining and energy sectors thanks to government efforts to create a welcome environment for foreign capital. And while economic growth has tapered off in the last year, the average annual rate from 2010 to 2014 was an impressive 5.8 percent. The country’s poverty rate fell by half between 2000 and 2012, while themiddle class grew faster than that of any other country in Latin America. By drawing revenue from the mining and energy sectors, the government has increased spending on education to an unprecedented 3.5 percent of its GDP and has made some progress in reducing chronic child malnutrition.
In anticipation of the Summit of the European Union and the Community of Latin America and Caribbean States (EU-CELAC) this month, the EU-CELAC ambassador congratulated Peru for becoming a “stable and developing country” with “responsible macroeconomic policies.” She noted that over 50 percent of foreign investments in Peru now come from Europe while a substantial portion of Peru’s exports are sold to European countries. Peru’s progress in reducing poverty and childhood malnutrition was also touted as President Ollanta Humala signed the Schengen visa waiver agreement to ease travel restrictions to and from Europe for Peruvian citizens. The EU is one of Peru’s most important partners, as he expounded, and the two share “a common history in terms of culture.” The visa agreement is just one step in the plan to fortify that partnership.
Not Everyone Is Impressed
Back home, however, not everyone is so impressed by Peru’s developmental path. Throughout much of southern Peru and Cajamarca region in the north, farmers and community organizations have declared their opposition to a $1.4 billion USD copper mining project known as Tía María. The project belongs to Southern Copper Corporation, which is owned by Grupo México, a Mexican American mining company.
Tía María, which would consist of two open pit mines, is to be located in the Tambo Valley in the province of Islay. Tambo Valley communities and those in surrounding regions fear the health and environmental dangers that come with the use of heavy metals in open pit mining. Agriculture is the mainstay of the local economy and nearly all agricultural produce in the region and 88 percent of the fishing catch go toward feeding the population in the southern area of the country. Community members are quite familiar with Southern Copper’s dismal record in neighboring regions where its mining projects have dried up water supplies and contaminated surrounding lands. The result for indigenous and other rural people has been serious illness and the loss of employment in farming and fishing. With this in mind, the Tambo Valley communities rejected the project by a resounding93.4 percent during a popular consultation in 2009.
In an attempt to reassure the communities, Minister of Energy and Mines Pedro Sanchez promised to bring “environmental procedures to a higher standard of excellence.” In 2010, the government signed an agreement with the UN Office for Project Services (UNOPS) for a review of 100 separate environmental studies. As was hoped, the deal brought a halt to the social protests going on at the time.
Nonetheless, Tía María was unexpectedly cancelled in March 2011. As the Tambo Valley communities learned soon after, the UNOPS report on Tía María included 138 “observations” or areas of concern regarding the project. Among the most serious observations was the finding that the company’s own Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) contained no hydrogeological study. Further, the water to be used at the mine would not come from the sea as the company had claimed “but rather from an estuary—a very sensitive area due to the diversity of species present and its shallowness.” Nor did the EIA take into account the company’s plan to extract gold in addition to copper, a process that entails the use of mercury. During the mining process, mercury can enter into the water supply and the atmosphere, causing damage to the ecosystem and serious dangers to human health.
In 2014, Southern Copper sought to revive the project by producing another EIA, which indicated that the company would create an on-site water desalination plant. At that point, however, any trust that the Tambo Valley communities may have had in Southern Copper had eroded. Few residents were convinced that the open pit mines, one of which would be a mile wide and two thirds of a mile deep, would not cut into the water table and affect the water supply. In March, an indefinite strike was declared in Islay bringing thousands of people into the streets in protest, many of whom blocked bridges and highways. By mid-May, a small but virulent group calling themselves espartambos had formed and were using sling shots to pelt stones at the police. Many are suspected of being former members of the military.
In May, Humala responded by declaring a state of emergency in nine districts of Islay, deploying hundreds of military troops into the region, and freezing the bank accounts of the various municipalities involved. Constitutional rights including the right to hold meetings and travel freely have been suspended as military troops have moved into homes, patrolled streets, imposed curfews, and even detained schoolchildren.
A quick assessment of the casualties that have occurred since the strike began indicates that most of the protestors are rural indigenous people. Many say that they feel overwhelmed by the power of the mining industry and betrayed by their president, who had vowed to support them during his presidential campaign several years ago. Instead, the land has been gradually sold out from under them—69.9 percent of the province of Islay, including 96.2 percent of the city of Cocachacra in the Tambo Valley, is now under concession to mining corporations.
