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Some key events of recent history which have affected human history:

  • 1945 - U.S. and Allies win Second World War.
  • U.S. and its allies set up the Bretton Woods Institutions, the World Bank, International Monetary Fund (IMF), General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) to determine the Financial Reality of the World after the war. U.S. dollar will rule.
  • 1940s to 1970s - Independence of several countries in Africa and Asia.

Political independence of these countries gradually leads to greater economic dependence.

  • 1989 - Fall of the Berlin Wall and the event of Tienanmen Square, China.

End of the Cold War? Who wins? End of the Soviet Union? End of the Socialist option? Economic interest is now Eastern Europe and the “Tigers” of Asia. The world’s poor are seen as a problem.

  • 1991 - Gulf War.

U.S. as the only super power in the world, takes over the U.N. We now have a new concept of Empire - it is no longer a Nation State but Capital. Capital now has a political wing and a military arm.

  • 1992 - “Five Hundred Years Celebration” - of What?

Celebration of European presence in the Americas?

  • 1993 - Fall of Apartheid in South Africa

1.1.1 The present world economic order

Neo liberal agenda

It is clear, from recent commentaries, that Neo-liberalism has been established as orthodoxy on a scale historically unprecedented in its global reach and power. In the “new world order”, there is only one discourse for discussing the world’s problems, neo-classical economics. There is only one path to “salvation” for all peoples, no matter what their own traditions, values, histories and customs; whether of the North or the South, and that path is the MARKET. Economics is the dominating human language in these times and is defining all collective life on the planet. Corporations have emerged as the dominant governance institutions on the planet. Maybe it is more correct to say, that the dominant governance system on the planet is the financial system, rather than the corporations themselves. The corporations are accountable to the globalised system of finance which has transformed itself in very important and troubling ways and is now quite accurately described as a “global gambling casino”. All of the world’s financial markets are linked into a single computerised system. This new “reality” is changing the face of the international community and creating more and more poverty and the destruction of the environment.

Everywhere the litany is the same. The only path to progress is the global “free market”. In order to compete in the new global economy:

  • corporations must become more efficient through downsizing and restructuring their work forces;
  • government taxes and regulations need to inhibit entrepreneurial initiative;
  • government welfare programs tend to breed dependency;
  • government must be downsized, assets privatised, budgets cut, deficits eliminated;
  • special targets are welfare costs and other “subsidies” to poor working people;
  • union rights and other legislation interfere with worker flexibility.

In the developing countries of the South, which is now commonly referred to as the “Two-Thirds” World,1 this agenda is evident in the Structural Adjustment Programs (SAP) imposed by the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) (see Appendix 1. for more explanation) as conditions for restructuring debt payments. In addition to the SAP, policies favour imports and foreign in-vestment and, maximise exports. This orthodoxy is so widespread in the centres of power world-wide that by the millennium’s close, it is suggested, it is likely to have radically altered the lives of far more people and nations than any other ideology in history.

Dictated by vast financial and political interests, the present world economic system creates wealth for a minority and reinforces the poverty of a majority instead of being at the service of the inhabitants of the Earth. Although this globalisation of the economy assumes different forms depending on the country in which we live, it is impacting ever more directly on our daily lives:2

  • Of the 5.7 billion3 people in the world, 1.5 billion are desperately poor.
  • 20% of the poorest in the world receive 1.4% of the Gross National Product (GNP) whereas 20% of the richest cream off 84.7%.
  • More than one billion human beings eke out an existence on just $1 per day, three billion on little more than $2. At the same time, 358 individuals have accumulated a personal capital worth of about $762 billion, an income equivalent to that of 2.35 billion poor people.
  • Today 1 billion of the world’s poor live in rural areas but by the year 2005 every second person will live in cities or towns, bringing about a growing “urbanisation of poverty”.

