THE CATHOLIC SOCIAL JUSTICE QUARTERL Y December 2012-February 2013 www.justicemagazine.



Domestic abuse in Timor Leste Teachers’ stress in UK schools American gun control China’s one-child policy The growth in foodbanks

Transforming farming, reducing hunger
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Justice Magazine is a non-profit making quarterly publication that reports on and aims to further interest in the Catholic Church’s social teaching. We would love to hear from you with your feedback, ideas for future editions or your own contributed articles. Please get in touch via our website or by sending an email to All digital formats are free to the reader. These include the online page flip version as well as downloadable files for Kindle and ereading devices capable of displaying epub files. If you like what you read in Justice Magazine, let your friends and family know so they can download their own free copy.

December 2012-February 2013

30 CAFOD’S new campaign
Individual printed copies of the magazine are also available from We believe this is a sustainable, environmentally-friendly way for people to access print. Justice Magazine does not charge for the magazine in print, the amount payable goes directly to the printers for production and postage. Free advertising space has been given to Catholic charities and agencies. If you can, please make a donation to help them continue their excellent work in the UK and overseas. Editor Lee Siggs Editorial advisers Jonathan Houdmont Nana Anto-Awuakye For regular news updates from Justice Magazine, remember to visit

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NEWS: Novemberround-up UNITED KINGDOM: Timetodeliveronthefightagainstthetradeinpeople CHINA: Endthegendercidenow UNITED STATES: ContainingarmssalesafterthetragedyofAurora UNITED KINGDOM: Theneedtocareforourteachers COMMENT: Bemindfulofthepoorest WORKPLACE: Signuptoaunion UNITED STATES: PeaceonEarthmeansno morewar TIMOR-LESTE: Demandingrespectforthe womenofTimor-Leste MADAGASCAR: Cultivatingprosperity:Madagascar’sricerevolution BOOKS ZAMBIA: Thefightagainstsuperstition UNITED KINGDOM: Fromlonelinesstopiracy COLOMBIA: Thedeadlypriceofland UNITED KINGDOM: Helpingpeopleflourish UNITED KINGDOM: Ourdailybread FINAL THOUGHT

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Acknowledgments The editor wishes to thank all the agencies and individuals who have submitted articles and photos. The next issue of Justice Magazine will be published at the end of February. Please write to with ideas for future articles or to suggest improvements.


Patriarch welcomes UN Palestine vote The Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem has welcomed the UN’s decision to grant nonmember State observer status to Palestine. Patriarch Fouad Twal said: “The UN decision will restore credibility to the government of Abu Mazen. For once the international community and the leaders of the nations had the courage not to be influenced by the pressures and to decide in conscience, without calculation. I am grateful and happy for this freedom. It is a joy that I share with all Palestinians, Christians and Muslims, and that soon I will express on behalf of our Christian communities to President Abu Mazen.” Patriarch Twal emphasised the size of the support for the Palestinian request (138 countries in favour, nine against, 41 abstentions) which gives it a status at the UN on a par with the Holy See. The Patriarch said he believed the vote meant that there was now a possibility of Israel returning to deal with a moderate and legitimised government. Dismay over UK abstention Catholic and Anglican bishops in the UK have called for British Foreign Secretary William Hague to increase efforts to revitalise the stalled peace process in the Middle East. In a joint letter to the Foreign Secretary, Bishop Michael Langrish and Bishop Declan Lang criticised the decision to abstain from the vote in the UN about Palestine. The bishops described the bid as a legitimate and creative, non-violent attempt at breaking the current political impasse, deserving wide support. They warned that time was running out for a two state solution not least from relentless settlement building in the occupied territories which was rendering a contiguous Palestinian State unviable. The failure to resolve the conflict, with its continuing human cost, is a tragedy for both sides, they said. Caritas conference details migrant care A meeting of the Caritas in Veritate Commission of the Council of European Episcopal Conferences (CCEE) in Rome ended with the presentation of a ‘road map’ by the section for pastoral care of migrants. The conference was held over three days from November 27-29 and was attended by more than 40 bishops and national directors for the pastoral care of migrants from the CCEE. They discussed the role of the Church in Europe in relation to the issue. Fr Duarte da Cunha, secretary general of the CCEE, said that the economic crisis affected the weak and migrants above all. “Those who are forced to migrate due to poverty are the first to suffer the consequences of the crisis and become even more vulnerable,” he said. Bishop’s plea for victims of ‘forgotten war’ Civilians in the Nuba Mountains region of Sudan are the victims of a forgotten war with only the Church serving as a beacon of hope, a bishop has said. The Bishop of El Obeid Macram Max Gassis said “Bombings are carried out on daily basis and what saddens me most is that even the universal Church seems to have forgotten us, the people of the Nuba Mountains. “At least remember us


An empty hall at the UN shortly before the vote on Palestine
in the prayers of the faithful during Sunday Masses.” War has raged between the region between the government in Khartoum and the SPLANorth (Sudan People’s Liberation Army-North). “The first victims of this war are civilians, especially women, children and the elderly,” said Bishop Gassis. He said Khartoum had dropped 330 bombs in November, causing 36 deaths, mostly women and children, and 22 injuries. “No humanitarian organisation is present in the Nuba Mountains,” the bishop added. “The Church is the only presence of hope for these people, with our sisters and four doctors and surgeons (two Americans, a German and an Englishman). Pope’s prayers for AIDS victims The Pope offered prayers for World AIDS Day on December 1 for the victims of the disease, especially children. At the end of the general audience on November 28, Pope Benedict said World AIDS Day was a UN initiative intended to draw attention to a disease that had caused millions of deaths and tragic human suffering, particularly in the poorest regions of the world. “My thoughts turn in particular to the large number of children who contract the virus from their mothers each year, despite the treatments which exist to prevent its transmission,” the pontiff said. “I encourage the many initiatives that, within the scope of the ecclesial mission, have been taken in order to eradicate this scourge.” Convictions in anti-Christian violence An Indian court has sentenced 12 people to six years in jail for violence committed against Christian communities in Orissa. The campaign of indiscriminate violence occurred in the district of Kandhamal in 2008. “It is the first step toward justice. People are still suffering, it is undeniable, but this ruling is a sign for legality, against impunity,” said the Archbishop of CuttackBhubaneswar John Barwa. “Much remains to be done to ensure full justice. The victims are still waiting for adequate compensation. On the other hand I can confirm that the Christians of Kandhamal,


where I went a few days ago, have totally forgiven their torturers. And, despite the difficulties, the hardships and poverty of present life, they live faith in joy.” SCIAF urges action on greenhouse gas emissions The Scottish Government has awarded SCIAF £499,000 to help the agency support vulnerable communities affected by climate change in Malawi. SCIAF urged wealthy industrialised nations meeting in Doha for UN climate change talks to help prevent the future loss of life by getting spiraling greenhouse gas emissions under control. The UN Environment Programme has shown that current increases in greenhouse gas emissions far exceed those required to keep a global temperature increase below the 2˚C target set at the UN talks in 2010. The need for urgent action is underlined by a recent World Bank report which warned of extreme heat-waves, water scarcity, rising sea levels and a fall in global food stocks if the global climate rises to 4 ˚C. It also highlighted that developing nations are being hit first and hardest. SCIAF is joining a host of international organisations, including the CIDSE network of Catholic aid agencies, in calling for major reductions in emissions as part of a second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol – the only international agreement the world has - which is currently due to run out at the end of December. Care reform is ‘test for society’ The Archbishop of Westminster has told parliamentarians that care reform is a fundamental test for society. Addressing the annual Caritas Social Action Network reception in the House of Commons, Archbishop Vincent Nichols said: “Perhaps

one of the most important areas currently under consideration here is how we care for older and disabled people: a fundamental test of any civilised society. I applaud the efforts under way from many quarters to address shortcomings in the care system, and encourage all those involved in this urgent and vital process.” Helen O’Brien, chief executive officer of CSAN, said reform of the care system was an ongoing priority for the Catholic Church. “Supporting the dignity and well-being of disabled or older people is intrinsic to the Church’s social action mission; every day our charities support thousands of people both in residential accommodation and in their own homes,” she said. “As the Care and Support Bill proceeds through Parliament we are committed to working with parliamentarians, NGOs and other faith groups to ensure that those who do not currently receive the support they require, are not left to suffer in silence.” HIV patients hurt by rising food prices CAFOD has warned that the progress in delivering anti-retroviral (ARV) drugs to people living with HIV in Africa is being threatened by rising food prices across the continent. There has been a rapid expansion of the availability of ARV drugs in poorer countries, extending the length and improving the quality of life for many people living with HIV, but as the cost of food continues to rise, people are increasingly struggling to afford the balanced diet essential for the success of the treatment. Caroline Njeri Muthiga, CAFOD’s nutrition expert in Kenya, says: “If you take ARVs without sufficient food, they cause serious nausea, loss of appetite, increase diarrhoea and vomiting, and bring severe abdominal cramps.”

CAFOD’s partners in countries like Zambia are calling the situation a “time bomb”, with many people taking ARVs coming off the treatment as they lack the money for food whilst others are refusing to start urgently needed treatment for the same reason. Aleppo disfigured by fighting The head of Caritas in Syria has said the current conflict has “disfigured” the city of Aleppo. “Here now everything is enshrouded by a sense of ruin and decay,” Bishop Antoine Audo said. “In Aleppo there are hundreds of thousands of internal refugees, huddled in schools and makeshift camps, such as the more than 5,000 who sleep outdoors in the gardens of the university campus. “But people do not work, and all have become poor, even those who still live in their homes. The industrial areas of the suburbs were bombed and looted. For weeks, garbage was not collected, and in the streets, the air has become unbreathable.” The five Caritas centres in the city are directly assisting 2,400 families, distributing medicine, clothing and food products. Priests and volunteers who work in the Caritas network recently met with Bishop Audo to discuss programmes of support for winter. Concern over detention of asylum seekers The Australian Catholic Social Justice Council has expressed serious concern regarding the state of detention to which children and their families in search of asylum are subjected. ACSJC president Bishop Christopher Saunders said: “The fact that asylum seekers, including children, were sent to Manus (in north of Papua New Guinea) is an alarm bell. “After personally verifying the

conditions in detention centres in Australia, and after reading the reports of Amnesty on the crisis in Nauru, we are very concerned about their well-being.” Bishop Saunders added: “No child should be detained on a fixed term in any centre. No person should be detained on a fixed term in an environment that we know will cause long-term damage.” He added: “We oppose the policy of prolonged detention of asylum seekers, and we are particularly concerned about its effects on vulnerable people, especially children.” State weakness fuels extremism Christians in Africa are struggling against a “lack of political will to end to impunity and enthrone the rule of law, a corrupt judiciary system and balkanization by Europe and the United States”, according to a leading bishop. The Bishop of Sokoto in Nigeria Matthew Hassan Kukah made his comments in a lecture delivered at the Catholic University of Notre Dame in the United States. In his talk – entitled The persecution of Christians in Africa: Contexts, Contents and Opportunities – Bishop Kukah said the attacks against churches committed by Islamist group Boko Haram were a consequence of the weakening of the state, rather than a demonstration of the true relations between Christians and Muslims in Nigeria. “We must not confuse the visible manifestations of the severe weaknesses of a failing state, shown visibly in its incapacity to restrain and punish the criminal aggressor and then use it to measure the relation between Christians and Muslims as is often stated in the case of Nigeria,” he said. Sources: Fides/CAFOD/SCIAF


Feature United Kingdom

Ahead of a new EU directive on human trafficking which comes into place next year, Lee Siggs meets the man who is working to make sure more people become aware of the issue

Time to deliver on the fight against the trade in people
There is little doubt, at least among Catholics, that the Church does much to benefit individuals in ways which wider society simply does not realise. In many cases, its understated work for the poor and marginalised, both at home and abroad, helps people who have fallen through society’s usual safety nets. In the UK, Church groups work at the coal face of poverty and destitution, providing food, accommodation and training opportunities for people who have found themselves in desperate circumstances. But this good work can also represent a hidden danger, with such havens of care and thought for others also unwittingly providing an opportunity for individuals with more sinister motives. Nick Kinsella, a Catholic former senior police officer and anti-trafficking expert who set up the United Kingdom Human Trafficking Centre,

says criminal elements have been known to target vulnerable people who they know will be accessing such vital services. Their aim? To traffick them and ensnare them in a life of misery working for next to nothing while being illegally detained. In English law there is a distinction between human trafficking and slavery, but human trafficking is, in short,

the illegal trade of human beings, and globally accepted to be modern day form of slavery. Men, women and children are exploited for a number of purposes including forced labour, domestic slavery and coercion into the sex industry. Figures show that each year, thousands of men, women and children fall into the hands of traffickers in the UK and abroad through abduction,

coercion or force, fraud, deception or abuse of power. All the statistics reveal that the issue is getting worse with the number of victims growing. Kinsella knows the crime well, having been involved in combating it for many years. Currently on the board of the United Nations Global Trust Fund for Victims of Human Trafficking, and the anti trafficking advisor