In addition, the Ministry of Environment, created in 2008 to set standards for acceptable levels of pollutants, has since been stripped of this power. With little input from this ministry, EIAs are often carried out by the mining companies themselves and then placed on a fast track for government approval. In the meantime, the concerns of the affected communities are ignored, while their elected leaders can be jailed for speaking out. Furthermore, like many other private companies, Southern Copper is able to hire the local police for its private security purposes, thereby undermining the very notion of public safety.
Cracking Down on Dissent
Tía María’s supporters, on the other hand, seem to have plenty of tools for advancing their interests. In the last few years, the Peruvian Congress has passed laws that make members of the police and Armed Forces less accountable for using their weapons during social protests. Legislative Decree 1095 legalized intervention in conflicts by the military without a declaration of a state of emergency. In addition, the law now treats mass protest action such as roadblocks as a form of extortion punishable by up to twenty-five years in jail. The law also prohibits local officials, who are a key source of leadership in rural areas, from engaging in protest. Rural and indigenous protestors suffer inordinately from these measures due to the greater tolerance for violence against indigenous people and the lack of adequate media coverage in remote areas.
Another powerful weapon that has been wielded against the protestors lies in the use of language. Along these lines, company officials, political leaders and the mainstream press have all been quite adept at demonizing those opposed to Tía María. As the strike began, Southern Copper spokespersonJulio Morriberón, proclaimed, “We are obliged to report this as being a totally anti-mining terrorism minority group, which is using violence to blackmail the majority who are in favor of this project.” Note his use of the words “terrorism” and “blackmail” with their potential to conjure up hatred and legitimize acts of violence by the government. The expressions “anti-mining” and “minority” frame the protesters as mere ideologues with no acknowledgement of their very normal concerns about the health and well being of their communities.
This kind of language has been picked up by public officials, members of the press, and commentators in the business community. Congressman Juan Carlos Eguren called the decision to cancel the contract a “triumph of radical anti-mining interests that had taken advantage of the warmth and mediocrity” of Humala’s government. In declaring the state of emergency in Islay, Humala associated the Tambo Valley protestors with Sendero Luminoso, the terrorist organization that had plagued the country during the 1980s and 1990s. “There is a campaign of misinformation and stigmatization of projects for ideological and often pre-election purposes,” he added. Similarly, Police Chief Eduardo Perez Rocha stated that Sendero Luminoso appeared to be “infiltrating the people.” Carlos Galvez, head of Peru’s National Society of Mining, Petroleum and Energy, has contended that Tía María’s opponents are simply politicians courting votes in the countryside machinations and “outsiders” who whip up “anti-mining” sentiment. “Here everyone is anti,” he said. “If you’re anti-mining then you’re in fashion.” Foreigners, NGOs, leftists, radicals, and Venezuelan “chavistas” have all been cited as the real cause of the demise of poor Tía María.
What We Would Never Tolerate
The kinds of health and environmental risks that the Tía María mine now poses would not be tolerated in this or any other “developed” country. Nor would we accept the jailing of mayors, governors and legislators for speaking out on behalf of their constituents. And we would hardly take to having police officers freely enter our homes to carry out warrantless searches and arrests and impose restrictions on our free speech, gatherings, and travel, occasionally beating us up in the process. Yet all of this is currently taking place in Islay and other communities. While much of Peru has benefited from mining revenue, those communities at the mining sites are paying the price in health risks, increased repression, and the loss of their land, homes, and way of life.
As it now stands, Humala is caught between a copper mine and a hard place. Commodity prices and economic growth rates are falling steadily along with his approval ratings. His excursion to the EU is part of a larger plan to bolster investments and rescue his legacy before the end of his term in 2016. By supporting multi-billion dollar projects that fail to gain the trust of surrounding communities, however, he will likely leave a fractured society and embittered rural communities under military rule in his wake. We can only hope that Peru’s journey toward greater integration with Europe and other parts of the world will bring about a greater demand for protecting the rights of its rural and indigenous populations.
Lynn Holland, Senior Research Fellow at the Council on Hemispheric Affairs
Kinshasa — Catholic Bishops of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) have requested President Joseph Kabila for a “national dialogue in accordance with the constitution”, where the drafting of the new electoral calendar will be agreed on.
This was after the opposition alleged that the elections expected to happen in 2016 are too dense and close, and called for a new election timetable.
According to Agenzia Fides, there are suspicions that president Kabila intends to extend his term in office that should expire in 2016.
The idea of a third term of Kabila, in violation of the Constitution, had sparked protests early this year.
The Bishops have emphasized that a national dialogue in accordance with the Constitution will be in order, to resolve the election issue.
