- July 3 International Day of Cooperatives
- July 11 World Population Day
Peace Sunday Resources
Peace worship resources for August 8, the nearest Sunday to Hiroshima Day (August 6) will be available from CWS or at www.cws.org.nz on July 3. This year we will focus on continuing conflicts that have dropped out of the headlines while remembering the people affected by the 1945 atomic bomb blasts.
A year ago some four million people in Pakistan’s North West Frontier Province were forced to flee their homes, caught in the crossfire between the Taleban and the Pakistani military. CWS helped ACT Alliance relief efforts in the difficult and dangerous conditions.
In Swat, 95 percent of the millions who were displaced have returned home. ACT Alliance assessments have found the most critical need they face is livelihood recovery. Some were dependent on tourism for their livelihoods, but tourism is unlikely to be revived in the near future given the ongoing security concerns. Agricultural and fruit production are the best interventions to help vulnerable families recover. ACT Alliance members are providing assistance to families dependent upon agriculture in three union councils of Swat. Through vouchers, farmers have purchased seeds, fertilizers, agricultural tools, and other inputs they require for the current planting season. Cash-for-work initiatives for men and women assist landless, single-headed households, and households without any other source of income.
Health is also a major concern. It is estimated that about 1.7 million people are in need of water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) services. This includes the immediate restoration of water supply schemes, clearing of drainage systems, increased access of returning populations to safe drinking water, and community mobilisation for improved and sustained hygiene related behaviour. People living in areas of active conflict face significantly increased vulnerabilities to water-borne diseases. WASH activities are a priority for ACT Alliance members to ensure effective, coordinated and timely response to meet the needs of the affected populations.
ACT Alliance members are building latrines, bathing places, and washing points as well as installing hand pumps and solid waste bins in Buner and Swat. Mobile and static health units have been set up in a number of areas to provide critical health services. Health and sanitation programmes are being run in schools, helping 12,900 children in Buner. Renovation of 35 government schools (16 primary, 10 middle and 9 high schools) in the Mardan district with a capacity for more than 4,000 students has also begun.
Government funding of Development
Returning from meetings in Geneva, CWS director Pauline McKay, reported that many international colleagues are facing significant changes in government funding. Like CWS, other participants at the World Council of Churches meetings are dealing with substantial changes in accessing government funding for humanitarian and development work, especially in Canada, Germany and the Netherlands. The Nordic countries also reported that their governments are tightening procedures around funding.
Concern was expressed of the combined effect this will have on programmes and relationships that together have worked extremely well at helping people out of poverty and upholding their rights to a say in their own development.
“The WCC may have a role to play in voicing opposition to the funding changes and defending the right of NGOs to deliver overseas development assistance rather than allowing governments to use it to promote their own country and business interests instead of meeting the needs of the poor,” says Pauline.
The New Zealand Government has yet to release details of the new funding schemes. However, CWS has expressed its disappointment in the government’s decision to slash funding to the Council for International Development (CID). Through the years CID has not only provided a place for agencies to meet and advocate on shared concerns, it has also served to improve the professional practice of its members.
CWS has received a number of messages from partner groups who have been alerted to the uncertainty surrounding future funding. Dr Bernard Sabella from the Department of Service to Palestinian refugees wrote:
“Trish and CWS Colleagues, you have continuously been a source of spiritual support to DSPR. Your financial contributions always reflected the caring and the feeling of being with us and with our people and with all who are working for a future of peace and justice in this region. Your involvement from the beautiful country of New Zealand, which is the furthest from us here geographically, has been a mainstay for our faith that all of us, irrespective of where we are, come together to work for the good of people and to promote dignity and human decency that would empower people to mould a different, better and more peaceful future. This is a message that we would like you to pass on to your donors but also to your government officials in order for them to understand the significance of financial support given by the people of New Zealand to our people here in the Palestinian Territories.”
Palestine: The result of silence is death…
Palestinian Christian Church and Community Leaders issued the following statement immediately after Israel’s attack on the Free Gaza Flotilla:
“The tragic events that took place on May 31st 2010 on the Free Gaza Flotilla in the waters of the Mediterranean Sea and resulted with the killing by Israeli forces of 16 civilian participants [later confirmed as 10], the injury to 50 participants and the arrest of hundreds of participants are serious escalation with local, regional and international repercussions.
With the pain that we all feel for the loss of life, the injuries and the infractions against the basic human rights of peace activists, we remind the international community, the religious communities, the civil society organizations, the UN, the governments of the world that the Israeli action is a crime by any standard and a major transgression against all norms international behaviour and places Israel in a separate category of a State incapable of being responsible and restrained when dealing with peace activists on a humanitarian mission.
We, Church Related Organizations, condemn in the strongest language possible the irresponsible actions perpetrated by the Israeli forces against civilian participants of the Freedom Flotilla and call on all to take action that would see Israel subscribe to international norms by ending the siege on Gaza and by ending its military occupation of the Palestinian Territories. It is only through ending the unjustifiable ongoing military occupation of another people’s land that true peace can emerge. In specific we call for the formation of an independent international investigation on the events that led to the perpetration of this most disturbing crime.