Human trafficking is far more widespread than you think - it can be happening right now on your streets and in your communities

to Crimestoppers International, he has been involved in international enforcement, prevention campaigns and training, and helped to bring the UK’s first ever successful conviction on human trafficking at Sheffield Crown Court in 2005. Over a coffee, he explained that there are estimated to be more than 20 million victims of human trafficking globally, more than at any time in history, and that British nationals have consistently been in the top 10 nationalities identified as potential victims of trafficking to the UK competent authorities. “Human trafficking is an extremely serious crime that is often hidden,” he said. “Many people think of it as remote, something that happens only abroad thousands of miles from the UK. But human trafficking is far more widespread than you think - it can be happening right now on your streets and in your communities. Victims have many faces. Exploitation can take many forms. The exploitation ranges from adults and children being abused for sexual exploitation, to them being coerced through threats or violence to make fraudulent welfare claims. Some are trafficked for begging and other forms of organised street crime.” Criminals are always ready to exploit the vulnerable. Men as well as women, UK nationals as well as foreign nationals. In cases involving the trafficking of men Kinsella said that “they look for people with drug and alcohol problems or with mental health issues. They pick them up at places like soup kitchens and offer employment with good pay, a chance to turn their lives around”. Victims have been found in both the UK as well as Scandinavian countries living in appalling conditions and in very poor health. They can be forced to work excessive hours and live in appalling conditions such as in sheds and horse boxes, and be subjected to regular violence. Kinsella welcomes new European anti-trafficking legislation, EU Directive 2011/36/EU on Preventing and Combating Human Trafficking in Human Beings and Protecting Its Victims, which will come into force from April next year. Amongst other issues he is pleased with the recogniJUSTICEMAGAZINE7


Feature United Kingdom

tion within the directive that additional support to victims is required, and that failure to provide that can lead to legal action by victims who have not been appropriately dealt with. Could that impact on the Church? In effect, the directive stipulates that officials likely to come into contact with victims or potential victims of trafficking in human beings should be adequately trained to identify and deal with such victims. A failure to act and to train accordingly could, Kinsella fears, lead to possible legal action. In response, he has worked with The Sheffield College to produce an online course aimed at providing those in the frontline with the increased awareness that they need. The course is supported by Crimestoppers and the anti-child trafficking charity Love 146. The course, Human Trafficking Uncovered, is targeted at professionals in the public, private and voluntary sectors in the UK, who may come into contact with perpetrators and victims. Believed to be the first of its kind, it has been launched to raise awareness of human trafficking and equip professionals and the public with the skills to identify and report it. The course enables people to recognise the signs of a trafficked person either in danger of, or being groomed for trafficking; react in the right way so they don’t impose further risk to the victim and their loved ones; report suspicions to the correct authorities to safeguard the victims and help catch the traffickers; and act

Trafficking expert Nick Kinsella is looking to raise awareness of what is often a hidden crime


The course aims to raise awareness amongst professionals and the general public by giving them the information on how to recognise the signs of human trafficking, what to do about it and how to report it

responsibly to combat human trafficking and help stop it from escalating. “When we do talks about the issue we ask people to look at their own lives: Have they ever met a slave? Have they worn something produced by a slave? Have they eaten something picked by a slave?” Kinsella said. Trafficking is identified as being one of the three most profitable forms of criminal activity globally, estimated to be worth $32bn a year for the criminals. In 2011, Hilary Clinton, the US Secretary of State, called for ‘a decade of delivery’ against the crime. One diocese has already taken up Human Trafficking Uncovered with a number of its clergy so far undertaking the course. But Kinsella believes that as well as clergy, safeguarding officers and school management teams would benefit from the training. It takes between three to 10 hours to complete and costs £53 per individual user. It defines what human trafficking is and the various forms it takes, the extent of the crime and the methods used by criminals to control their victims, how to respond to it, and how European and UK authorities are dealing with it. It also links to a comprehensive range of web resources for further

study. A certificate is issued on completion by The Sheffield College. Heather MacDonald, chief executive at The Sheffield College, said: “We have a strong track record and award-winning reputation for delivering online courses that improve students’ academic and professional skills. Professionals in public and voluntary sector organisations have a responsibility to improve their awareness and knowledge of human trafficking so they can fulfil the requirements of the new European Union Directive. This brand new course has been specifically developed to meet that need. “As the course is online, information can reach many professionals quickly and instantly, with opportunities for them to study the subject to a greater depth through further web links and at a pace that suits them. It is a cost effective, faster way of reaching those who need to know, rather than more traditional methods of teaching smaller groups face to face. As one of the largest further education colleges in the country, The Sheffield College is also using the resources to educate its own staff and students on the issue.” Kinsella added: “The course aims to raise awareness amongst professionals and the general public by giving them the information on how to recognise the signs of human trafficking, what to do about it and how to report it. “Everyone has a role to play in tackling human trafficking, helping to bring criminals to justice and protecting the victims.” A UNICEF film entitled ‘More Precious than Gold’, narrated by Robbie Williams, that highlights child trafficking, finishes with the phrase, ‘You can do something or do nothing’. This new online course is another attempt at doing ‘something’ by raising awareness of those who may come into contact with victims of trafficking, by delivering practical steps to dispel myths about human trafficking, and thereby assist in the identification and protection of victims. For more information about the course visit,, call 0114 260 2600 or email



“The main problem is the lack of resources to enable us to grow enough crops” Joseph Delfo, Lamine, Haiti

Progressio’s Gabriel Petit-Homme has helped Joseph, Augustine and their family with tools, seeds, and hands-on training in better farming techniques

“With better technical advice, better use of seeds, better fertiliser, we’ve got better food, and we know what to eat to be healthy” Ana Rita Abreu, Restauración, Dominican Republic

Progressio development workers work alongside poor communities to empower them to improve their own lives By supporting our work, you can help people like Joseph, Ana Rita and Belcis to grow their way out of poverty
Progressio’s Bernardo Lopez provided training and support to Victor and Ana Rita: “Our aim is to work alongside people so that they can farm sustainably, achieve food security, increase their income from selling their produce, and improve the quality of life for themselves and their families”


“We thank you from our heart that your project is reaching out to the most disadvantaged and abandoned in this area of the country.
Photos © Fran Afonso/Progressio

“I know that with continued support from outside, it will be easier to make our lives better” Belcis Suero, Loma de Guano, Dominican Republic

Feature China

With the expected departure of President Hu Jintao in March, Lord David Alton calls for China to end a policy which has led to the infanticide of girls and continues to see women treated violently by members of the state family planning office.

End the gendercide now
The contrast with the American presidential election campaign could not have been greater, but earlier this month the Chinese Communist Party made its once in a decade transfer of power to a new politburo of one-party state appointees. President Hu Jintao is expected to hand over the reins of power in March. Before he leaves office, there is one last question which President Hu should address – and which would earn him widespread respect and admiration; it is a brutal and discriminatory policy which for 32 years has tarnished the reputation of a great country and which has left a trail of misery. Last month the United Nations commemorated its International Day of the Girl: highlighting the 100 million girls who are the victims of domestic violence, compulsory veiling, the sex trade, trafficking, bonded labour, forced marriages, genital mutilation, and sexual abuse. In China – and elsewhere – that discrimination begins even before birth, when the three most dangerous and deadly words which can be uttered are the words ‘It’s a girl’. Thirty two years ago, China passed a law which institutionalised the routine killing of little girls, merely because of their sex. It’s a policy which shamefully has been indirectly aided and abetted by British taxpayers’ money. Statistics related to the birth control policy are staggering. The Chinese government says about 13 million abortions are carried out every year. That amounts to 1,458 every 60 minutes or, to put it another way, a Tiananmen Square massacre every hour. The vast majority, of course, are girls. China’s One Child


Centuries-old tradition, combined with government-enforced birth control policies, have had horrifying and devastating consequences

Policy and the country’s traditional preference for boys have led to widespread abandonment, infanticide, and forced abortions. China’s One Child Policy causes more violence against women and girls than any other policy on earth – than any official policy in the history of the world. A story which broke in June of this year, and which caused outrage throughout the world, illustrates the brutal and discriminatory nature of this policy. Feng Jianmei was forcibly aborted at seven months when she and her husband, Deng Jiyuan were unable to pay a fine of almost £4,000 for having a second child. Having fled to the mountains, officials tracked her down, found her hiding under a bed, forcibly aborted her baby and left the bloody body of that little girl next to her on her bed. Then, in July, a man in Anshan city in northeast China was rummaging through a garbage bin for recyclables when he caught sight of a small plastic bag. When he removed the bag and looked inside, what he saw would have shocked and sickened any civilized human being. Inside was a newborn baby girl with a deep cut to her throat. She was so newborn that her placenta and umbilical cord were still attached. Her entire tiny body was covered in blood.

Luckily for her, local residents got her to hospital and, as far as is known, the baby’s life was saved. Earlier in the year, in March, a photo of a forcibly aborted full term baby drowned in a bucket, submitted anonymously, circulated on Weibo, the Chinese version of Twitter, and in the West. The infant was reported to have cried at birth, before being drowned in a bucket by family planning officials. Also in March, in Jiangxi Province, a 46-year-old woman was forcibly sterilized, in retaliation for bringing a petition against the one-child policy. The woman posted the following account on the internet: “The town government sent more than 20 strong men. I could no longer give birth to a child at that time, but they still dragged my legs, treated me like an animal, and forcibly performed a tubal ligation on the operating table of the Family Planning Office.” Centuries-old tradition, combined with government-enforced birth control policies, have had horrifying and devastating consequences. But while China is by far the leader in this appalling trend, it’s by no means alone. India, with its history of deadly discrimination against girls and women, is rapidly catching up. Today, there are now markedly more males than females in India than there were in the early 1990s, and various regions are facing serious and growing gender imbalances. One United Nations expert estimates that gendercide has cost the lives of around 200 million women and girls worldwide over the past 30
President Hu Jintao is expected to leave office in March 2013




Blind lawyer Chen Guangcheng has forced the debate on gendercide

years. It has also led to violence against citizens and sometimes to the murder of those who don’t comply with the policy. Gendercide is also on the rise globally. As an international predilection for sex-selective abortion grows, so more and more women and girls are losing their lives or simply “missing”, the result of sterilization or other means. Western Asia, in particular, is a region of growing concern. And in February of this year, undercover journalists discovered sex selection abortions taking place in the UK. And this isn’t just about the loss of precious human life. The gender disparity it creates is causing a catalogue of other problems. China now has 37 million more males than females, fuelling human trafficking and sexual slavery. As this spreads to neighbouring states, national security is threatened. China’s one-child policy is also fostering an ageing population

without young people to support them – an anomaly expected to hit the country within the next 20 years. What was therefore a policy enforced for economic reasons has ironically now become China’s economic death sentence. Many Chinese people have been urging Hu Jintao to abandon the one child policy, and there are signs that the protests are having their effect. One man in particular has done more than anyone to force open the debate about gendercide. In April of this year the blind self taught lawyer, Chen Guangcheng, who spent four years in prison for opposing the policy, escaped house arrest, finding safe passage to the United States. We can learn much from his example. Chen’s bravery and heroism has inspired many Chinese dissidents and campaigners around the world. He has seen what sighted people have failed to see; spoken out when those

of us with free speech have failed to do so. In a recent interview, Chen said he was confident reform will come to China, but stressed that if everyone made an effort to build a more just and civil society, then it would come faster. Here’s one thing each of us can do. A brilliant new hour-long film, entitled ‘It’s A Girl’ was recently premiered at Westminster at a meeting which I chaired. The film conveys a simple yet powerful message: that the words ‘It’s a girl’ – usually proclaimed with such joy and celebration – are deadly for large populations of the world. It is available to be seen in parishes and in small groups in people’s homes or in colleges. Anyone wishing to show the film should contact its maker, Andrew Brown at
Lord David Alton is a Catholic peer in the House of Lords


feed the o t d o o f h g u o We produce en t people h ig e in e n o t u world – b at. e o t h g u o n e e don’t hav

Email the Prime Minister calling for a fairer food system.