The Head of State launched a series of meetings with political representatives, civil society and religious leaders in the DRC, including the Catholic bishops. During the meeting, representatives of The National Episcopal Conference of Congo (CENCO) Bishop Nicolas Djomo,Bishop of Tshumbe and President of CENCO, Bishop Fulgence Muteba of Kilwa Kasenga, in Katanga and Don Leonard Santedi ,Secretary General of CENCO, launched an appeal to establish an atmosphere of mutual trust.
After the meeting, Don Leonardo Santendi, secretary General of CENCO said, “We thanked the President of the Republic of having associated us with the consultations… For us, dialogue is the main path and peaceful way out of a crisis. It is essential to have a national consensus on the electoral calendar”, adding that, “Dialogue must be in strict compliance with the Constitution.”
ASUNCIÓN, Paraguay — His speeches can blend biblical fury with apocalyptic doom. Pope Francis does not just criticize the excesses of global capitalism. He compares them to the “dung of the devil.” He does not simply argue that systemic “greed for money” is a bad thing. He calls it a “subtle dictatorship” that “condemns and enslaves men and women.”
Having returned to his native Latin America, Francis has renewed his left-leaning critiques on the inequalities of capitalism, describing it as an underlying cause of global injustice, and a prime cause of climate change. Francis escalated that line last week when he made a historic apology for the crimes of the Roman Catholic Church during the period of Spanish colonialism — even as he called for a global movement against a “new colonialism” rooted in an inequitable economic order.
The Argentine pope seemed to be asking for a social revolution.
“This is not theology as usual; this is him shouting from the mountaintop,” said Stephen F. Schneck, the director of the Institute for Policy Research and Catholic studies at Catholic University of America in Washington.
The last pope who so boldly placed himself at the center of the global moment was John Paul II, who during the 1980s pushed the church to confront what many saw as the challenge of that era, communism. John Paul II’s anti-Communist messaging dovetailed with the agenda of political conservatives eager for a tougher line against the Soviets and, in turn, aligned part of the church hierarchy with the political right.
Francis has defined the economic challenge of this era as the failure of global capitalism to create fairness, equity and dignified livelihoods for the poor — a social and religious agenda that coincides with a resurgence of the leftist thinking marginalized in the days of John Paul II. Francis’ increasingly sharp critique comes as much of humanity has never been so wealthy or well fed — yet rising inequality and repeated financial crises have unsettled voters, policy makers and economists.
Pope Francis spoke in Santa Cruz, Bolivia, on Thursday at the Second World Meeting of Popular Movements, a congress of global activists.In Bolivia, Pope Francis Apologizes for Church’s ‘Grave Sins’JULY 9, 2015
Left-wing populism is surging in countries immersed in economic turmoil, such as Spain, and, most notably, Greece. But even in the United States, where the economy has rebounded, widespread concern about inequality and corporate power are propelling the rise of liberals like Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, who, in turn, have pushed the Democratic Party presidential front-runner, Hillary Rodham Clinton, to the left.
Even some free-market champions are now reassessing the shortcomings of unfettered capitalism. George Soros, who made billions in the markets, and then spent a good part of it promoting the spread of free markets in Eastern Europe, now argues that the pendulum has swung too far the other way.
“I think the pope is singing to the music that’s already in the air,” said Robert A. Johnson, executive director of the Institute for New Economic Thinking, which was financed with $50 million from Mr. Soros. “ And that’s a good thing. That’s what artists do, and I think the pope is sensitive to the lack of legitimacy of the system.”
Many Catholic scholars would argue that Francis is merely continuing a line of Catholic social teaching that has existed for more than a century and was embraced even by his two conservative predecessors, John Paul II and Benedict XVI. Pope Leo XIII first called for economic justice on behalf of workers in 1891, with his encyclical “Rerum Novarum” — or, “On Condition of Labor.”
Mr. Schneck, of Catholic University, said it was as if Francis were saying, “We’ve been talking about these things for more than one hundred years, and nobody is listening.”
Francis has such a strong sense of urgency “because he has been on the front lines with real people, not just numbers and abstract ideas,” Mr. Schneck said. “That real-life experience of working with the most marginalized in Argentina has been the source of his inspiration as pontiff.”
Francis made his speech on Wednesday night, in Santa Cruz, Bolivia, before nearly 2,000 social activists, farmers, trash workers and neighborhood activists. Even as he meets regularly with heads of state, Francis has often said that change must come from the grass roots, whether from poor people or the community organizers who work with them. To Francis, the poor have earned knowledge that is useful and redeeming, even as a “throwaway culture” tosses them aside. He sees them as being at the front edge of economic and environmental crises around the world.