It is tragic that no serious interventions were made from third parties to avoid such a tragic end for a good human action. The result of silence is death…
We pray for the souls of the deceased and think of their families, each and every one of them. We also would like to comfort those injured and wish them quick recovery and we hope and pray for freedom of the incarcerated participants and of the whole Gaza population and the freedom for Palestine.”
CWS also wrote to the New Zealand Government about the attack and reiterating the need for full access for humanitarian assistance and an end to the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories.
Philippines: Churches make statement to UN Human Rights Council
The General Secretary of the National Council of Churches in the Philippines, Rev. Rex Reyes, Jr. made the following statement to the UN Human Rights Council on the promotion and protection of all human rights, civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights, including the rights to development:
“Thank you, Mr. President. This is a joint statement of the International Association of Democratic Lawyers, the American Association of Jurists, the World Council of Churches, Franciscans International, Lawyers Rights Watch of Canada, the American Indian Treaty Council and a Philippine NGO under the Ecumenical Voice for Peace and Human Rights.
We thank Professor Philip Alston for his trailblazing efforts into the issues of extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions. His report and recommendations on the Philippines in 2008 as well as his report to this 14th Session are outstanding pieces of work that human rights advocates and defenders in the Philippines find very instructive and helpful.
Mr. President, today the human rights watchdog in the Philippines, KARAPATAN has documented 1,192 cases of extrajudicial killings since 2001. The latest victim is Mr. Mike Rivera, who was a former city government official and was a known anti-mining advocate. He was gunned down on May 16, 2010 while on his way to church in a region south of Manila.
KARAPATAN has also documented 205 cases of enforced disappearances and 1,028 cases of torture and hundreds more of other cases of various human rights violations in the different parts of the country, victimizing farmers, workers, indigenous peoples, social activists, religious, lawyers and journalists. The most recent highlighted cases of the Maguindanao Massacre in November last year and the illegal arrest and continued detention of 43 health workers in February of this year have pointed to the involvement of state security forces. Never since the Martial Law years have human rights violations in our country occurred with so much impunity as now.
Mr. President, the Philippines has just gone through a national election. The presumptive President-elect has campaigned on a platform of prosecuting the perpetrators of these human rights violations.
We urge this Council to help us make the presumptive President-elect stand by his campaign promise. We appeal to this Council to urge our government to stop Operation Bantay Laya, or Operation Freedom Watch or OBL as an anti-insurgency policy. OBL makes no distinction between armed combatants and civilians. Its continued implementation has caused massive human rights violations whose victims cut across all sectors in Philippine society. May this Council be steadfast in urging our government neither to engage in nor adopt any similar policy in the future.
Finally, we urge this Council to continue helping us monitor our government, that it may abide by its pledges and commitments to international instrumentalities and to implement the recommendations that it has accepted and committed to.”
Towards a Nuclear Weapons Free World
Is it time to start work on banning nuclear weapons? “Yes” says a growing majority of governments and civil society groups. “No” insists a tiny nuclear-armed minority. “Premature” say some of their closest allies.
That is how the World Council of Churches (WCC) summarised what happened at the United Nations when 189 countries met recently on what to do about nuclear weapons.
In May the WCC delegation met with a cross-section of the governments at the Nuclear Non-Proliferation (NPT) Treaty review conference to promote first steps toward a legal ban, a critical set of 10-year-old arms control steps, the nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Middle East, and other issues from six decades of ecumenical opposition to nuclear armaments.
The tiny minority of treaty states with nuclear weapons – the United States, Russia, China, United Kingdom and France – showed little of the will that would be required to actually eliminate their arsenals and end their status as nuclear-weapon states. But the US and UK provided new information about the size of their nuclear arsenals, and all five governments were subjected to the majority will on several fronts.
The pressures included a growing demand for a legal ban of nuclear weapons, an unmet promise to keep nuclear weapons out of the Middle East, a stronger stigma against nuclear weapons use, and increasing international impatience with the nuclear-weapon states over their treaty obligations. After much debate, each of these issues gained a new lease on life via the conference action plan.
The WCC delegates said they brought a call for “a nuclear weapons convention that would make the possession of nuclear weapons illegal” on behalf of churches in Europe, Asia, Australia and the Americas.
Two-thirds of the governments and most of the 120 non-governmental organizations present called for a process leading to negotiation of a convention banning nuclear weapons. The nuclear-weapon states insisted on watering down the reference to simply “note” the idea and omit the proposed timelines, but even that was seen as progress.
“The high aspirations which churches place on achieving critical long-term goals like nuclear disarmament have proved themselves in various fields,” moderator of the European Council of Religious Leaders Rev. Dr Gunnar Stalsett, former bishop of Oslo and member of the WCC delegation, said to one government. “Such hopes can play a vital role in supporting incremental steps toward the ultimate goal.”
