ACRATH Newsletter May 2013

“As Marist Sisters we are invited…
to listen to the cries of the oppressed.”
(General Chapter 2008) 

Marist Sisters are happy to support the work of ACRATH(Australian Catholic Religious Against Trafficking in Humans) through participating in ACRATH activities and through our prayerful support.  The latest ACRATH Newsletter includes items on the ACRATH National Conference held in February, an advocacy visit to Canberra, new slavery legislation and the ACRATH RAP (Radio Awareness Program).  Readers are also invited to take part in a campaign to encourage supermarkets to have more Easter Eggs manufactured with certified cocoa on their shelves  in 2014.

Marist Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creations Teams Meet

On 20th April the Australian Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creations Teams for the Marist Fathers and Marist Sisters met in Hunters Hills.  The meeting gave the teams an opportunity to share on how they have been working and to look at the possibility of collaborating further in the future.  It is planned that there will be an event on Saturday 19th October.  As this event take place after the Australian Federal elections participants will have an opportunity to reflect on issues calling for advocacy with the newly-elected parliament.

Typhoon Pablo, JPIC and the Marist Sisters

Last December Typhoon Pablo struck the Philippines island of Mindanao with a force beyond any previous natural disasters on the island, causing over a thousand deaths and billions of dollars’ worth of damage.  At the time, the people of nearby provinces and cities immediately responded to the needs of the victims, such as, finding their loved ones through search and rescue efforts by both government and social groups. Later the international community also provided assistance.

Amongst the initiatives taken, the Society of Mary made four Mission Trips to different places in the affected areas. It was a collaborative effort including various forms of contribution from all branches of the Marist Family and some other religious. Our Sisters worked hard to prepare packages to be taken to the devastated survivors.

However, Pablo left more in its wake than physical damage. The survivors are haunted by disturbing questions: Why have we been so severely lashed?  Where did we go wrong?  What we have done?  Why us? …we are the poor:  peasant/tenants, workers, fishermen, farmers, students, women and children! Is this the result of development?

The Redemptorist and Jesuit Communities initiated a Theological Forum for those working with Pablo’s victims as they struggle to come to terms with their experience. Entitled Crossing the Divides in Pablo: Striking New Keys in the Mission of Hope”, its specific purpose was to:

  • theologically reflect on the ecological signs of the times (in view of the impact of climate change manifesting in calamities as the one brought about by Typhoon Pablo)
  • pastorally deal with the suffering brought about by such disasters on the lives of our people, and
  • missiologically look to the Springs of Hope that can sustain us as Christians responding to the challenges arising out of the impact of calamities.

Our Sisters deeply appreciated the insights this forum provided. Together with the other participants, they recognised issues such as, deforestation and illegal logging, increase of foreign ownership of the land and therefore, increase in mining industries. They then grappled with the more immediate issues of the desperate plight of many survivors and the violence surrounding their struggle for the rehabilitation money and goods due to them.

Questions for the local people remain, but there is some hope in the form of the provision by the government of large quantities of rice and the on-going efforts of religious and others to give food, to give seeds, and to provide psycho-social processing and spiritual activities.

We are all invited to unite in prayer with our sisters and brothers of Mindanao.

Against Trafficking in Humans

Srs Therese, Vivienne, Margaret & Noelene

Four Marist Sisters recently attended the ACRATH(Australian Catholic Religious Against Trafficking in Humans) National Conference held in Sydney from 18-20 February.  They heard case studies of young Australian women forced into marriage in their parents’ home countries and how temporary visa holders become captive and compliant labour for unscrupulous employers.  They also rejoiced in hearing the Nestlé announcement that all products produced in Australian and New Zealand now use ethically sourced cocoa.

For more information download the ACRATH Chairperson’s Report and a copy of the ACRATH Media Statement released at the conclusion of the conference

Walking for Human Rights in Fiji

Marist Sisters Birisita and Valeria took part in World Human Rights Day activities in Fiji.  They joined in a clean-up campaign of Lami town then went on to join in a march that took place through Suva City.  It started from the flea market and made its way to the Peace Garden at the Suva Civic Centre. This March was led by “Fiji Women’s Crisis Centre” on behalf of the NGO Coalition on Human Rights after a lapse of three years.

