A group of Marist Sisters gathered in Sydney recently to consider how we as Marist Sisters, each according to her situation, might respond to the Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation issues which seem paramount for us. Our concerns for Justice, Peace and the Integrity of Creation are rooted in the Gospel and its call to live as disciples of Jesus. We are also impelled by the Church’s social teaching which Pope Francis draws on and is articulating in many ways, and by our Marist vocation to live Mary’s spirit in all aspects of our lives.
This conversation highlighted the many ways in which sisters are responding to a variety of issues in our prayer, in interactions, small or large, that we might have with people, in our support of particular advocates and agencies, in our reading and gathering of information. The sisters left the meeting energised and with renewed commitment to seek justice for those who are vulnerable and for our common home.
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)
Marist Sisters Sheila and April attended the Regional Assembly and Reflection Session on Restorative Justice for all Prison Chaplains and Volunteers in the different Dioceses of Mindanao last August 11-13, 2014 in the Diocese of Tagum.
This is annual assembly held under the auspices of the CBCP-Commission on Prison Pastoral Care’s Executive Secretary , Mr. Rudy Diamante, is held for fellowship among Mindanao prison volunteers and for pastoral and theological updating; discussing issues affecting the jails and prisons in the Mindanao Region.
APWRATH (Asia-Pacific Women Religious Against Trafficking in Humans) and SAMIN (The Sisters’ Association in Mindanao) co-sponsored a training on feminist counselling as an intervention to counter trafficking in persons at the Benedictine Sister’s Priory at Davao City.
Why feminist counselling? Feminist counselling or therapy aims to empower the disadvantaged and disempowered victim of violence and trafficking through a process where the victim learns to embrace her inherent power, the power within, and eventually confront the socio-cultural, economic and political factors that discriminate against and marginalize women.
In the Philippines Marist Sister Edna Gado supports the work of APWRATH. She has been involved in giving basic counselling skills courses for social workers in Davao City who are working with trafficked women and children.
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.
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.
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.
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.