World Water Day, instigated by the United Nations General Assembly in 1993, is observed each year on March 22. This day gives us an opportunity to learn more about water related issues in our world and encourages us to take action to make a difference.
In 2016 the theme of this day is Water and Jobs. Nearly all jobs depend on water. Yet millions of people who work in water are not recognized or protected by basic labour rights. This year we are asked to focus on how enough quantity and quality of water can change workers’ lives and livelihoods. Catholic Health Association of the United States has prepared a prayer for this day. Read more…
On Palm Sunday thousands of people across Australia joined in rallies marching to demand justice for refugees. Marist Sister Judith Lythall took part in the Sydney rally which was attended by over 3,500 people.
The 2016 rallies sent a strong message requesting that asylum seekers not be sent back to Nauru, and that the student Mogjan now held in detention in Darwin be released back to her school and husband in Brisbane. There were many calls for the detention centres on Manus Island and Nauru to be closed.
Talitha Kum (the International Network of Consecrated Life Against Human Trafficking) Continent representatives met in Rome 25th – 31st January. Present at the opening of the meeting were Cardinal João Braz de Aviz, prefect of the Vatican’s Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, and Sr Carmen Sammut, President of the Union of International Superior’s General(UISG). Marist Sisters and ACRATH member, Sr Noelene Simmons sm, represented Australia (ACRATH)and New Zealand (ANZRATH) at this meeting.
The first three days of the meeting, held at the UISG headquarters, were spent in sharing experiences and developing the Talitha Kum vision and objectives for the next three years. Over the next three days participants gathered in the Pontifical Academy of Science where they received valuable input from experts and representatives of other church organizations who are working in the field of human trafficking. On the final day the members of Talitha Kum presented workshops on human trafficking to members of secular institutes who were in Rome participating in the events for the closing of the year of Consecrated Life. All who participated in the Talitha Kum meeting found it to be an enriching experience and are retuning home with a greater awareness of being part o an international network against human trafficking.
“This year our minds cannot help but dwell on the millions of people fleeing persecution and conflict and who like Mary and Joseph find that ‘there is no room at the inn’. Christianity is rooted in history. Bethlehem is past history. Yet, the story goes on. It is not Mary and Joseph looking for a room at the inn now, but the millions of people, ordinary men/women/children, who are asking for a place of safety and an opportunity to live normal lives.” (Extracts from a letter from Congregational Leader of the Marist Sisters to all the sisters.)
In response to the refugee crisis the Marist Sisters in Australia have made one of their houses available for refugee accommodation. In the photo Sr Kate, Bursar of Australia, can be seen handing over the keys of the property to the refugee support organisation that will oversee the placement of refugees in the property.
The Australian Freedom Network was launched in Canberra on 2nd December. Seventeen faith leaders signed a declaration committing their faith communities to work for the elimination of modern day slavery. The declaration was the same one signed by Pope Francis and other faith leaders in the Vatican in December 2014. Present at the launch representing ACRATH (Australian Catholic Religious Against Trafficking in Humans) was Marist Sister Noelene Simmons.
Following on from this event, John Cleary, host of Sunday Nights, ABC Local Radio’s weekly national program that opens up conversations on important issues concerning religion, spirituality, ethics and values, invited four guests to speak on modern day slavery. Noelene was one of the guests along with Jenny Stanger (Salvation Army), Sheikh Ahmed Abdo (NSW Muslim Police Chaplain) and Fuzz Kitto (Stop the Traffik). Listen to the podcast here.
Pope Francis has named 1st September the World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation. This day also marks the opening of the Season of Creation which extends to 4th October.
According to Pope Francis, “The annual World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation offers to individual believers and to the community a precious opportunity to renew our personal participation in this vocation as custodians of creation, raising to God our thanks for the marvellous works that He has entrusted to our care, invoking his help for the protection of creation and his mercy for the sins committed against the world in which we live.”
The Refugee Council of Australia has chosen “With courage let us all combine” as the theme for Refugee Week in Australia for 2015 to 2017.
Taken from the second verse of the national anthem, the theme celebrates the courage of refugees and of people who speak out against persecution and injustice.
It serves as a call for unity and for positive action, encouraging Australians to improve our nation’s welcome for refugees and to acknowledge the skills and energy refugees bring to their new home. Read more…
During Lent we are invited to consider how we live out our responsibility to be stewards of creation. The Conference of Leaders of Religious Institutes in NSW (CLRI NSW) has published a Lenten Carbon Fast Calendar that might help us to not only reflect on our role as stewards. It provides suggestions so that we can live this responsibility and enhance our relationship with God and will all of creation. Download a copy of the calendar here.
As we celebrate World Day of Peace 2015 let us, inspired by the words of Pope Francis, be peacemakers working against the exploitation of our fellow human beings. Pope Francis began his message for World Day of Peace message by offering “heartfelt wishes of peace to every man and woman, to all the world’s peoples and nations, to heads of state and government, and to religious leaders” and praying “for an end to wars, conflicts and the great suffering caused by human agency, by epidemics past and present, and by the devastation wrought by natural disasters”. He reminds us that our relationships should be marked by justice, love and respect for the dignity and freedom of all people. Tragically, however, there are some people in our world today who treat others as objects instead of as human persons created in God’s image.
Pope Francis invites us “to practice acts of fraternity towards those kept in a state of enslavement. Let us ask ourselves, as individuals and as communities, whether we feel challenged when, in our daily lives, we meet or deal with persons who could be victims of human trafficking, or when we are tempted to select items which may well have been produced by exploiting others.” (Photo: http://www.missionsandiego.org)
Download the Pope’s message for World Day of Peace 2015 here.
Published in the Catholic Outlook November 2013 issue, Virginia Knight’s article Australian Catholic Religious Against Trafficking in Humans took out the award for Best Social Justice Coverage at the Australasian Catholic Press Association Awards for Excellence 2014. The awards were presented by the Apostolic Nuncio to Australia, Archbishop Paul Gallagher, at the National Press Club in Canberra. The judge said: “This article had as its focus some of the poorest, powerless and most vulnerable people in our world. It was well written and had the capacity to touch the heart and inspire the reader to action. It helps to expose an issue that gets very little publicity anywhere. It provides readers with an understanding of the underlying causes of trafficking and slavery as well as a sense of direction as to how to act in support of the cause if they choose to do so.” To write her article Virginia interviewed Australian Marist Sister Noelene Simmons who is NSW Project Officer for ACRATH.
Congratulations to Virginia Knight on winning this award and asssisting ACRATH to raise awareness about human trafficking, an issue that violates the dignity and rights of vulnerable people. (Photo: Virginia Knight, Catholic Outlook)