Grassroots Christians call for new approach to violence and peace issues
In the face of the continuing problems of securing peace in the world and of bringing justice for Indigenous Australians, refugees, and a climate-threatened planet, grassroots Christians from across the denominations are urgently calling for alternatives based on the nonviolent principles of Jesus.
At the ‘Other Ways’ gathering at Strathfield on 24 September to mark the end of the worldwide Decade to Overcome Violence and this year’s Social Justice Sunday, more than a hundred Christian activists from leading peace and justice groups and communities were brought together by the NSW Ecumenical Council and seven prominent faith based organisations. Other faith traditions also participated in the day.
'We still need to do better'
Participants shared their experiences of active peacemaking together and affirmed the learnings of Decade to Overcome Violence (2001-2010) in Australia, with the common theme being the need for fresh commitment to growing alternatives to violence.
"It has been immensely encouraging to celebrate Australian achievements over the past 10 years," said Doug Hewitt, convener of the organising committee, citing achievements such as the National Apology to the Stolen Generations, hard-won improvements in welcoming asylum seekers, the growth of inter-religious relationships, developing ecological awareness and the unprecedented scale of the peace movement at moments such as the build up to war with Iraq.
"But in all those areas where we celebrate improvements, we recognise we still need to do better," Doug said. "At the end of a decade which began with the September 11 attack on the USA and ends with our troops still in quagmire in Afghanistan, it seems however that Australian governments and opinion shapers are still slow to recognise the truth that violent methods only breed further violence."
The ‘Other Ways’ participants particularly called on Australian authorities to:
Replace the failed Northern Territory Intervention with genuine Aboriginal participation and
Respond to the Australian Catholic Bishops’ call for a bipartisan approach by national leaders
End demonisation of asylum seekers and to meet Australia’s responsibilities to the vulnerable of our world
Set a deadline for withdrawal of Australian troops from Afghanistan
Promote actively the UN resolutions on Palestine-Israel
Act with maximum urgency in implementing the clear wish of the Australian public for substantial climate change measures
Promote peace education at all levels of Australian society
The keynote speakers at the ‘Other Ways’ gathering were Claudette Werleigh, secretary general Pax Christi International, and past Prime Minister of Haiti; Sister Susan Connelly, Mary MacKillop East Timor Mission from Sydney, and Azim Khamisa, founder and teacher of “Achieving Peace through Forgiveness” from the USA.
The event was jointly organised by the NSW Ecumenical Council, the Columban Mission Institute, the Edmund Rice Network, the Franciscan Friars, Pace e Bene Australia, Pax Christi Australia, Uniting Care NSW/ACT, and the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Ecumenical Commission.
Social Justice Sunday, held on 26 September in 2010, is celebrated on the last Sunday of September each year.
The 2010 National Council of Churches in Australia and Australian Catholic Bishops Statements and associated resources can be downloaded at http://www.ncca.org.au/ and http://www.socialjustice.catholic.org.au/
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