Photography: Annie Bungeroth

Registered Charity No. 285776


Feature United States

With mass killings by gunmen continuing to happen on a seemingly regular basis, Ellen Teague looks at how America has the highest rate of gun-related murders among the world’s wealthiest nations

Containing arms sales after the tragedy of Aurora
Many in the cinema audience thought the gun blasts were fireworks in a stunt designed to put an additional thrill into the movie experience. It was a midnight screening on July 21 2012 of the new Batman film ‘The Dark Knight Rises’ in the Denver suburb of Aurora. But as people were hit by bullets and screamed in terror it was quickly clear that the man in a gas mask and body armour, throwing tear gas canisters and firing on the crowd, was no actor. In one of the deadliest mass shootings in recent US history, 24-year-old James Holmes killed 12 people and injured 58 others. The location was only 20 miles away from the Columbine High School where two students killed two classmates and one teacher and wounded another 21 students before committing suicide on April 20 1999. Incidences of appalling gun violence have hit the news in the US with regularity ever since, and yet, Holmes had legally bought his weapons, and the thousands of rounds of ammunition stockpiled in his apartment. America’s gun control laws are the loosest in the developed world and its rate of gun-related homicide is the highest. Of the world’s 23 wealthiest countries, the US gun-related murder rate is almost 20 times that of the other 22. With almost one privatelyowned firearm per person, the US’s ownership rate is the highest in the

world; tribal-conflict-torn Yemen is ranked second, with a rate about half of the US. Four years ago, US President Barack Obama pledged to address gun control. His statement on urban policy included a commitment to permanently renew an expired ban on new assault weapons, curbs to limit the unregulated trade in weapons at gun shows, and greater powers for law enforcement agencies to trace guns. That statement has since disappeared from the president’s website as politicians generally steer clear of the issue of gun control. It is regarded as toxic, in the face of an unrelenting campaign by the powerful pro-gun lobby group, the National Rifle Association (NRA), to scrap or ease existing laws regulating guns. The NRA has 4.3 million members and is one of the most effective advocacy groups in Washington. The most significant piece of gun control legislation of recent years was the 1994 Federal Assault Weapons Ban. It barred the manufacture and import of an array of semi-automatic weapons for use by civilians, including the AR-15 used by Holmes. The production of some other types of rapid-fire weapons for the civilian market, including some pistols and shotguns, was also stopped. Magazines were limited to a maximum of


Weapons remain easily accessible in the US despite the mass shootings


Candles left at the site of a memorial to the victims of the shooting in Colorado this summer

10 bullets. However, the Law had a built-in time limit of 10 years. In March 2004, the US Senate blocked its extension and repeated efforts since then to renew it have failed. In 2008, the Supreme Court ruled that the Bill of Rights includes a guarantee of the personal right to own a gun. The decision was both a measure of how far the pro-gun debate had moved, and a blow to many of the stricter gun control laws adopted by cities like Washington and Chicago. In January 2011, a gunman in Tucson, Arizona shot and killed six people and wounded 14 others, including then politician Gabrielle Giffords. In the wake of this incident, gun control advocates said they believed the shock of the attack would alter the political atmosphere, in no small


America’s gun control laws are the loosest in the developed world and its rate of gun-related homicide is the highest

part because one of the victims was a member of Congress. But the bills that were introduced, including ones to restrict sales of 100-bullet magazines or to tighten background checks, went nowhere. Today, there are no federal restrictions on how much ammunition an individual can buy. In many states, bullets are sold on supermarket shelves alongside everyday household goods. Bullets and shotgun shells can also be bought in bulk online. It was from websites that Holmes ordered thousands of rounds for his assault rifle and hundreds of shells for the shotgun. The sellers were not legally obliged to report these large purchases of ammunition to the authorities. A string of shootings over summer 2012 brought the contentious issue

Feature United States

Teenagers pay their respects to the victims at Aurora by signing messages at the memorial

of gun control to the fore in an election year. The Aurora shootings were followed by a gunman killing of six worshippers in a Sikh gurdwara in Wisconsin. In August, an ex-Marine shot and killed two of his co-workers in a New Jersey supermarket before taking his own life. He was armed with an AK-47 assault rifle and an automatic pistol. Yet, amidst calls for tighter regulation of weapons, US newspapers and websites were flooded with comments such as, “Guns don’t kill people, people do. Just like a fork doesn’t make you fat. Many are killed in car accidents. Should we ban cars?” Some take the view that the case of Holmes has nothing to do with the availability of guns. They feel the issue is more one of how the US deals with individuals suffering psychiatric problems. Such people can harm others without using guns. Criticism has been thrown at the fragmented state of

psychiatry in the US and an unwillingness to educate the public how to recognise symptoms of mental illness and what to do when those symptoms are identified. The fact that the killers at Columbine and Aurora were either students or recently students suggests there should be more screening and support for young people who are vulnerable mentally on campus. While Democrats generally favour gun control laws, Republicans swear by the second amendment which gives citizens the right to bear arms. During the November elections, both parties generally shied away from a debate on the issue. However, Obama, called for a “common sense” approach to assault rifle sales after the Colorado shooting saying “a lot of gun owners would agree that AK47s belong in the hands of soldiers, not in the hands of criminals”. Fearing Obama would use a second term to unleash a rash of gun control laws,

the NRA rallied its members and political officials at the Republican National Convention in August. “We see him as the most anti-gun president in modern times,” said NRA President David Keene said at the time. In July, after the Aurora killings, the President of the National Council of Churches US called for more gun control. Kathryn Lohre cited her organisation’s efforts to advocate for new regulations on assault weapons and handguns. She called upon elected officials at every level of government to “seek policies that will foster greater peace in our communities and throughout this country”. Earlier that month, the Episcopal Church renewed its opposition to gun violence at its annual convention by approving a resolution which “requests every parish and every diocesan place of work to declare their establishments ‘Gun Free Zones’.” The resolution’s explanation noted that some states allow people


to bring weapons into churches under varying conditions, while others have outlawed the practice. “Laws vary from state to state, but posting Gun Free Zone information prominently is one way for parishes and dioceses to exercise private property rights on behalf of community safety,” said a statement. An August poll analysing views about gun control in the context of people’s faith groups found that a majority of Americans believe gun rights are as important as other constitutional rights, but they draw the line at guns being permitted in places of worship. The survey by Public Religion Research Institute found that three quarters of respondents said there should be a prohibition against carrying guns into churches, government buildings or college campuses. Fifty-two per cent overall favoured stricter gun control laws; sixty-two percent of Catholics. In var-

ious breakdowns by religion, Catholics were less likely than other groups to have guns in their homes or to support allowing concealed guns in churches. They were more likely than mainline Protestants, evangelicals or people unaffiliated with churches to support stronger enforcement of existing gun control laws, the study said. Twenty-seven percent of respondents said stricter gun control is the most important way to prevent mass shootings. Twenty-two percent said better mental health screening and support are also necessary. Nineteen percent said placing more emphasis on God and morality is the key. Despite the horror of gun crime in the US, evidence shows that gun sales have always risen after significant shooting incidents in recent years. The number of people seeking to buy guns in Colorado soared immediately after the Aurora shootings. In the

three days after the shooting, applications for the background checks needed to buy a gun legally were up 43 per cent on the previous week. The pattern was the same in other states. Florida, for example, recorded a 14 per cent rise from the previous week. At one Aurora gun shop, around 20 people were waiting outside when staff arrived at work on the day after the shooting. “People are saying, ‘I didn’t think I needed a gun, but now I do’,” said the shop owner. “When it happens in your backyard, people start reassessing”, the man continued; “they say, ‘Hey, I go to the movies’.”

Ellen Teague is a Catholic journalist JUSTICEMAGAZINE17

Feature United Kingdom

Teachers are under increasing scrutiny from Ofsted as the coalition government continues to press ahead with major changes to the education system. But while the importance of academic achievement cannot be ignored, Lee Siggs looks at how the impact of stress on teachers’ lives is blighting the profession.

The need to care for our teachers
As a profession, teaching is under more scrutiny than ever before, with stress and anxiety on the increase. In the UK, the Office for National Statistics has confirmed that since 2007, a total of 196 teachers have killed themselves; in certain cases, coroners even confirmed that it was impending Ofsted inspections which prompted people to take their own lives. According to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), the government agency with responsibility for the regulation of health and safety at work, teaching is at the top of the pile in relation to the number of people who self-report stress, anxiety and depression problems caused by their current or most recent job. The HSE said that from 2008/092010/11, some 34,000 teachers were suffering from stress, anxiety and depression. Announcements made in the past 12 months by Education Secretary Michael Gove and the head of the schools inspection service Ofsted, Sir Michael Wilshaw, will have done little to reduce this stress, with procedures being put in place to make it easier for so-called ‘bad’ teachers to be removed from their posts. The ‘satisfactory’ label has also been replaced with ‘requires improvement’. What was once acceptable, no longer is. John Illingworth, a former headteacher who has campaigned on

teachers’ mental health issues, said the situation was getting worse. “There is no doubt that the demands on teachers, in terms of workload, is increasing all the time,” he said. “There is actually no upper limit on the hours a teacher has to work to get the job done; there are restrictions on the number of hours spent teaching in the classroom, but not the hours for the rest of the work, such as planning.” He said “very large” numbers of teachers left the profession every year and that new people who came into teaching often did not last long. “Half of the teachers who come into the profession have left within five years of starting teaching,” Illing-


There is an enormous wastage rate. When you ask people why they are leaving, the most common response is because of the stress, that’s what 80 per cent say

worth said. “There is an enormous wastage rate. When you ask people why they are leaving, the most common response is because of the stress, that’s what 80 per cent say. “If you Google ‘teacher’ and ‘suicide’ it will throw up lots of stories of people who have killed themselves because of their job. Jobs shouldn’t be doing that to people. For a job to be featuring in coroners’ reports should show that action needs to be taken. There was a story recently about a woman who killed herself and two children and I thought ‘I wonder what she did for a living’. She was a teacher. “A lot of people just don’t understand this problem. They think it is a 9am-4pm job; that is the public view. They must think what a great profession it is, with the holidays. The reality is that it is not like that. Stressrelated illness figures are rocketing.” Latest figures show that across primary, secondary and sixth form colleges there are more than 47,000 teachers working in Catholic education in England and Wales, with 55 per cent being Catholic. The Catholic Education Service in England and Wales does not collect specific data on the suicide rate in Catholic schools, or absences in
Sir Michael Wilshaw started as HMCI in January this year

Catholic schools caused by stress. But Professor Cary Cooper, a leading occupational health psychologist at Lancaster University Management School, said there was no doubt that teaching was one of the most stressful professions. Teachers, he said, suffered badly from ‘change fatigue’, with successive governments using education as a political football. “I think teachers have a tough time,” he said. “First there was Ofsted, then there’s the naming and shaming and then there are the league tables. Teachers are being micro-managed. They have lost a lot of their control and authority. “These added pressures cause a lack of a work-life balance; the workload begins to interfere with personal and private lives.” A number of teachers spoken to by Justice said their profession had changed dramatically over the past 15 years. Sir Michael Wilshaw, who as head of Ofsted now earns £180,000 a year plus benefits, took up his post at the start of this year and has been no stranger to controversy since then. In a speech in May, he delivered his verdict on those who said teaching was now too stressful. “Let me tell you about stress,” he said. “Stress is what my father felt, who struggled to find a job in the 50s and 60s and who often had to work long hours in three different jobs and at weekends to support a growing family. “Stress is, I’m sure, what many of the million and a half unemployed young people today feel – unable to get a job because they’ve had a poor experience of school and lack the necessary skills and qualifications to find employment. “Stress is what I was under when I started as a head in 1985, in the context of widespread industrial action – teachers walking out of class at a moment’s notice – doing lunch duty on my own every day for three years because of colleagues who worked to rule – covering five classes in the sports hall when there was no-one to teach them.” However, while expressing his own views about stress, Sir Michael’s views appear to differ from those of the HSE, which states that “stress affects


Feature United Kingdom

Education secretary Michael Gove has praised Ofsted’s new approach

people in different ways and what one person finds stressful can be normal to another. With each new situation a person will decide what the challenge is and whether they have the resources to cope”. The HSE adds: “If they decide they don’t have the resources, they will begin to feel stressed. How they appraise the situation will depend on various factors, including their background and culture; their skills and experience; their personality; their personal circumstances; their individual characteristics; their health status; their ethnicity, gender, age or disability; and other demands both in and outside work.” Such resources may include an individual’s financial situation, with the thought of being classed as unsatisfactory, and the impending likelihood of performance-related pay, only serving to increase anxiety. A newly-qualified teacher in England, who earns £21,588 and faces

the risk of being performance managed out of their job, may not have the emotional or financial resources to deal with such pressure. Looking to the future, Cary Cooper said unannounced school inspections, which began in September, may help teachers’ mental health, but only if Ofsted lowered its expectations compared to the pre-announced inspections. Otherwise, he said, they could create “enormous stress”. “You can’t expect it to be the same as if schools were given notice, such as having all the detailed paperwork Ofsted might want,” Cooper said. “If there is notification, people prepare for it and they are more nervous. But if Ofsted’s expectations are the same, there’s going to be trouble.” Perhaps now more than ever, our Catholic headteachers must go that extra mile to ensure that, although under pressure themselves to achieve, they help and encourage their staff as much as possible, recognising that

the resources available to each individual to cope with the demands of the job do indeed vary enormously. It is imperative that headteachers and diocesan education authorities, while ensuring that pupils are achieving, also keep the health of their teachers foremost in their mind to ensure that they are carrying out the duty of care they have for them. Our Catholic schools are often revered for the education they provide to the pupils in their care; mission statements make clear they believe each and every person is made in the image and likeness of God. While such a commitment and vision for our pupils is rarely in doubt, does the same hold true for our teachers?