  • Unemployment and precarious lifestyles: roughly 30% of the world's active population, estimated at two and a half billion people, has no productive employment.
  • High cost of living: whereas the world market economy is revered, four people out of five have no purchasing power.
  • Hunger: one fifth of the world population suffers from hunger and three million children die from malnutrition each year.
  • The majority of the world’s poor are women. Children and other vulnerable and disadvantaged groups, such as indigenous peoples, the disabled, the elderly, refugees, migrants, and the long-term unemployed are most susceptible to poverty.
  • Violations of the right to education: attendance at school has dropped considerably, especially in Africa.
  • Violations of the right to health: the privatisation of the health sectors and the attacks against the social protection systems are causing an intolerable inequality in health care.
  • Lack of housing and the absence of "normal" living conditions: a fourth of the world population has no access to drinking water and one third lives in extreme poverty.
  • Agriculture is a sacrificed sector in the North as well as in the South. In the North the agricultural polices are based on the criteria of profitability and productivity. This makes it impossible for small farmers to keep going and agricultural workers lose their jobs. In the South, the lack of in-vestment in agriculture and the absence of an agrarian reform (to give the land back to those who work it) result in the migration from the rural areas to the towns and the abandonment of the countryside.
  • Degradation to the environment imperils the lives of present and future generations.

Among the 1996 Human Development Report’s4 other findings:

Economic Growth has failed for a quarter of the world’s people: it has contributed to unemployment, ruthlessness, voiceless and rootless people.

  • 89 countries are worse off economically than they were a decade or more ago.
  • In 70 developing countries, incomes are lower than they were in the 1960s or 70’s.
  • In 19 countries, per capita income is below the 1960 level.

“No Christian can be a silent supporter of a system which excludes the poor and yet claims to opt for the poor. I say “silent supporter” because our failure to take a stand amounts to support. We need to realise today that “option for the poor” means necessarily also an option against an economic system that continues to create more and more victims.

Faith that has nothing to say about life at its most primordial level of food, drink, land, shelter, safety, etc. cannot be life-giving.”5 Development: towards a new paradigm

The following reflections on Political Economy have been compiled by Catherine Mulholland of the World Council of Churches:

A new system of values is a precondition for change in economic systems. During the past twenty years it has become increasingly clear that all economic systems need to be tested in terms of whether and to what extent they put people at the centre of the development process and do so as subjects, not merely as objects, of that process. Among the values and criteria increasingly accepted are the following:

  • Meeting basic human needs.
  • Justice and participation: are these needs met equitably?
  • Sustainability: is the economic system ecologically and socially sustainable over generations?
  • Self-reliance: does the economic system enable people to achieve a sense of their own worth, freedom and capacity, rather than being completely vulnerable to the decisions of others?
  • Universality: do the economic system and economic policies focus on the above elements for the global human family, beyond national or regional political boundaries?
  • Peace: does the economic system promote peace built on justice?

Sustainable Development

Sustainable development is development that is pro-poor, pro-nature, pro-jobs and pro-women. It stresses growth with employment, growth with environment, growth with empowerment, growth with equity.

The above is an edited version of Kinda Gray’s address to the recent Habitat II and Sustainable Settlements Conference.6

1.1.2 The present world political order

  • The present democracies are not the voice of the people, but rather the defence of the interests of various political parties and their economic interests.
  • The governing party and the opposition spend more time in the struggle to maintain or gain power than in seeking the national common good.
  • The political program is being increasingly influenced by the neo-political agenda.
  • The same model of democracy is being imposed on the whole world.
  • There is exclusion at the political level on the basis of race, religion, ethnic group, etc.
  • CAPITAL now has a political wing and a military arm.
  • Both capitalist and communist countries are guilty of a high degree of bureaucracy and a lack of true freedom.
  • 110 Countries still practice torture for political reasons.

An account from a victim of torture in the Middle East

Since my late teens I was indirectly involved in the activities of my parents, brothers and sister in op-position to the regime at home. Six years ago my sister was arrested, one year later my parents and brothers. I never heard of any of them again.

