Justice and Peace network celebrate 25 years

 Globalisation and the responses Christians make through education work, campaigning and lifestyle, were the issues addressed at the 25th annual conference of more than 300 Justice and Peace activists from around England and Walesover the weekend 11-13 July. The Conference, organised by the Catholic Diocese of Salford in collaboration with the National Justice and Peace Network, took place at Swanwick in Derbyshire on the theme: "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for justice - a theology of protest in a globalised world". Participants were welcomed by Bishop Terence Brain of Salford and the conference was facilitated by Christine Allen, Director of the Catholic Institute for International Relations. The inequalities produced by globalisation were described as "a human disgrace and catastrophe" by Julian Filochowski of CAFOD. Giving his last talk as Director, before stepping down after 21 years, he pointed out that the income of the richest one per cent in the world is equal to the combined income of the poorest 57 percent, and the gap is increasing each year. In Africa, 58 million more people were living on less than a dollar a day in the year 2000 than in 1990. He had just returned from Rome after attending an international Caritas Congress, "Globalising Solidarity". More than 400 representatives from 198 countries voted on new programmes covering food security and trade, debt and international finance, effective coordination of disaster relief and emergencies, HIV/AIDs, human trafficking and migration, and conflict resolution and peace building. He said the Catholic network was "not overwhelmed by globalisation", but was "full of hope" that globalisation for the common good could be promoted through campaigning, advocacy and protest. Since 144 of the top 200 economies in the world are transnational companies rather than nation states, a leading businessman was invited to address the conference. Sir Mark Moody Stuart, chairman of Anglo American, one of the world's top mining companies, and a former head of Royal Dutch Shell, suggested that poverty and environmental degradation could not be addressed without the involvement of the business community. He came under some fire from some participants who suggested that private companies were appropriating resources which are the common heritage of humanity. The displacement of communities in Colombia by Anglo American's subsidiary, Correjon Coal, was highlighted and Sir Mark was lobbied to provide adequate compensation to those affected. Sr Ann Stewart, a Holy Child sister who works with Community Pride, in Manchester, spoke about the impact of globalisation on her local community and responses to it. She told how a vast new supermarket in that city had created many jobs, but almost every small shop on a nearby parade had closed down. She expressed concern about the loss of small businesses run by local people and the impact on those with no cars or those who find it difficult to use public transport? The experiences of the poor in the UK and in the third world were compared. Community Pride, an ecumenical initiative, works with grassroots groups in exploring changes in local government, regeneration policy and practice, community leadership and national policy developments concerning issues of poverty and social exclusion. Pat Gaffney, General Secretary of Pax Christi in Britain, spoke about various non-violent actions she has taken part in over the years to challenge international militarism. Challenging the activities of British Aerospace at their Annual General meeting and silent vigils outside the Ministry of Defence in London were among the protests she has participated in. She felt that her work played a part in affirming that life is sacred. Rosemary Read, fieldworker for the national Justice and Peace Network pointed out that the grassroots structure in England and Wales is the only one among the European Justice and Peace organisations. She pointed out that more than 300 people have attended regional education workshops organised by the network over the past two years, covering such topics as ecology, refugees and ethical investment. The National Justice and Peace Network comprises Justice and Peace representatives from the 22 Catholic dioceses of England and Wales plus mainly Catholic agencies, missionary groups and Bishops' Conference committees involved with issues of Justice and Peace.

Share this story