Lee Siggs is a Catholic journalist

Comment Climate change

With the international climate negotiations currently taking place in Doha, the EU needs to honour its promises to support developing countries financially to cope with the impacts of climate change. Hurricane Sandy reminded us why, says Bishop Theotonius Gomes, President of Caritas Bangladesh

Be mindful of the poorest
The eyes of the world were on New York as super-storm Sandy approached it at the end of October, leaving behind a trail of devastation along the eastern coasts of Central America and the United States. Unlike many of the other countries affected, the US is well prepared to deal with violent natural disasters. Even though each life lost is one too many, relatively few people died in the US. If a similar storm had hit the southern coasts of Bangladesh, many lives would have been lost and even more people would no longer have a roof over their heads, and no services to fall back on. Research by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) found that natural disasters between 1980 and 2002 caused an average of 17 deaths per windstorm in the US, compared to nearly 2,000 in Bangladesh. Storms are equally brutal in any place; but loss of life and devastations can be controlled according to one’s capacity to face them. This includes financial capacity. While developed countries like the US have it, Bangladesh still needs to build this capacity and it needs support to do so. Although plenty of efforts are undertaken already, Bangladesh will never be prepared enough without the assistance from the EU and other developed countries. Agreements to support developing countries facing ever more serious climate change impacts financially date back to 2009. Developed countries created a fund, the Green Climate Fund (GCF), pledging $100 billion per year by 2020 for climate needs in developing countries. This December, the first period of climate finance ends, but there is no assurance about the future of finance from 2013 onwards.


Hurricane Sandy devastated New York

Right now there is an urgent need to disburse new money for countries vulnerable to climate change. Otherwise, from January 2013 and in the years ahead, countries like Bangladesh might have to fight rising sea levels, erratic rains and increasingly extreme weather on their own, without the adequate means to do so. We are happy that the EU acknowledged there is a moral imperative to act, emphasising the need for solidarity and support to developing countries in tackling a problem they are not responsible for. But the world’s poorest need to be at the heart of the conclusive negotiations of a new global climate deal and this asks for clear financial commitments. I therefore urged EU finance ministers, who met on 13 November 2012, to take concrete action ahead of the Doha climate summit. At last year’s climate summit in Durban, the EU was successful in working

together with the groups of least developed countries and small-island states to push the negotiations beyond deadlock. It will be an important plus point for the EU to advance that collaboration at the Doha climate summit, which will be difficult without making serious progress on climate finance first. A positive signal from the EU, looking beyond the present difficult global economic situation and re-establishing its leadership, can give the coming climate talks in Doha a real boost. I hope and pray for this.

Bishop Theotonius Gomes has been advocating for climate justice together with the international alliance of Catholic development agencies since the 2008 international climate summit in Poznan, Poland


Workplace Trade unions

The first woman to hold the position of General Secretary of the TUC, Frances O’Grady, believes employers, especially Catholic ones, have a duty to recognise and work constructively with trade unions, reports Paul Donovan

Sign up to a union
The first woman general secretary of the Trade Union Congress (TUC) believes Catholic social teaching places a special obligation on Catholics to join trade unions. Deputy general secretary Frances O’Grady took over as general secretary from present incumbent Brendan Barber at the recent Congress. Ms O’Grady, who addressed the National Justice and Peace Network (NJPN) conference last year on justice in the workplace, is a strong supporter of Catholic social teaching. “Many faiths recognise that the relationship between labour and capital is a fundamentally unequal one and that the interests of people must take precedence over profit. Catholic social teaching goes further and places a duty on Catholics to join a union and, by implication, a duty on Catholic employers to recognise a union,” said O’Grady, who describes one of the first challenges when she takes over as general secretary as being to “lead the intellectual battle against the Government's self defeating austerity programme and win public support for a credible alternative.” Key to this argument was the TUC march and rally on October 20 in London which was titled “A future that works”. This followed up the 500,000 plus demonstration against the cuts organised by the TUC last year. O’Grady calls for “a fairer economy that works for working people.” “I will lead the argument for fundamental reform of the parts of the financial and banking system which took the country to the brink of disaster, including through the creation of a state investment bank to help the real economy, not least manufacturing and construction, get back on its feet,” said O’Grady. “I'll also be stepping up the

Frances O’Grady

pressure for an ambitious employment programme that gives people dignity and time for a family life outside of work - not just dead-end jobs.” The TUC will be also coordinating nationwide action for a living wage, a theme previously pushed by the hierarchy of the Catholic Church and by a number of individual churches. “A living wage would help lift children out of poverty and give ordinary people a fair reward for the wealth that they produce. That means an end to greed at the top and putting the brake on those businesses that try to outsource their moral responsibility. Big business must be held to account for the treatment of workers down their supply chains, at home and abroad. There must be an end to remuneration committee closed shops by allowing ordinary workers a say over top pay. And British workplaces must be reunionised to introduce a measure of power sharing and democracy into our economic life,” said O’Grady. The first woman General Secretary is outraged that the burden for a crisis created largely in the banking institutions of the City of London should effectively being paid for by some of the poorest families in the land.

“Working families face a triple whammy of shrinking pay packets, rising bills and cuts in vital public services. This is the biggest squeeze in living standards since the 1920s. At 2.5 million, unemployment is high and a generation of young people face a very uncertain future. And to rub salt into the wound the government is planning to strip away basic employment rights by making it easier to sack workers and price ordinary people out of justice by introducing charges for employment tribunals,” said O’Grady. “But it's now clear that all this sacrifice is in vain. The Chancellor's plan to reduce the deficit has patently failed. The government is set to borrow £158 billion more than it planned over the life of this parliament because the tax take is down, the benefits bill is up and the economy is tanking. “Tax cuts for the rich have not delivered the trickle down effect that the government promised. Corporations are sitting on a mountain of cash pile but refuse to invest while demand is low. Inequality continues to grow with the concentration of wealth at the top actually escalating over the last year. The lessons are clear. You can't make a country richer by making its people poorer. “The Government should stop cutting and start investing in building affordable homes, greening our infrastructure and putting people back to work. But more than this we need a radical rethink of our economy and the obscene imbalance of wealth and power that many economists now agree led to the financial crash in the first place.”
Paul Donovan is a freelance journalist




Feature United States

Peace on Earth means no more war
As we enter Advent, renowned peace activist Fr John Dear reflects on how Mahatma Gandhi perceived Christ’s non-violence and why the United States’ actions around the world need to change course

The story goes that when the nonviolent Jesus was born into abject poverty to homeless refugees on the outskirts of a brutal empire, angels appeared in the sky to impoverished shepherds singing, “Glory to God in the highest and peace on earth!” That child grew up to become, in Gandhi’s words, “the greatest nonviolent resister in the history of the world,” and was subsequently executed by the empire for his insistence on justice. As tens of millions of Christians across the globe look forward

to the birth of the Prince of Peace, the US continues to wage war in Afghanistan, Colombia and elsewhere; crushes the hungry, homeless, elderly, imprisoned and refugee; and maintains the world’s ultimate terrorist threat –  its nuclear arsenal. Like Herod, Pilate and their soldiers, we have rejected the angels’ call for “peace on earth.” If the angels are correct, then Christmas requires us to welcome God’s gift of peace on earth. In such a time, that means we have to work for an end to war.


As Gandhi pointed out, there is a straight line from the crib to the cross

Christmas calls us to become like Christ –  people of active, creative, steadfast nonviolence who give our lives in resistance to empire and war. When Gandhi was asked one Christmas Day for his thoughts about

Gandhi promoted peace and love

Christmas, he spoke about the connection between the wood of the crib –  Christ’s poverty –  and the wood of the cross – Christ’s non-violent resistance to evil. He said Christmas summons us to the same lifelong non-violence. It has social, economic, and political implications. I think, like Gandhi, that we have to make those connections and pursue those implications. Here are a few of them. First, Christmas celebrates the birth of a life of perfect non-violence and calls us to become people of

active non-violence. Christmas invites us to practice the vulnerable, disarming simplicity of children, to live the disarmed life in solidarity with the children of the world, and to spend our lives in resistance to empire. It summons us to study, teach, practice and experiment with creative nonviolence that we too might live the life of non-violence which Jesus exemplified so that one day peace might reign one earth. Second, Christmas demonstrates that God sides with the poor, becomes one with the poor, and walks among the poor. God does not side with the rulers, the rich or the powerful, but with the homeless, the hungry and the refugees. Christmas puts poverty front and centre and demands that we work to abolish poverty itself so that every human being has food, clothing, housing, healthcare, education, employment and a lifetime of peace. Third, since Christmas illustrates how God sides with the poor in order to liberate the oppressed from poverty and injustice, it calls us to reject greed, give away our money and possessions to those in need, and also live in solidarity with the disenfranchised. Fourth, Christmas pushes us to stand on the margins of society, where we will find God. Christmas announces that every human being is a beloved son and daughter of the God of love. Every human life is beautiful in the eyes of God, since God has become one of us. From now on, we reject exclusivity, racism, sexism, and discrimination of any kind, and embrace everyone as equal. We stand on the margins with the excluded, the marginalised, the outsiders and outcasts. From there, we envision a new reconciled humanity. Fifth, as Gandhi pointed out, there is a straight line from the crib to the cross. Christ practiced steadfast nonviolent resistance to imperial injustice and was brutally executed. That bloody outcome is crucial to the story, and calls us to work for the abolition of the death penalty so that Christ will never be crucified again and the killing stops once and for all. Sixth, since the birth of Christ means that every human life is beloved by God, that all human beings are God’s children, we have to

treat every human being on the planet as our very own sister and brother which means we must oppose war and work for the abolition of war itself. In particular, we call for reparations and non-violent solutions to the horrors we have brought upon the people of the Middle East. Seventh, if the angels celebrate the coming of “peace on earth,” that means they are environmentalists. We too have to protect the earth, oppose its destruction, defend God’s creatures and the universe, and help make the earth a place of peace for every life form. Eighth, Christmas means working for the abolition of nuclear weapons. These weapons are idolatrous and blasphemous. Their very existence insults the God of peace and mocks the non-violent Jesus. We must reject this love of death and destruction, and pursue life, the God of life, and a new world without nuclear weapons. Ninth, Christmas calls us individually to prepare for the gift of peace on earth. It invites us to welcome peace in our hearts and our personal lives, and learn to be at peace with ourselves, with God, with our families, friends, neighbours, and local communities, and with the whole world. Finally, Christmas invites us to be human in an inhuman time. The scandal of the story is that God wants to become human and show us how to be human. We, on the other hand, want to play God, to be powerful, in charge, in control, to dominate the world. Perhaps the best way to celebrate Christmas and welcome the beautiful gift of peace on earth is simply to be human, despite the callous inhumanity around us, and to trust that our modest, vulnerable humanity –  our non-violence, compassion and love – like the humanity of the child in the crib, will one day bear good fruit and sow the seeds of peace on earth.


Fr John Dear is a Jesuit priest from the United States. For more visit JUSTICEMAGAZINE25

Feature Timor-Leste

Lucy Jenkinson reports on the work being carried out with the help of Progressio to counter domestic violence in Southeast Asia’s fledgling state

Demanding respect for the women of Timor-Leste
A week before my arrival in TimorLeste, Ban Ki-moon and Gordon Brown were there to formally announce the withdrawal of UN security staff from this millennium’s first new country – more than 10 years after the UN arrived in the wake of the Indonesian army’s reluctant retreat following a bloody war of independence. The UN has deemed Timor-Leste a safe place, one which can run its own policing and judicial system. But who is it exactly the UN believes the Timorese are safe from? Because as far as the women of Timor-Leste are concerned, that safety does not necessarily exist within their own homes. The statistics on domestic abuse are bad – it is the country’s most frequently committed crime with one third of all women having suffered some kind of domestic abuse – but not nearly as shocking as the personal stories of violence that women I met during my time in Timor-Leste shared with me. But it’s not just a question of violence, it’s one of respect – and of not just recognising women’s rights but upholding them too. It’s one thing to have a woman physically present at a meeting, another to record and act on her opinions. During my time in Timor-Leste I

met with a few women taking matters into their own hands; one of them is Domingas Tillman, who is a force to be reckoned with. After witnessing domestic violence throughout her childhood she vowed never to get married and joined a convent. This seemed like the answer for a while but she fell in love and ended up becoming a wife and mother instead of a nun. She and her husband had six daughters and a strong and happy marriage before he passed away in 2010. As a result of her own childhood experiences, Domingas has dedicated her adult life to helping other victims of domestic violence. In 2006 she set up her first safe house for women who have suffered at the hands of their husbands and families. The house had two bedrooms, an office and a counselling room. In 2010 Domingas had to find larger premises as so many women were turning up at her door and the safe house she now runs has room for 12 women and a separate admin block. Progressio Development Worker Victor Owuor has run training sessions on human resources and managing finances, which Domingas has attended. She is also part of the local NGO network, which offers support to small organisations.