In Bolivia, Francis praised cooperatives and other localized organizations that he said provide productive economies for the poor. “How different this is than the situation that results when those left behind by the formal market are exploited like slaves!” he said on Wednesday night.
It is this Old Testament-like rhetoric that some finding jarring, perhaps especially so in the United States, where Francis will visit in September. His environmental encyclical, “Laudato Si’,” released last month, drew loud criticism from some American conservatives and from others who found his language deeply pessimistic. His right-leaning critics also argued that he was overreaching and straying dangerously beyond religion — while condemning capitalism with too broad a brush.
“I wish Francis would focus on positives, on how a free-market economy guided by an ethical framework, and the rule of law, can be a part of the solution for the poor — rather than just jumping from the reality of people’s misery to the analysis that a market economy is the problem,” said the Rev. Robert A. Sirico, president of the Acton Institute for the Study of Religion and Liberty, which advocates free-market economics.
Francis’ sharpest critics have accused him of being a Marxist or a Latin American communist, even as he opposed communism during his time in Argentina. His tour last week of Latin America began in Ecuador and Bolivia, two countries with far-left governments. President Evo Morales of Bolivia, who wore a Che Guevara patch on his jacket during Francis’ speech, claimed the pope as a kindred spirit — even as Francis seemed startled when Mr. Morales gave him a wooden crucifix shaped like a hammer and sickle as a gift.
Francis’ primary agenda last week was to begin renewing Catholicism in Latin America and repositioning it as the church of the poor. His apology for the church’s complicity in the colonialist era received an immediate roar from the crowd. In various parts of Latin America, the association between the church and economic power elites remains intact. In Chile, a socially conservative country, some members of the country’s corporate elite are also members of Opus Dei, the traditionalist Catholic organization founded in Spain in 1928.
Inevitably, Francis’ critique can be read as a broadside against Pax Americana, the period of capitalism regulated by global institutions created largely by the United States. But even pillars of that system are shifting. The World Bank, which long promoted economic growth as an end in itself, is now increasingly focused on the distribution of gains, after the Arab Spring revolts in some countries that the bank had held up as models. The latest generation of international trade agreements includes efforts to increase protections for workers and the environment.
The French economist Thomas Piketty argued last year in a surprising best-seller, “Capital in the Twenty-First Century,” that rising wealth inequality is a natural result of free-market policies, a direct challenge to the conventional view that economic inequalities shrink over time. The controversial implication drawn by Mr. Piketty is that governments should raise taxes on the wealthy.
Mr. Piketty roiled the debate among mainstream economists, yet Francis’ critique is more unnerving to some because he is not reframing inequality and poverty around a new economic theory but instead defining it in moral terms. “Working for a just distribution of the fruits of the earth and human labor is not mere philanthropy,” he said on Wednesday. “It is a moral obligation. For Christians, the responsibility is even greater: It is a commandment.”
Nick Hanauer, a Seattle venture capitalist, said he believed Francis was making a nuanced point about capitalism, embodied by his coinage of a “social mortgage” on accumulated wealth — a debt to the society that made its accumulation possible. Mr. Hanauer said that economic elites should embrace the need for change both for moral and pragmatic reasons.
“I’m a believer in capitalism but it comes in as many flavors as pie, and we have a choice about the kind of capitalist system that we have,” said Mr. Hanauer, now an outspoken proponent of redistributive government policies like a higher minimum wage.
Yet what remains unclear is whether Francis has a clear vision for a systemic alternative to the status quo that he and others criticize. “All these critiques point toward the incoherence of the simple idea of free market economics, but they don’t prescribe a remedy,” said Mr. Johnson, of the Institute for New Economic Thinking.
Francis acknowledged as much, conceding on Wednesday that he had no new “recipe” to quickly change the world. Instead, he spoke about a “process of change” undertaken at the grass-roots level.
“What can be done by those students, those young people, those activists, those missionaries who come to my neighborhood with the hearts full of hopes and dreams but without any real solution for my problems?” he asked. “A lot! They can do a lot.
“You, the lowly, the exploited, the poor and underprivileged, can do, and are doing, a lot. I would even say that the future of humanity is in great measure in your own hands.”
Jim Yardley reported from Asunción, and Binyamin Appelbaum from Washington. Laurie Goodstein contributed reporting from New York, and Simon Romero from Asunción.