The WCC delegation supported an agreement to open talks on a Middle East zone free of nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction, which became one of the conference’s most important achievements. “The Arab and Israeli positions are not mutually exclusive – there cannot be peace without security, or security without peace. Therefore we call on regional state delegations to make a clear commitment to parallel peace and arms control tracks,” said a joint civil society paper on the issue, which WCC helped prepare.
In its final document the NPT conference welcomed the establishment of new nuclear-weapon-free zones in Africa, which churches helped realize, and Central Asia. Prior to the conference, the WCC presented church activities to a meeting of civil society groups and governments from five nuclear-weapon-free zones that cover the Southern Hemisphere and adjacent countries north of the equator.
Source: Jonathan Frerichs, WCC
Haiti: Homeless but not hopeless
“We are alive, so there is hope,” says mother of two, Rosenez Stephane, highlighting yet again the incredible resolve and resilience of the Haitian people.
The family of four is one of thousands facing eviction from the makeshift camps that were set up after Haiti’s devastating earthquake nearly 6 months ago. “If we had the possibility, we would have left the camp already,” explains Rosenez, but their house was damaged in the earthquake. “We haven’t got any help clearing the rubble from our home, only the streets have been cleaned. I hope we would have been involved in the cleaning work or that we could have at least borrowed the tools to do it ourselves,” she points out.
Many temporary settlements were established by survivors in any open space they could find – private land, schools or football stadiums – makeshift settlements where international standards for temporary housing are unknown. Now they are being evicted by landowners.
Conditions are also worrying in official camps. Heavy rains have started flushing the soil, leaving everything covered in mud. Tents and tarps let the rain through, soaking people and destroying their belongings. The hurricane season will utterly stretch the durability of shelter material to their limits. The need to move people from emergency shelters to transitional shelters with more durable structures has become urgent. However, progress is slow.
The biggest challenges for resettlement are lack of available land, confusion over land ownership and the fact land is still blocked by debris. When people move to new areas they need services and some are unwilling to move without them. Because most Haitians were tenants before the earthquake, few have their own place to return to. Offering children free schooling can, for example, keep families in the camps. People will also need jobs.
ACT Alliance is moving to the second stage of shelter provision, building semi-permanent housing which doesn’t expose residents to high risk rain, wind and flooding. They are also erecting tents for families evicted from the makeshift shelters.
People like Rosenez are holding on to hope but the struggle to survive continues. ACT Alliance is calling for greater help clearing rubble so they can return to their homes and greater support for households who take in homeless relatives. People also need information about what is happening how and in the future.
Donations can be made to the CWS Haiti Appeal at www.cws.org.nz or sent to PO Box 22652, Christchurch 8142.
Christian students slam Zimbabwe over collapsed education
Harare (ENI). A Christian students’ association in Zimbabwe has rebuked the country’s power-sharing government for allowing the continuing collapse of the education sector in the southern African country.
“The cosmetic so-called inclusive government has failed the young people of Zimbabwe as evidenced by the state of the education system,” the Student Christian Movement in Zimbabwe said in a statement to mark the Day of the African Child, commemorated on 16 June.
This date is the anniversary of the killing of black South African pupils protesting inferior education, and the compulsory teaching of Afrikaans, in 1976.
“As SCMZ, we strongly believe that the collapse of the social services delivery system in Zimbabwe is directly linked to the human-created governance crisis,” the students said. They added, “Unless this is resolved with expediency, the children of Zimbabwe will continue suffering, going to lecture rooms without lecturers, and getting into libraries without books.”
Zimbabwe’s three main political rivals formed a power-sharing government in February 2009 aimed at easing political tensions that followed a violent presidential run-off election, in which President Robert Mugabe was the sole candidate after the other contestant, Morgan Tsvangirai, pulled out citing violence against his supporters.
Members of Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change party say that Mugabe’s Zanu-PF party, which has ruled since 1980, has not allowed the transfer of many levers of power, and that it holds on to the security apparatus, which prevents the operation of a free press.
Since its formation, Zimbabwe’s power-sharing government has battled to help the country’s battered economy revive following years of hyperinflation, which once peaked at 231 million percent per annum.
Although schools and universities have reopened after being closed for nearly a year, when schoolteachers and lecturers went on strike over pay, the government has not been able to lure back most workers who left their jobs, or to stock school libraries.
In some cases, 15 pupils share one textbook, while thousands have dropped out of school and colleges because their parents could not afford the tuition fees.
The situation is worse in rural areas, where some schools have no classrooms, and pupils attend classes in the open or in makeshift structures.
“We remind the so-called government of national unity that education is everyone’s right, and not a privilege for the affluent,” the Student Christian Movement said.
Many Zimbabwean students have joined millions of their compatriots in exile.