At the time of my visit, there is only one woman staying at the safe house but this figure fluctuates each month. Domingas shares the story of the woman currently staying in the safe house: “This lady has been here for three months. She is extremely traumatised. When she was younger her family forced her to marry a man she didn’t like and he was very cruel to her. She managed to run away with their new-born baby but the baby died as a result of their homelessness and she had no option but to return home. This happened twice. She has lost two babies this way and each time had no choice but to return home to the man from whom she ran away. “People in the town saw her wandering around, sleeping rough, and rumours spread that she had mental health issues. On her third time of running away, leaving two children behind this time, she was picked up by a gang who forced her into working as a prostitute. “Eventually the police found her and brought her to the safe house. At first she could not even communicate and she is still too afraid to see men. “We provide regular counselling sessions and have helped her to reconnect with her past in a positive


Women are still scared of coming forward and speaking out against their husbands; some communities and families will actively discourage it


Domingas Tillman has dedicated her adult life to helping other women

way through sewing – making and embroidering simple garments or soft furnishings, which she enjoys and is really good at.” Domingas and her volunteers always try to open a dialogue between the women who come to them and their families. The aim, where possible, is to reintegrate the women back into their communities. Families and neighbours have great importance in

Timor-Leste and it is extremely difficult, not only financially but socially, for a woman to live by herself. Domingas is modest about all that she has achieved. She is wary of the relationships with men her daughters might pursue now they are growing up but hopeful for a positive change in the way people regard domestic violence. “The law prohibiting domestic vio-

lence is a good step,” Domingas says, “but it is difficult for it to be enforced because women are still scared of coming forward and speaking out against their husbands; some communities and families will actively discourage it.” The return of women to their communities is carefully monitored by Domingas, her volunteers and specialist mitigation lawyers brought in

Feature Timor-Leste

to draw up a declaration that must be signed by the husband promising to stop harming his wife. Whilst walking around the safe house Domingas explains how they have tried to make it as safe as possible without being too institutional. “Sometimes the women who come here feel as though they are the ones held captive,” Domingas explains, “whilst their husbands are free to live in their home and go about their life as normal.” This is one of the reasons Domingas and her team only offer short term residency – up to six months. If a woman is still unable to return to her family after six months she will be given a place at another safe house run by an order of nuns and where long term care and facilities are provided. Sometimes it is better for women to go straight to this alternate safe house after only one or two nights with Domingas because of the danger posed by their husbands or families, as it is further away. The way forward, as far as Domingas is concerned, involves “changing attitudes about domestic violence through rigorous law enforcement and social awareness campaigns. Education in schools, churches and families is also vital to reduce domestic violence.” Domingas speaks matter-of-factly about all she has encountered. If she was once a victim she certainly doesn’t behave like one and has a gift for passing on this enthusiasm for a life worth living. Leaving the safe house I do not feel sad but uplifted that there is hope for women here: hope for a better life without violence; hope for their children that they may grow up knowing it is wrong to behave cruelly towards others; and hope for justice to be served to the men who continue to harm their wives, thanks to the new law prohibiting domestic violence, and better relationships between Timorese police and people like Domingas. Domestic violence is, unfortunately, a much talked about topic in TimorLeste. Most people I meet have a recent story to tell involving domestic abuse. The day after meeting Domingas I am due to have dinner with a British couple working in the capital, Dili. As we drive round the bay they comment on how much has changed

in the few short years they have been in Timor-Leste. “When we arrived you wouldn’t have seen all those lights on the hillside. Electricity has really only been rolled out to households quite recently,” they tell me. “Not that that’s always a good thing,” they continue: “…a funeral was held yesterday for an unborn baby whose mother miscarried at eight months pregnant after her husband kicked her in the stomach over a dispute about what to watch on TV.” Domestic abuse has many root causes, many of which are commonly acknowledged wherever you are in the world: alcoholism, unemployment, poverty. But in Timor-Leste women are often not respected. The interpreter who travels with me to

some remote villages, a lovely man called Alfonzo, tells me even his own brothers ask why he does not beat his wife? He loves his wife very much and is secure in their relationship, he is happy for her to go out dancing and has never considered being violent towards her – but this is a relatively progressive attitude for a Timorese man.


Things have come a little way, yes, but there is still a long way to go

Rede Feto, or Women’s Network, is creating change in Timor Leste

Timor-Leste is a country of stark contrasts in many ways, and none more striking than the position of women. But although women are not respected in general, they do however account for 29 per cent of MPs, and Timor-Leste has a female Chancellor – a significant symbol of equality that has not been achieved in the UK or most other western countries. There is also a strong feminist movement in Timor-Leste that has manifested itself in the form of Rede Feto, which means Women’s Network. The network’s roots precede Timor-Leste’s independence by a few years and it has gone from strength to strength during the past decade. Yasinta Lujina, aged 34, is the current director of Rede Feto. I meet her on a sticky Monday afternoon in her

office; fans are whirling above our heads and on stands placed strategically around the room. Yasinta is in the middle of trying to organise prizes for a raffle she wants to run at the next Women’s Congress due to be held in December. This will be the fourth Women’s Congress, held every four years, bringing together women from all over Timor-Leste. “It’s a huge logistical operation,” Yasinta tells me, “We arrange transport and accommodation for all the women who attend the Congress; it’s a lot of work.” The hard work has paid off though. In 2004 the first booklet was produced detailing the recommendations put forward by women at the Congress to each government ministry regarding women’s issues. This booklet was produced in both

Tetun, the most widely spoken language in Timor-Leste, and English. As a result of the last Congress in 2008, a representative from Rede Feto now sits on the commission for each government ministry to give direct input into policy making and procedures from a female perspective and with other women in mind. This work was supported by Progressio development workers who assisted Rede Feto in improving communications between their own partners and members, conducting an internal evaluation and developing a plan based on the evaluation to address strengths and weaknesses. In her own personal life Yasinta has seen significant shifts too. “The more serious I became about my job, the more seriously my husband took me,” Yasinta smiles, obviously proud of her husband. “Now he will do some cooking and take the children to school if I am busy.” Yasinta acknowledges that domestic violence is a massive barrier to improving women’s rights in TimorLeste. “We need to socialise the law,” she says, shaking her head. “We need strong laws and a strong judicial system that protects everyone.” Next on the agenda for Yasinta and Redo Feto, after the Women’s Congress, is a new campaign against human trafficking. These women are so positive and dynamic that it really is hard to believe the vast majority of female Timorese live as second class citizens. Women’s rights are moving further up the agenda but, as Yasinta puts it when I ask about how they have progressed since her childhood: “…things have come a little way, yes, but there is still a long way to go.” These women demonstrate the fighting spirit of the Timorese. They have managed to overcome social and political obstacles with few resources in order to make an amazing difference to the lives of many other women. Strong, independent, ambitious women like these should be the role models for young girls growing up in Timor Leste today.


Lucy Jenkinson is communications officer with Progressio JUSTICEMAGAZINE29

Campaign Hungry for Change

More than 250 campaigners met at Westminster Cathedral Hall to plan the strategy for CAFOD’s campaign to put food on the global agenda, writes Pascale Palmer

A renewed effort to combat hunger
Hunger exists in different levels in every corner of the globe, but it is most extreme and concentrated in developing countries. In the last quarter of the 20th century people, seemed to be winning the fight against hunger with the total number of hungry people going down. But just a few years into this century numbers were on the increase. Progress in reducing hunger has now levelled off and in some regions, especially Africa, hunger is increasing. In 2008 the price of food rose sharply, and this was followed by a global financial crisis. These two events meant that by 2009 the number of hungry people had risen to more than one billion, dipping down to 925m the following year as food prices decreased. This is a far cry from the Millennium Development Goals target of halving hunger levels by 2015. Right now one in eight people in the world are hungry, and women and girls are affected disproportionately. What causes hunger is complex – a brutal mix of elements including natural disasters, conflict, poor agricultural infrastructure, the increasing impacts of climate change, the present economic crisis – but underpinning them all is poverty and imbalance of power. Having nothing to fall back on means the poorest people are more vulnerable to sudden disasters, food price increases and ongoing climate change, tipping them into hunger and to the brink of starvation. Offering emergency aid to people in dire

need is a vital stop-gap, but at any given moment there is enough food produced in the world to feed everyone. To end global hunger we have to address the way the food system works. The food system is not only about food, it is about politics, economic, social justice and the environment. Food can be bought, sold and eaten all within a few miles of where it’s grown, or it can travel thousands of miles and pass through many different processes. But whether it is local or global, what matters most in the food system is who has the most power, because they are the people who make the rules, while the less powerful have to follow them. While East Africa is still facing its worst drought in 60 years with 10million people in the region at risk of starvation, and as we all face the threat of a global food crisis, world leaders need to prioritise an overhaul of the food system that prioritises people rather than profit. It was against this background that CAFOD launched a new food campaign to hundreds of supporters at Westminster Cathedral at the start of November. Around 250 campaigners from all over England and Wales made their way to Westminster Cathedral Hall to launch a new year-long campaign that aims to improve the food system. During the campaigner conference, supporters heard from Bishop John Arnold, CAFOD partner Father Joe Komakoma and theologian David McLoughlin, before joining workshops looking at different aspects of

the Hungry for Change campaign and how as Catholics people can work together to bring about change. Clare Lyons, CAFOD’s head of campaigns, said at the launch: “We are delighted to see so many people with such a wealth of enthusiasm and experience. We’ve all learnt so much from each other. Now the real work starts, getting the message out that it’s a scandal that millions of people

CAFOD campaigners in the piazza at the launch of Hungry for Change at Westminster Cathedral

go hungry in a world which provides enough food for all. Through campaigning, we can all do something about this.” The Hungry for Change campaign calls for fundamental changes in the global food system so that power is more justly shared between rich and poor people, and more people can have access to enough food. There are an estimated 870 million

people worldwide without enough food to be healthy and live an active life. The overwhelming majority of these live in developing countries. Hunger is the world’s number one health risk, killing more people every year than AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis combined. The recent financial crisis has pushed even more people around the world to the brink of starvation.

Fr Joe Komakoma shared stories from his native Zambia showing how, despite the country’s relative economic success, many small-scale farmers are struggling to survive and climate change is making it harder for families to grow enough food to eat and sell. “I hope that this campaign can raise awareness that there is a problem with food,” he said. “People may not be aware that every night one in

Campaign Hungry for Change

Fr Joe Komakomaaddressed supporters in Westminster Cathedral Hall

eight people goes without food. “The more aware we are, the more obliged we are to do something about it. I hope people will lend their help to the Hungry for Change campaign and stand in solidarity with those who don’t have enough food.” The campaign highlights the fact that a handful of supermarkets and food companies dominate the food system, making the rules that decide cost, price and standards. They often also control access to vital resources such as land, seeds and water. Yet 50 per cent of the world’s food is grown by small-scale farmers in developing countries. With little power in the global food supply chain, these farmers are often forced to agree to big companies’ demands regardless of how unfair they are. CAFOD supporter Christine Smith, from Lancaster diocese, summed up the mood of the day for many cam32 JUSTICEMAGAZINE

paigners: “I had a brilliant time at the Hungry for Change launch. “It was great meeting other supporters to share our campaigning stories. “It was so inspiring to hear what others have done and I came away with loads of ideas to get people I know involved in the campaign.”

The campaign wants...
...the UK government to ensure ‘empowering aid’ - that helps small-farmers, especially women, speak up for their own needs and supports initiatives such as farming co-operatives - is a global priority; ...the UK government to include global food companies in the new statutory register of lobbyists so that we can all see how companies seek to influence government policy behind closed doors; ...for us all to look again at the choices we make about what we eat and buy. We are all part of the global food system and by choosing local, sustainable or Fairtrade food, reducing the food we waste, and eating less meat, we can all make a difference.