Journey Through Lent

The Justice Peace and Integrity of Creation Task Force in Australia has invited the sisters of the Sector to take time during Lent to reflect on the following questions:

  • How have the poor and marginalized in our society touched my life personally?  led to change in the way I see life? helped me grow in some way?
  •  Do I have a story to share, either recent or past, of an encounter I had with someone that brought home to me how important justice is?

We look forward to sharing these reflections with you.

Refugees & Asylum Seekers

The global situation in this area is worrying.  Many thousands are fleeing their countries of origin, leaving their homes, because they are at risk of losing their lives.  There are people in our midst in Australia who share their stories of prison and torture, stories of so many family members who had been killed.

As Marist Sisters in Australia, we ally ourselves with many Australians who care and who desire to see our government put in place policies that are compassionate.  We are concerned about recent happenings.

On 7th November, the Haberfield community of the Marist Sisters, attended a screening of “Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea”.  The evening was hosted by Amnesty International, Edmund Rice Centre and the House of Welcome, all of whom addressed the audience before the movie, sharing their concerns as groups who are engaged in helping refugees and asylum seekers.  The movie treats of the plight of asylum seekers who attempt to make their way to Australia by boat, through Indonesia.

Boat journeys are in fact a big risk and many lives have been lost at sea.  People who venture on these journeys are desperate.  With many other Australians who are presently feeling shame with regard to current policies in this area, we would urge Australia to put in place  measures, including those from the Houston Report, that would facilitate access to the granting of refugee status and visas to our shores.

The Stronger Futures Legislation

Sector of Australia Justice Task Force: (L-R) Srs Therese, Cathy, Noelene, Grace and Celina

An area of great concern in Australia at present is the situation of our First Australians.  With the passing of the Stronger Futures legislation this year, the situation has become even more critical. This legislation virtually extends the Northern Territory Intervention for a further ten years, despite so much criticism of the legislation that came from aborigines themselves and human rights activists.

The JPIC team (Srs Cathy Sariman, Celina Gavia, Grace Ellul, Noelene Simmons and Therese Campbell) joined also by Sr Gail Reneker, Sector Leader, attended an evening hosted by Amnesty International on 23rd October at NSW Parliament House.  The film, “Our Generation”, was screened.  This is a very moving plea by aboriginal community leaders who desire to be part of planning for their own people, insisting on self-determination that is a right of all people.

Srs Therese & Grace holding a copy of A Decision to Discriminate

On 5th November, Therese Campbell and Grace Ellul attended a book launch at Gleebooks.  The book launched was “A Decision to Discriminate”, which presents an analysis of the recent Senate Inquiry on the Stronger Futures legislation.  What was shared by aboriginal leaders during the consultation process appears in the book and the inadequacy of the consultation process is also made clear.  Keynote speaker was Graeme Mundine from Aboriginal Catholic Ministry.

As Marist Sisters, we join our voices to those of others.  United Nations, the Australian Human Rights Commission, Catholic Religious Australia and many other groups have strongly questioned this legislation.  We believe in the right of our First Australians to work together with government in the planning of what is best for the aboriginal peoples, always respecting their cultural heritage.

Marist Sisters Addressing the Refugee Issue

Paul Power, CEO of the Refugee Council of Australia

Marist Sisters in the Sydney area, along with representative of the Marist Missionary Sisters and Marist Fathers, gathered to hear Paul Power, CEO of the Refugee Council of Australia.  He spoke on the plight of refugees and asylum seekers in Australia and comparisons with treatment in other countries of the world’s 42 million displaced persons.

Marists Gathered to Hear Paul Power

Paul indicated that Australia is presently 43rd in the order of countries accepting refugees internationally, but is setting a wholesome trend in developing community housing models as an alternative to secure detention.

Marist Support for L’Arche Garden Party

A Garden Party recently took place to raise funds and develop friendship with the Sydney L’Arche Jean Vanier Community for those with intellectual disability. The 10th Anniversary of this annual event was well supported by members of the Marist Family from near and far. It was particularly heartening to see the students of Marist Sisters’ College Woolwich greeting guests at the entrance and serving refreshments. So, among the vulnerable Mary’s spirit is lived and breathed – in and through hearts younger than our own…