Open Meeting – CAFOD November 2014

The National Justice and Peace Network of England and Wales (NJPN) held an open meeting at CAFOD’s London offices last Saturday. Nearly 40 justice and peace activists, including representatives of dioceses, religious orders, Catholic agencies as well as individual members, shared their work in the areas of justice, peace and care for creation. This followed a talk by Oliver McTernon of Forward Thinking on ‘Peace is a Fruit of Remembrance’.

They heard that the NJPN has sent suggestions re: Pope Francis’ forthcoming Encyclical on the Environment to Cardinal Peter Turkson of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace. It was copied to Pope Francis, Cardinal George Pell of the Secretariat for the Economy and Bishop Marcelo Sánchez Sorondo of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, following concern that issues important to NJPN appear in the Encyclical. NJPN hopes that points to be addressed propetically could include the link between natural resources exploitation and conflict; the role of women in managing natural resources globally; and the putting in place of Church structures to achieve the necessary degree of education of Catholics in faith, worship and witness regarding the environment and creation theology.

The NJPN Environment Working Group highlighted work on Fracking by Lancaster Diocese Faith and Justice Commission. Their discussion paper and questions for groups follows a big increase in fracking activity in the North-West which has alarmed many communities. At least 281 parish councils have rejected fracking. Poverty and social exclusion in Britain was explored at a recent study day organised by Westminster Justice and Peace Commission, particularly exploding the myth that Britain is divided into ‘skivers’ and ‘strivers’.

Middlesbrough Diocesan J&P has been working with local World Development Movement members to raise awareness of the TTIP, or Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership. This trade agreement is about reducing the regulatory barriers to trade for big business, affecting areas like food safety law, environmental legislation, banking regulations and the sovereign powers of individual nations. The Africa Faith and Justice Network (AFJN) is also focusing on TTIP, particularly in relation to the countries of Africa whose raw materials are highly coveted.

Patricia and Michael Pulham of Christian CND reported forthcoming Advent vigils at Aldermaston on the 4th, 11th and 18th December. Bruce Kent will be speaking at their forthcoming AGM about effective campaigning in churches about stopping the renewal of Trident, Britain’s nuclear weapons system. Pat Gaffney, Director of Pax Christi, thanked NJPN for signing up to the Rethink Trident statement, which one archbishop and six bishops have also signed, and urged diocesan commissions to sign too. She felt the petition is a good tool for pre-election work on nuclear issues. Pax Christi’s popular annual Advent Peace Service will be held on the evening of 8th December at St. Aloysius Church in Euston.

Maria Elena Arana of CAFOD Campaigns Maria Elena reported that there have been 17 launch events since September, involving over 800 supporters of the new campaign, ‘One World One Climate’, which will run for three years. Peruvian partners spoke at some of them, particularly highlighting the impact of the loss of mountain glaciers on water supply. A number of MPs and bishops have signed up to support. All political parties are being called upon to promise in their manifestos to reduce climate impacts on the poor and to push sustainable energy. Education packs for schools will be available from January 2015. She also reminded about the Live Simply Parish Award which encourages parishes to live simply, sustainably and in solidarity with the poor, reporting that 12 parishes have now achieved the award and five others are on the verge of getting it.

Louise Zanre of the Jesuit Refugee Service said JRS is campaigning to stop the use of Immigration Detention. She reported that the All Party Parliamentary Groups on Refugees and on Migration are conducting a parliamentary inquiry into the use of immigration detention in the UK. The inquiry, which she will be chairing, will examine the use of detention in the UK immigration and asylum systems, with a particular focus on the conditions within detention centres, the impact on individual detainees and their families, the wider financial and social consequences, how detention is used in other countries, and the future role of detention within the immigration system. Following the receipt of evidence between July and October 2014, and a series of oral evidence sessions, the inquiry aims to publish a report in early 2015.

Election issues are currently being prepared by NJPN members in readiness for next May’s General Election. And an important date for the diary is 17 – 19 July 2015 – the next annual Justice and Peace Conference at Swanwick, Derbyshire with the title, ‘The Things That Make For Peace’. Fr Edu Gariguez – General Secretary of the Philippine bishops’ social justice department is one of the speakers. He has been on hunger strikes to save water and land from mining on Mindoro Island and is a winner of the 2012 Goldman prize for the environment.