People may not be aware that every night one in eight people goes without food. The more aware we are, the more obliged we are to do something about it



Cover story Madagascar

One woman has learnt how to increase yields and stave off hunger thanks to a Catholic priest, reports Sara A. Fajardo

It’s 8am, and the sun over Madagascar is already etching shadowy grooves across the landscape in the small village of Tsinjorano. Farmer Patricia Suzy Razafindrafara, 42, shades her eyes with her palm and surveys her rice fields. Thick stalks sway in the gentle breeze as crickets sing a morning lullaby. She carefully kicks off her black plastic shoes, hefts her metal weeder over her shoulder and scrambles into the shallow paddies below. Suzy’s raffia hat forms tan-andbrown concentric circles against a horizon of green as she tilts her head down and pushes her weeder. The spurlike wheels churn through the evenly spaced rows, uprooting weeds and aerating the soil. When Suzy first began planting rice the way Catholic Relief Services’ partner Caritas Antsirabe recommended, her neighbours laughed. It’s common practice in Madagascar to flood rice paddies. Some are so deep, children dive into them in search of crayfish. Conventional wisdom dictates flooding the fields to kill weeds. Suzy didn’t flood her fields. By their accounts, she was doing everything wrong. She transplanted seedlings only 12 to 15 days into their growth. She planted them one by one rather than in clumps of six. And she arranged the seedlings in 10-inch by 10-inch square patterns rather than in closer and more haphazard rows. When harvest time rolled around, though, Suzy’s fields yielded more than one-and-a-half times the rice her neighbours’ did. Suddenly, “they were no longer laughing,” says Suzy. “Instead, women at the market were stopping me to ask me to teach them the method.” That method is called System of Rice Intensification, or SRI, an innovative way of planting rice pioneered

Cultivating prosperity: Madagascar’s rice revolution

by Jesuit priest Fr Henri de Laulanié, a French agricultural missionary who worked in Madagascar for more than 30 years. Although Fr de Laulanié had no experience in rice production, he chose to focus his work on Madagascar’s staple food—the Malagasy eat more rice per capita than any other people in the world. SRI adheres to a “less is more”

approach to rice cultivation. Years of observation, experimentation and collaboration with farmers in the Antsirabe region taught Fr de Laulanié that farmers could cultivate more rice with fewer seeds, less water and no costly fertilisers or pesticides. Together, they adapted each new discovery, which helped improve the SRI approach to agriculture.


Farmer Patricia Suzy Razafindrafara uses a metal weeder provided by CRS and Caritas Antsirabe

A drought revealed to Fr de Laulanié and farmers that SRI-cultivated rice plants, especially their roots, proved to be heartier when water was drastically reduced. Although flooding rice fields does kill weeds, it also rots root systems and depletes oxygen supplies to plants. Farmers experimenting with non-traditional planting methods helped Fr

de Laulanié realise that earlier transplantation with single seedlings spaced for easy weeding fortifies and expands root systems. When the government stopped subsidising commercial fertilisers, Fr de Laulanié turned to composting and manure to add vital nutrients to the soil. Over time, SRI resulted in unbelievably bountiful harvests.

Even Suzy was skeptical when Charles Rakotondranaivo of Caritas Antsirabe approached her church group about adopting SRI. The numbers didn’t add up. How could fewer seeds and less water really equal more harvest? “When I first heard about it,” Suzy says, “I thought it was a little crazy.” Each season, however, her family

Cover story Madagascar


New skills have been applied in a tradtional society with the assistance of Catholic agencies

was unable to produce enough rice on their 15-acre farm to get through the year. Invariably, they would have to purchase a one or two-month’s supply of the cherished grain just when stock was running out and rice prices were spiking. Charles promised it would only require a half pound of seed, rather than the usual five pounds, to plant an acre. That year, Suzy allotted two of her 15 acres to test the method. When her SRI crops produced several more bags than her non-SRI fields, she was sold. Over the years, she expanded her SRI rice fields, first from two to six acres and then, eventually, to all 15. SRI is more labour intensive than traditional planting methods, yet most agree the results are worth it. A key concern, though, is the time needed to weed fields. “If my 15-acre

rice field is weeded by hand,” Suzy says, “it requires four women working over two days to get the job done.” But the metal weeder, provided by CRS and Caritas Antsirabe through funding from the Better U Foundation, drastically cuts that time. “With the weeder, it requires only two people to get the job done in one day’s time,” Suzy says. On mornings that Suzy chooses to weed alone, neighbours often stop by to admire the plentiful grains growing on the thick stalks of her rice fields or ask her questions about how to apply her methods. Through farmers like Suzy, Charles hopes to spread the use of SRI to every family in Antsirabe. Although progress may be slow, every initially reluctant family in Suzy’s village has now tried the method. Word has spread—people in countries as far off

as Indonesia and China are adopting what began with the Church in Madagascar. Throughout the world, SRI results in millions of cultivated rice acres each year. After a few hours’ work, Suzy comes home to prepare the midday meal. She stores the weeder in a shed and climbs the stairs to the two-story walkup she shares with her family and her fellow SRI farmer, motherin-law Valerine. While Suzy’s husband, Vincent, stokes the fire in their wood-burning stove and prepares some of the green beans he has harvested from a separate plot of land, Valerine spreads freshly picked rice on their rooftop to dry. She’ll be taking it to market the following day to have the husks removed. Suzy looks over their courtyard and gently tosses rice onto a large metal disk. The perfectly white grains light-



Cover story Madagascar

ly tap the silver surface as she searches for and removes small rocks and pieces with husks. SRI has substantially changed her family’s life. Not only do they now have enough rice to last them all year, they often have extra to sell to help pay school fees for their three children or purchase little luxuries like a battery-powered television set. When the meal is served, the family sits around a long, wooden table. A soft breeze rustles their lace curtains as they bow their heads in prayer. Valerine sings grace in sweet melodic Malagasy, and the family gives thanks before digging into a feast of rice, green beans and salted fish.

The priest devoted to rice farmers
Jesuit priest Father Henri de Laulanié spent more than three decades of his life working with small-scale farmers in Madagascar to improve their crop productivity. He first arrived in Madagascar from his native France in 1961 as an agricultural missionary with no experience in rice cultivation. Recognising the Malagasy dependency on rice — they eat more rice per capita than any other people in the world — Fr de Laulanié decided to focus his energies on rice production. His goal: to discover new ways of cultivating rice that would not require additional costly tools or other monetary investment for subsistence farmers. At the time of his arrival, the Malagasy, like most rice producers in the world, planted their crops closely together and flooded their fields to help prevent weed growth. Fr de Laulanié later discovered that such methods were counterproductive and that, with a few modifications, farmers could nearly double their crop yields. With careful experimentation and keen observation of the results attained by farmers who departed from traditional planting methods, Fr de Laulanié developed the System of Rice Intensification. This method, although more time-consuming than traditional practices, vastly increases harvests while requiring 25-50 per cent less water and 8090 per cent fewer seeds. Since its introduction, SRI has been recognised by more than 30 countries, including Indonesia, China and India, three of the largest rice-producing nations in the world. Fr de Laulanié died in June 1995, and his legacy lives on in the millions of acres of SRI rice cultivated each year.

Sara A. Fajardo is regional information officer for Catholic Relief Services in eastern and southern Africa. She is based in Nairobi, Kenya




The end of nuclear?
Fukushima: The Death Knell for Nuclear Energy? Sean McDonagh SSC ‘Fukushima: The Death Knell for Nuclear Energy?’ is a new book by Columban eco-theologian Sean McDonagh. Nuclear energy was harnessed for civil and military use less than 60 years ago. Ever since it has been a source of great debate. While the nuclear industry has provided cheap energy to many countries in the world it has also been the source of environmental disasters and untold damage to the planet for generations to come. All of this came to a head with the disaster at the Fukushima Nuclear Plant in March 2011 in the wake of the Japanese Tsunami. This event and the response to it have led to a reassessment of the nuclear programmes in most of the world’s nuclear powers. In this book, Columban priest Sean McDonagh looks at the responses and reactions to the Fukushima disaster, the implications it has had for the world’s nuclear powers, the reaction of the Church to the nuclear industry, The Fair Tax Edited by Emer O Siochru This slim volume argues for a tax which could do more to bring about social and economic justice than any other step a government could take. The authors believe that Ireland is in danger of missing a golden opportunity to lead the way. The Irish government is considering introducing a property tax, but the one they propose will fall on ordinary homeowners, protecting the speculators and developers who helped bring about the financial crisis. The authors argue that what is

Fukushima left the world debating the future of nuclear power


and the implications for the growing pro-nuclear lobby in Ireland. “In this clear, factual and concise book Sean McDonagh provides us with the information we need to make a moral judgment about nuclear power post-Fukushima. “This is a comprehensive but accessible account of exactly how the nuclear industry operates and of the disastrous long-term implications for future generations in dealing with nuclear our waste,” says Dr Paul Collins. needed is a Site Value Tax. This means a landowner is taxed on the unimproved value of the land they own, which is fair because they did nothing to create that land. Buildings, crops etc which are the fruit of people’s labour, would not be taxed. This shifts the tax burden from the ordinary working population and onto the landowning elite, (the one per cent) who can currently profit without any effort. If land values rise, instead of the benefit going to the landowners as it does now, the benefit will be shared with the community. There would be no incentive for

Dr Peadar Kirby commented: “This book is particularly strong in placing the scientific arguments in the context of how regulation of the industry has been weak and dominated by political self-interest. “The argument throughout is informed by a thorough knowledge of experiences throughout the world as well as by ethical considerations.” Review: Ellen Teague banks or other investors to create a property bubble, and investment would be diverted to more productive areas of the economy, creating employment. The money raised by this new tax could be used to reduce or even abolish other taxes, many of which, like VAT, fall disproportionately on the less wealthy members of society. It would also be impossible to avoid: even the cleverest accountant cannot move a country estate to an offshore tax haven. One can only hope that the Irish government will see the strength of this argument, introduce a Site Value Tax, and take a big leap towards economic and social justice. Review: Bernadette Meaden


Feature Zambia

So-called witch-hunters in countries including Zambia and Nigeria extort money before murdering people they accuse of bringing misfortune on families. Catholics are at the forefront of the fight against Zambia’s witch-hunters as Dr John Newton reports

The fight against superstition
This September, the trial of a group of witchfinders, who burned seven people to death, came to its conclusion. It ended with the High Court in Mansa, Zambia convicting the nine men of murder and other offences for the imprisonment and deaths of the individuals they accused of practising black magic. The sequence of events began in November 2011 when the deputy chief of Samfya village was killed after being struck by lightning. The men on trial at the High Court were members of a witch-finding gang who offered to identify the people who had slain the deputy chief by sorcerous means. In a process reminiscent of the witch-hunts that occurred in Europe from the fifteenth to seventeenth centuries, the gang labelled various members of the local community as witches, taking them from their families and imprisoning them before finally burning them to death. The problem of witchcraft accusations remains widespread, particularly in the more rural parts of Zambia. Such is the scale of the accusations that lay people in Zambia involved in justice and peace work are now helping those accused of witchcraft as part of their mission. Speaking to Aid to the Church in


Witch-hunting is still a big problem in most of the communities ... but we have our justice and peace teams, who are trying to conscientise the people

Need, Archbishop Ignatius Chama of Kasama described how the victims are usually the more vulnerable members of society – women, children and the elderly. This was the case in the last recorded incident of an individual being killed for witchcraft. In January 2012, an elderly married couple were stoned in Luanshya, central Zambia, during the early hours of the morning, after rumours circulated that they were practising sorcery. Mrs Mwika, in her 70s, died after the mob set her on fire, while her husband, Paul Mwika, 80, survived the attack and was taken to a local clinic so that his injuries could be treated, but he died two days later. Archbishop Chama stressed that it was very unusual for those accused

of witchcraft to be put to death and there are only a handful of cases from the last five years – the scale of the incidents in Samfya last year was unprecedented in recent times. More usually those accused of witchcraft are beaten – often to obtain a confession of their crimes – and crops, animals and other possessions confiscated. Archbishop Chama praised the role that lay Catholics had taken in confronting these issues. “Witch-hunting is still a big problem in most of the communities,” he said. “But we have our justice and peace teams who are trying to conscientise the people and raise their awareness concerning this issue.” The bishop added: “It’s the laity who are driving this business of justice and peace, in our two dioceses – Kasama and Mpika – we have put it under the Caritas department. “The people in the parishes are the ones who are in the forefront, moving all the programmes, moving all the activities that are being carried out by the Caritas department in our two dioceses.” Archbishop Chama said superstition was the root of the problems and explained that more catechesis was needed, so that people turned to God
A Nigerian youth accused of being a witch



Feature Zambia

in times of suffering instead of believing their problems were caused by witchcraft. “We are getting somewhere but it’s rooted in the way people respond to the problems of suffering,” Archbishop Chama said, expressing his disappointment that when suffering or tragedy strikes even Christians may still turn to witch doctors or other superstitious practises. He added: “When a Christian is faced with problems, the way of tackling those problems may be one that would rather go back to the way that the ancestors tackled those problems, for example in the area of witchcraft and witch-hunting. “When they are faced with the problem of sickness, the problem of death, they would rather move to witch-hunting as an explanation of those problems.” One of the most recent cases of witchcraft accusations supports the bishop’s analysis. The death of a young girl triggered a mob attack on a suspected witch in Zambia’s third largest city, Ndola. At the end of October 2012, rumours that the child’s grandmother, 70-year-old Luta Kunda, had confessed to killing the girl by magical means led to the mob smashing the windows of her house before setting it alight. By the time the fire brigade arrived the house was completely gutted.