ABOARD THE PAPAL PLANE (Reuters) – Pope Francis acknowledged on Monday he had neglected problems of the middle class and said he was willing to have a dialogue with Americans who disagree with his criticism of capitalism. Francis, speaking to reporters on the papal plane returning from a grueling 8-day trip to Ecuador, Bolivia and Paraguay, also said he hoped the Greek crisis could lead to more oversight so other countries would not experience the same problems. During the hour-long conversation with the Francis, who has made defence of the poor a major plank of his papacy, a reporter asked why he had hardly ever spoken about the problems of the “working, tax-paying” middle class. He offered a rare papal mea culpa, thanking the reporter for his “good correction.” “You’re right. It’s an error of mine not to think about this,” he said. “The world is polarized. The middle class becomes smaller. The polarization between the rich and poor is big. This is true. And, perhaps this has led me to not take account of this (the problems of the middle class),” he said. Francis said he spoke about the poor often because they were so numerous but that ordinary working people had “great value.” “I think you’re telling me about something I need to do. I need to do delve further into this ….,” he said The pope, who is due to visit Cuba and the United States in September, said he was willing to have a dialogue with Americans who have seen his criticism of the global economic system and capitalism as an attack on their way of life. “I heard that there were some criticisms from the United States … I haven’t had time to study this well but every criticism must be received, studied and then dialogue must follow,” he said. He sought to downplay the Vatican’s part in the rapprochement between Cuba and the United States, even though both Presidents Barack Obama and Raul Castro have praised him for it. He said the Holy See had done “only small things” to facilitate the accord that led to the resumption of diplomatic relations after more than 50 years of enmity. Asked if Cuba now risked losing parts of its identity, he said both sides would lose something but “both will gain peace, encounter, friendship, collaboration.” He refused to be discuss Cuba’s human rights record, saying human rights were for all and that there were a number of countries, including several in Europe, where religious freedom was not totally respected. Asked about the Greek crisis, he said “it would be too simple to say that the fault is only on one side.” “I hope that they find a way to resolve the Greek problem and also a way to have oversight so that the same problem will not fall on other countries. This will help us move forward because this path of loans and debts, in the end, it never ends.” Francis said he “did not feel offended” when Bolivian President Evo Morales gave him a gift of a sculpture with the body of a crucified Jesus nailed to a hammer and sickle – the symbol of communism. The sculpture was a replica of a creation by Jesuit priest Luis Espial Camp, an artist and poet who was a strong defender of miners’ rights and was killed by a Bolivian right-wing paramilitary squad in 1980. Francis said the sculpture should be seen as “protest art” and a product of its times, when some Roman Catholic priests were involved in forms of Liberation Theology that used Marxist political analysis to help the poor. Francis said he brought the gift back to the Vatican with him. Several times during the freewheeling conversation that has become a standard of papal flights, he showed his humour despite signs of fatigue. “I never tasted coca (leaves), let’s be clear about that,” he said, when asked how he managed to keep up the demanding pace at age 78. There was speculation that he might have chewed coca leaves to ward off altitude sickness in Bolivia. He said he felt like “a great-grandfather” when young people asked to take selfies with him. “It’s another culture … I respect it,” he said.
TORIT, Eastern Equatoria, South Sudan, Jul 10 2015 (IPS) – So extreme are gender inequalities in South Sudan that a young girl is three times more likely to die in pregnancy or childbirth than to reach the eighth grade – the last grade before high school – according to Plan International, one of the oldest and largest children’s development organisations in the world.
A vast majority of South Sudanese girls will have been victims of at least one form of gender-based violence in their young lives, but those living in Eastern Equatoria State face a particularly abhorrent practice which is a tradition among at least five of the state’s 12 tribes – being given away as ‘blood money.’
“When a person kills another person, the bereaved family expects to be given ‘blood money’ as compensation,” Dina Disan Olweny, Executive Director of the non-governmental Coalition of State Women’s and Youth Organisations, told IPS.
Most tribes demand compensation when a life has been taken in one of the regular conflicts over cattle and pasture, revenge killings and other inter-village conflicts, and although 20 to 30 goats is what many tribes demand in form of compensation, Olweny explained that “most families can either not afford or are unwilling to pay so much, and prefer to give away one of their girls as compensation.”
According to child protection specialist, Shanti Risal Kaphle, “a young girl is taken as a commodity that can be given in lieu of someone’s lost life, or as ‘blood money’, to keep the family and community in peace.”
Kaphle explained that the girl’s life is negotiated “without her information and consent and is subject to violence, abuse and exploitation.”
The practice of girl child compensation has not escaped the eye of the government, which set an estimated 500 dollars as the amount for compensation for a life, but tribe people still prefer to be given a girl, saying that the figure set by the government is too little. Continue reading South Sudanese Girls Given Away As ‘Blood Money’→