Mrs Kunda herself was taken away to a the police station for her protection. According to the Zambia Daily Mail, residents threatened to kill the old woman if she returned to the area. One resident was reported as saying: “We will kill her because we don’t want witchcraft here … it’s too much, our children are dying mysteriously.” Residents suspect she may be responsible for the recent deaths of more than five other people in the area. Police arrested the girl’s mother for provoking the people to riot. Of course, the persecution of an individual on the grounds that he or she is a witch is illegal in the country. Archbishop Chama explained that the lay-lead initiative was making progress by informing people about the country’s legal code. He said: “I think we are getting somewhere because they are invoking the civil law, the police, the judges, because, of course, in our country there is a law on witchcraft. “Our justice and peace people are invoking this law and educating people about this law.” Under Zambia’s Witchcraft Act, anyone who accuses another person of being a wizard or witch, or causing death, injury or other damage by supernatural means can be fined or imprisoned for up to a year. Persons setting themselves up as

witchfinders or claiming supernatural powers in order to cause fear or injury can also be punished under the law. Dating back to 1914, the Act is the inheritance of British colonial government. The tone and tenor follow that of Britain’s 1735 Witchcraft Act which criminalised those who claimed to command occult powers. Rural areas are further away from police stations, and it has always been more challenging to enforce the law on witchcraft in these areas. Archbishop Chama said this was reflected in the experience of the Church. “I am sure the lay people are making headway, except in some communities which are remote from the urban areas,” he said. Nevertheless, in a country where the more vulnerable members of society have been targeted, not only in rural areas but also in towns and cities, this continues to be a problem which needs addressing. The efforts of lay people working for justice and peace teams are still badly needed. Underlining this are the continuing attacks on people following accusations of witchcraft – atrocities that still make the news.

Dr John Newton works for Aid to the Church in Need (UK). Visit

For news about the Church’s work in the world, visit



Feature United Kingdom

Greg Watts explains how the Apostleship of the Sea is helping the world’s seafarers

From loneliness to piracy
Father Colum Kelly, Apostleship of the Sea port chaplain to Immingham in Humberside, is always prepared for the unexpected, such as the time he received an urgent call from the berthing company asking for his help. Half the crew of a ship had walked off, he was told, and the remainder had locked themselves in the engine room. “I met with the crew in an office compound and the full horror of their plight unfolded. They had survived for 19 days on boiled rice twice a day, had no bottled water on board and hadn’t been paid for two-and-a-half months. And they had not had any communication with their families,” he said. When the crew had sent a letter to the company’s representative complaining about conditions and the captain he threatened them with the police and told them they would all end up in prison. Fr Colum acted as a negotiator between the crew and the ship’s owners and arranged for a representative from the International Transport Workers Federation to visit. Eventually it was agreed that a new captain would arrive, the ship was to receive a full quota of provisions; wages would be paid and various technical issues on board would be properly addressed. “This incident highlights the plight of some modern seafarers, unable to have their voice heard, even when the nature of their complaint is so apparent,” he said. Fr Colum’s story illustrates that life at sea is far from romantic. The reality is that it’s a tough job involving long hours and often cramped living conditions and poor pay. Most seafarers nowadays come from countries in the so-called developing world, such as India and the Philippines. They go to sea not for adventure but to support their families back home. Through its port chaplains and volunteer ship visitors Apostleship of the Sea provide both practical and spiritual help to seafarers in many of the world’s ports. Ann Donnelly has been an Apostleship of the Sea part-time port


Sadly we can no longer think of piracy as just part of maritime mythology or seafarers’ tales

Feature United Kingdom


We let them know that there is someone interested in their welfare

chaplain in Plymouth and Teignmouth for the last two years. Before this she was a ship visitor for six years. She combines her maritime ministry with teaching clinical skills at Peninsula College of Medicine and Dentistry. During an average week, Ann and her team of volunteer ship visitors will visit a dozen ships. When they go on board they take supplies of sim cards,  prayer booklets, rosaries and newspapers.  They also help seafarers top-up their mobile phones and transfer money home to their family.     “We let them know that there is someone interested in their welfare. We try to visit the ships after 5pm when the crew is not that busy. Many offer us a cup of tea and sometimes a meal. “Often the seafarers may need transport to an out of town store.  We provide this if possible, or at least take them to the nearest bus stop. They are in port for eight to 12 hours, during which time they have to work. They get very little rest and relaxation time,” she said. Seafarers often need to talk to someone who is not on the ship, she explained. “One time, a young Filipino man had been informed by his wife that she was leaving him and taking the children. His crew mates were very concerned for his mental health. “He couldn’t stop crying and he had another six months left on his contract. Just sitting with him and allowing him to talk and grieve was the least any one could do.” When 98 crew members arrived at a hotel in Plymouth after their fishing factory ship caught alight off the Cornish coast, Ann went to offer help. “The crew was a mixture of nationalities - Chinese, Russian, South American and Polish. We went along

and chatted to them to find out if they had any needs  and we also  gave toiletries to the small number of women on the ship. “We took a few of the crew to Mass the following day. Before they were repatriated a number of them went on a trip to the aquarium.” Nourishing the faith of seafarers is, of course, a vital part of a port chaplain’s work, said port chaplain to Tees Port and Hartlepool Tony McAvoy. He often conducts Eucharistic services on board a ship. When he receives a request for Mass to be celebrated, he will contact a local priest.

But he added that his ministry isn’t restricted to Catholic seafarers. “We provide welfare services for all seafarers irrespective of race or creed and take seafarers of other faiths to the mosque, the temple, or the Hindu Cultural Centre.” One of the biggest dangers many seafarers today face, especially in waters off the coast of Somalia, is an attack by pirates. Sister Marian Davey, port chaplain in East Anglia, has talked to many seafarers who have been attacked by pirates. “Sadly we can no longer think of piracy as just part of maritime

Sister Marian Davey is port chaplain in East Anglia

mythology or seafarers’ tales. It’s a reality for many seafarers on ships today. “Over the last three years or so I have had many conversations with seafarers who have had to experience the anxiety and fear of sailing through piracy waters as the ship makes it’s way to deliver its cargo to European ports. “Last year, I spent some time with a crew in Felixstowe whose ship had been threatened by pirates. One pirate attempted to climb onboard, but fell off, as the captain made a series of movements with the ship,

causing him to lose his grip. “Meanwhile there was a speedboat full of pirates with a lot of weapons ready to fire at the ship. In this case, it ended well, as the ship was able to speed away from the scene and out of reach of their guns. “When the ship arrived in Felixstowe three weeks later quite a few of the Filipino crew were still recovering from the experience. But they said they had no choice but to get on with the next stage of the voyage in order to earn a living wage to support their families back home.” Piracy was one of this issues dis-

cussed at Apostleship of the Sea’s 23rd international congress when more than 400 delegates from 70 countries gathered in the Vatican in November. James Gosling, a leading shipping lawyer with London law firm Holman Fenwick Willan, said, “What people tend to forget is that the majority of seafarers in this world come from the so-called Third World as opposed to the First World. “The thing that has truly disturbed me is the increasing move from governments in the First World to try to ban ransom payments, and there are current moves afoot in the US and the UK to do just this. “The approach of these First World countries is hypocritical in circumstances where they will turn a blind eye to payment for executives of large corporations who are kidnapped and where ransoms are paid.” The congress also heard about the difficulties fishermen and their families face in trying to earn a living. In his address to delegates, Pope Benedict XVI said that more than any other group, fishermen have to “face the difficulties of the present time and the uncertainty of a future threatened by the negative effects of climate change and the excessive exploitation of resources.” Fr Dirk Demaeght, who works with the fishing communities on the Belgian coast in Zeebrugge, Ostende and Nieuwpoort, said a chaplain had to be a man of the road and be alongside the hardships endured by fishermen. “We meet our fishers going from quay to quay, from ship to ship, from man to man, from family to family, from meeting to meeting and even in the pub over a pint of beer. “Nowadays we reach our fishermen on the maritime radio, by mobile phones, by satellite, by e-mail and in recent years more and more on Facebook. We must go and take all the opportunities to meet them wherever we can.”

Greg Watts is a freelance journalist and author JUSTICEMAGAZINE45

Feature Colombia

Internal displacement in Colombia has resulted in more than five million people being forced from their homes, reports Joanne O’Neill of the Scottish Catholic International Aid Fund (SCIAF)

The deadly price of land
It is estimated that 5.2 million people have been forcibly evicted from their land or have fled organised violence in Colombia, a figure equivalent to the entire population of Scotland. It is no surprise then that Colombia holds the dubious title of having the highest number of internally displaced people anywhere in the world – ahead of Southern Sudan, Iraq and Afghanistan. Now, after decades of civil war and violence a new report from SCIAFfunded advocacy group ABColombia reveals that the mining industry is the latest phenomenon forcing AfroColombian and indigenous people off their land and destroying some of the country’s precious ecological sites. Colombia currently supplies 55 per cent of the world’s emeralds, as well as being a significant source of gold, silver and platinum and a leading producer of coal. The government has ambitious plans for the future; by 2021 it wants to double coal exports, quadruple gold and triple its overall mining sector. This has resulted in vast swathes of Colombian land being auctioned off to foreign investors,


The grave situation is the destruction of the land, the contamination of the rivers and the destruction of areas which families use for their crops

with UK-listed firms amongst the largest investors in the country’s mining industry. A particular concern for groups like ABColombia is that the land belonging to vulnerable groups displaced by the civil war is being parcelled up into mining concessions for multinational corporations. In the western region of Chocó, communities have fought hard for their land to be returned to them after war, only to find that much of it has now been granted to UK-listed AngloGold Ashanti (AGA) for mining purposes. Alarmingly, they also discovered armed groups protecting illegal mines in their territories. Other communities report similar struggles. They point out that corporations have their requests for land concessions processed quickly, ahead

of and often in the same territory as Afro-Colombians have applied for land title years before. In its report Giving It Away, ABColombia raises serious concerns about the rapid expansion of the industry. Louise Winstanley, the author of the report and ABColombia's programme and advocacy manager, explained: "The drive to have Colombia known regionally as a ‘mining country’ is being undertaken before land restitution policies have been implemented, increasing the difficulty of returning stolen lands to those who have been forcibly displaced". One of those affected by the mining industry is Robert Daza Guevara. In 2002, Robert and his wife were forced from their land in Narino, in the south west of Colombia, because of threats made by illegal armed groups. Robert was able to return to his land in 2005 but now campaigns against mining in his community. Robert explained: “Animals are killed because they have drunk contaminated water from the mines. Water for human consumption has decreased because of the use by the mine”. Alex Guanga Nastacuas is a leader of the indigenous Awa community. Like Robert, the Awa have been forced from their land because of violence and intimidation. Mining now


A raised house belonging to a displaced family JUSTICEMAGAZINE47

Feature Colombia


Security guarding the mine beat people who were protesting, including women and a child. In another incident police hit a woman so hard her arm was fractured

threatens the very survival of the Awa. “The grave situation is the destruction of the land, the contamination of the rivers and the destruction of areas which families use for their crops,” said Alex. “There are illnesses from the chemicals chucked into the river by miners and, for example, one child died … the Awa are one of the groups identified by the constitutional court of Colombia as at risk of extinction.” Like Robert and Alex, others are taking a stand against the industry which is destroying homes and livelihoods. Last year alone there were more than 50 anti-mining protests. Those calling for change, however, do so at considerable risk. “There have been threats and attacks against members of the community,” Robert said. “Security guarding the mine beat people who were protesting, including women and a child. In another incident police hit a woman so hard her arm was fractured. The police also use stun grenades”. In a country where human rights have been systematically abused for more than 50 years, community leaders and human rights defenders are subjected to physical and psychological intimidation and violence. Forty nine social leaders and human rights defenders were murdered in 2011, with one murder a week committed in the first half of the year. One such victim was Father José Reinel Restrepo Idárraga, who was an outspoken critic of the Canadian multinational Gran Colombia Gold’s open-pit gold mining venture in Marmato, Antioquia. With little or no state support, A community meeting

Long-suffering people have been forcibly removed from their homes

small farmers, indigenous and AfroColombian people find themselves standing up against multinational corporations in order to protect their land and livelihoods. This lack of protection awarded to indigenous and Afro-Colombian people means UKlisted companies could find themselves inadvertently complicit in the legalisation of land stolen from these communities. Legal but unethical tax practices have also been uncovered with respect to some UK listed multinational companies operating in

Colombia. ABColombia’s report notes that companies are able to avoid paying tax by purchasing concessions of 2,000 hectares or less. AGA owns the largest number of concessions in Colombia. In the Medio Atrato and Quibdó regions in the department of Chocó, the company owns 136,000 hectares of concessions, but 70 per cent of these were applied for in concessions of less than 2,000 hectares. Similarly in Tadó, AGA applied for 13 concessions of 2,000 hectares, rather than one concession of 26,000 hectares.

Incredibly, the lack of a robust and transparent tax system in Colombia has meant that some multinational corporations have been making more from tax exemptions than they pay in corporate income taxes and royalties. ABColombia’s message is clear, as Louise Winstanley explains: “UK companies starting to invest in the Colombian mining sector face reputational risks through inadvertent complicity in human rights abuses unless they take direct responsibility for ensuring that the rights of local people where they intend to mine have been upheld. Companies currently mining in Colombia also appear to be exploiting weak governmental institutions to make even higher profits through tax evasion.” Robert and Alex are backing ABColombia’s call for the UK Government to hold UK-listed businesses to account. Having signed up to the UN’s set of guidelines on Business and Human Rights, the report urges the Government to ensure that businesses listed on the London Stock Exchange are made to report on their human rights record. In addition, the Government must introduce new legislation to allow communities overseas access to the UK judicial system so they are able to protect themselves from corporate abuses by UK companies. SCIAF has been working in Colombia for more than 20 years and helps indigenous and Afro-Colombian communities to establish legal rights of land ownership, return to their land when previously evicted, and grow food and earn a living. Mark Camburn, SCIAF’s project officer for Latin America and Haiti recently returned from Colombia. “We are extremely concerned about the growing impact of mining on these vulnerable communities as they have already suffered so much,” he said. “UK-listed companies must be extremely careful that their drive for profit does not add to the further abuse of human rights of the longsuffering people of Colombia.”

Joanne O’Neill works for SCIAF


Feature United Kingdom

Veronica Mulhall meets a man who has helped turn around an organisation that provides a vital service for London’s homeless after years working as a troubleshooter for councils as well as helping to advise former US vice-president Al Gore

Helping people flourish
Turning round any failing organisation requires a radical vision and a leader who can inspire change. When Keith Fernett arrived at the Catholic homeless charity Anchor House eight years ago he knew he was facing a tough challenge. The charity, with its 118-room centre in London’s Canning Town, was on the brink of collapse and no longer able to carry out its mission to help homeless and jobless people back to work. A former director and management consultant with more than two decades experience in the public sector, Keith remembers sitting down with despondent staff and residents on his first day and announcing it was time to start over. “We decided on a no blame culture,” he recalls. “I got out a blank sheet of paper and said: “Right, what are we going to do? What’s our vision?’ We resolved in five minutes flat what needed to be done and we decided we were going to be the best in London.” With building repairs for the homeless centre estimated at £2.5 million, it was an ambitious, almost impossible, plan. “We had no staff resources. Like a lot of charities at the time that had done things the traditional way, we were facing problems with changing legislation. We had major financial difficulties, were losing funding and receiving only a sixth of that of other similar charities.” A former hostel for seafarers visiting the ports of East London, Anchor House was originally set up in 1962

Keith Fernett

to help those who became redundant on arrival at the docks. In the 1980s, as needs changed, the charity started to take in homeless people. Situated in one of the most deprived areas of East London, the homeless centre was soon struggling to stay afloat. “Although Anchor House was set in the docks, it had missed the boat,” explains Keith. “But we still had one resource – our residents. Before residents had been second-class citizens. We started to change the culture. Within 18 months the residents had already won an award.” Since then, the charity has won a string of awards, attracted new funding following a successful pitch at a ‘Dragon’s Den’ type scenario and used its proximity to Canary Wharf to forge links with the City “Using top management tech-

niques, we had to make sure everything was tightly, tightly managed,” reveals Keith. “When you have few resources you have to use them effectively. The attitude has to become ‘can do’.” Part of the new ‘can do’ approach was to introduce the business concept of performance management for both staff and residents alike. “Some don’t like it,” says Keith, “But most rise to the challenge. We agree a personal development plan. We work with people to set personal aspirations.” There is also a “pecking order” in place so only clients who have proven themselves can earn privileges like access to the bedrooms with the best facilities. “The pecking order is determined by the residents themselves and their involvement,” stresses Keith. “On day one, we give them a licence with a notice to quit within 28 days unless they do what they’ve promised. They might promise to sort housing benefit, sign on with the doctor or see the nurse. We’ve only ever shown the door to one young man.” Born in Amersham, Bucks in 1952, Keith, a cradle Catholic, moved from town to town throughout much of his childhood. His father worked in the prison service, his job taking the family to Lancashire, Durham and Leeds. “I got my stubbornness from being taught by the Salesian Fathers in Thornleigh in Bolton,” he chuckles. “If I had stayed there I expect I would have become one.” Instead he studied for an Economics degree at Hull University. His first job in 1976 was as a town planner in

Accrington, Lancashire. It was around this time that he became interested in Catholic social action. He set up Planning Aid, a body that fought unpopular local authority planning. But didn’t this mean he was effectively fighting his boss? He laughs loudly confirming that I’m not the first person to spot the irony. “I was a town planner by day and by night I fought the adjoining local authorities on behalf of the community.” That chapter came to an end in 1981 when he decided to follow his wife, Frances, to London in search of work. “I decided to head off to the capital because the streets were paved with gold,” he jokes. He pauses before explaining the real reason. “My wife was training to be a teacher and needed a job. Most teaching jobs were down in London.” Leaving his job in the middle of the 1980s recession was a risk for Keith but it was one that paid off. He spent five years working for the London Borough of Hackney in three different jobs. He moved to the London Borough of Newham where he was appointed assistant director of housing. “They kept giving me bigger jobs. The leader of the council appeared in my office one day and asked me to become director of building services. The next thing I knew I was responsible for 1,000 people. Then I became manager of direct services, looking after things like parks, schools and refuse, and inherited 2,000 further staff.” Deciding it was time to become his own boss, Keith set up a consultancy. He led programmes for customs and excise, and was at one point responsible for collecting £70bn in VAT. He advised the police and was a troubleshooter for local authorities including the London Borough of Southwark. He also advised both the Maltese government and the ‘Reinventing government’ programme in the United States, reporting direct to Vice-President Al Gore. “I was leading things and then leaving. I wasn’t part of anything. I got lonely.” In 2004, he tried to beat back the blues by taking up a job as a deputy chief executive of a large housing group. But he still felt unsettled. The yearning to make a radical

The Anchor House building in Canning Town

change in his life eventually got the better of him after he both broke his hand playing basketball and “sliced the cartilage in half in his right knee” during a game of tennis. Both injuries came within the space of eight months and caused Keith to question where he was heading in life. He sighs: “I had both knees operated on simultaneously. My lovely wife, Frances, grabbed hold of me and said, ‘I’ve had enough of this. Have a sabbatical. Go and do that thing we’ve always said you’d do – teach in Africa or run a charity.’ ” In late November 2004 Keith spotted an advert for Anchor House in his

parish newsletter. He was interviewed for the job on November 5th and at his desk three days later. “With Anchor House, I’ve landed where my thoughts are. “I’ve always been interested in people. I’ve had a Catholic upbringing and have believed in Catholic social teaching ever since social justice first started coming alive in the Church in 1968. “My career history means I can be as tough as boots but I’m a big softie too. I feel humbled to see people with drug and mental health problems flourish. That’s where I get my real buzz.”


Feature United Kingdom

As Britain remains in the grip of the economic downturn, Bernadette Meaden reports on how foodbanks are stepping in to help those in need

Our daily bread
In September, Save the Children launched its first ever campaign to combat poverty in the UK. Its report ‘Child Poverty 2012: It Shouldn’t Happen Here’, stated that the UK’s poorest children were bearing the greatest burden of the recession, and the evidence gathered from children and families was both shocking and disturbing. It told not only of the material deprivation many families are experiencing, but the emotional toll it takes as parents grow increasingly stressed, and children become aware of their money worries. Many parents are missing meals themselves in order to feed their children, or buy them a winter coat. Nevertheless, the campaign was dismissed in some quarters as ‘an obscene political stunt’ with one commentator declaring, ‘thanks to the Welfare State and our benefits system, no child in Britain can possibly be said to be living in that kind of poverty – without food or heating – unless their parents are grossly misusing their handouts’. This reflected the assumption that families in poverty are all on benefits and, nobody in the household has a job. But as the report revealed, more than 60 per cent of children living in poverty have at least one working parent. Work does not always keep families out of poverty, if the work is low paid. There is growing evidence that for some families, hunger is a real and urgent problem, which can push parents to the edge. In September, the Manchester Evening News reported that ‘soaring living costs are driving a surge in food thefts across the region – as hundreds more people turn to crime so they can

eat. New figures show stealing for food and groceries is on the increase, despite a drop in other forms of shoplifting’. Chief Supt Chris Sykes of Greater Manchester Police said that it was felt by police that a significant proportion of that was people stealing for themselves items such as a large joint of beef, rather than stealing to sell it on. “In the past, you had stealing to order,” he added, “but now people are stealing for their own use.” Even Newsround, the BBC’s news programme for children, recently reported a surge in children shoplifting in the UK’s capital city. Inspector Andy Briers of Islington Police said: “They’re not stealing sweets and chocolate and chewing gum, they’re actually going out and stealing bread and food for themselves and their families.” This desperation, and the temptation it brings, was expressed plainly by Jamie, a client of a Hampshire foodbank at St John the Baptist Catholic Church in Andover. “If there was no foodbank, I’d have to steal something to feed my family,” he said. The Andover foodbank was set up with the help of The Trussell Trust, a Christian charity which now has more than 250 foodbanks established, and is aiming to have one in every town and city in the UK. The trust reported a 100 per cent increase in demand in the last year, and saw a variety of problems which bring people to them, including rising costs of food and fuel combined with static income, high unemployment and changes to benefits are causing
There is a growing reliance on foodbanks in the United Kingdom

more and more people to come to foodbanks for help. One of the most significant changes to the experience of people on benefits may be the dramatic spike since 2010 in the numbers of people who have been ‘sanctioned’, that is, they have had their benefits stopped as a punishment, perhaps for being late for an appointment at the Jobcentre. This happened to 167,000 people in the first quarter of 2012, and can leave people without an income for weeks or even months. The personal stories of some of the Andover foodbank’s clients show the variety and complexity of the problems people are facing, and the scope and value of the work the volunteers do. Jane and David, a profoundly deaf couple, were both working, but when Jane became ill and lost her job they couldn’t make ends meet. To apply for Working Tax Credit, to which they were entitled, they had to travel to the HMRC offices in person, as their deafness made it difficult to apply by phone. Their travel costs meant they had no money left, so the foodbank supplied them with an emergency food box. Darren’s treatment for cancer as a young man left him with problems with his immune system. He was on a lot of medication and often needed to go into hospital. In his late 30s his marriage broke up and he became homeless, penniless and extremely depressed, to the point of threatening suicide. Andover foodbank supplied Darren with emergency food on three occasions, but perhaps more importantly, they showed concern and compassion, helping him get over a particularly difficult time. He is now in a housing association property and his benefits have been sorted out. Darren is where he is today because he realised that people cared about him. Jack meanwhile, is a 22-year-old single man on Jobseekers Allowance. He was living with his mother, but when she got a new partner, he and Jack clashed and Jack was thrown out of his home. The local council was trying to find suitable hostel accommodation for him but in the meantime he had nothing but the clothes he stood up


If there was no foodbank, I’d have to steal something to feed my family

in. The Andover foodbank worked with other agencies to help Jack find accommodation, and provided food and support. All food is donated, and this is where the wider local communities can get involved. In May, students at Bishop Challoner Catholic High School in Basingstoke ran a week-long campaign to bring in food for the Andover foodbank, which resulted in donations of a massive 597 kg. of groceries. In prosperous areas, getting a community to recognise the need for a foodbank can be a difficult step. In Towcester, Northamptonshire, a foodbank set up by Churches Together was ‘a hard sell’. When the local newspaper reported it being set up it attracted some negative comments from readers, including ‘Will this not attract the paricites’ (sic). Unlike traditional soup kitchens, where anyone can attend and be fed with no questions asked, foodbank clients are referred by professionals, such as doctors and social workers, who identify people in crisis and give them a voucher. This entitles them to a pack containing three days worth of non-perishable food which is nutritionally balanced. But perhaps more importantly, the volunteers at the foodbank can chat to clients and help to point them in the right direction to address their problems. The growth of foodbanks has been cited by some politicians as welcome evidence of the Big Society in action, whilst others see it as a sign of failure of the economy and the welfare state. However we regard them though, it seems that foodbanks are now becoming an established feature of British society.
Bernadette Meaden blogs for Ekklesia JUSTICEMAGAZINE53



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The Apostolic Nuncio to Great Britain, Archbishop Antonio Mennini, visited Feltham Young Offenders Institution in west London during Prisons Week in November. He celebrated Mass for the inmates and was given a tour of the facilities.

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