Following their disappearance, I took up the struggle for democracy. I quickly fell under suspicion and one night, as I was leaving the bakery where I worked, I was seized and thrust into a waiting car. I tried to escape at a traffic light but was shot in the leg. Bleeding profusely and in great pain, I was blindfolded and taken to prison. There I was interrogated and beaten continuously for four or five hours. At first they beat me with their fists, then with a sort of steel-capped cudgel. When I started to lose consciousness, I was thrown into a cell with my hands tied behind my back. My torturers continued to beat me with electrical cables on the soles of my feet. At last, I was given an injection and left alone.

The following day I was again interrogated and taken to persuade women prisoners in the next cell to talk. When the guards realised we were still not telling the truth, they took me to another room, tied me to a cross and poured petrol over me. I was left there for hours on end under threat of being burned and sexually abused by one of the guards. Two days later my kidneys stopped working and I was hospitalised. As my legs were broken in several places, they had to put steel rivets in to hold the bones together. When I was a little better, I was taken back to prison and tied up for hours in an unnatural position. Day after day, the torture continued. I was left hanging from the roof by one hand; I was beaten and burned with cigarettes; I almost lost my sight. Then I was forced to watch as women prisoners were tortured and raped. Many of them died. When I was again sent back to hospital, I realised that they did not want to kill me, just destroy me mentally and physically.

While I was in hospital, one of the nurses drugged my guards and helped me to escape. He brought me to the border, travelling by night and hiding by day. Militarism and arms trade

  • Between 1960 and 1990 military spending world-wide rose by 150%, the fastest growing being in the countries of the South. They now account for 20% of military spending compared with 7% in 1960.
  • Arms Supermarket: the rich countries become richer through the trade of arms and the poor countries become poorer through buying arms. The arms which are brought are replacing food, health care, education, water supplies, etc. of the developing countries.
  • On average, poor nations have nineteen soldiers for every doctor.
  • Militarism is destroying people and the environment.
  • Today, global arms’ spending is 2400 times higher than expenditure on international peacekeeping.
  • Half a million of the world's scientists are doing research and development for the military.
  • The five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council (China, France, Russia, United Kingdom and United States) are the five biggest exporters of arms to developing countries.
  • Chemical weapons are buried in 215 US cities: the cleanup will cost $16 billion, and it may take 40 years to do this!
  • Beyond the systemic political, social, and economic causes of violence in our world, it is clear that the proliferation of weapons intensifies the impact of that violence. According to the Human Development Report 1994, published by the UNDP, human insecurity due to violence is now "globalised". In developing countries, vast amounts of social funds are diverted to purchase weapons, al-though chances of dying from malnutrition and preventable disease are thirty three times greater than dying in a war of external aggression.
  • In 1996, there were 39 local wars and 2 two regional wars, many of which used the services of foreign mercenaries. Land mines

Land mines cannot be accepted as a fact of life.
They are a fact of death.

Justice Michael Kirby, UN Human Rights Report on Cambodia

Facts about Landmines

  • 110 million anti-personnel landmines have been laid; only 100,000 have been removed out of the 2-5 million that were planted in 1993.
  • 15,000 killed or injured each year by landmines
  • Average cost of a landmine $3 - $30
  • Cost to clear a landmine $300 - $1000
  • In Cambodia 500 amputations take place every month; one in every 236 has had a limb amputated
  • The majority of the victims are civilians - predominantly women and children

Two young men made a long journey to Rome - they had an earnest conversation with the Pope and explained to him something of modern military technology; they visited the Superior General of the Jesuits and gave him some advice as to where he should mission his Jesuits and finally they met a gathering of the press and other representatives. One of these young men Keo Sovann is a physiotherapist; the other, the director of a fast growing business concern. His name is Tun Channareth, he is Cambodian, he runs a factory which makes wheel chairs, he has six children and he has no legs - both blown off by a landmine:

He summed up the desires of his people to have a life without landmines:

“... our people would be very happy. They would have land to plant rice, they would have freedom to build their house, to travel the roads and railways, the ability to earn money and to support themselves.”

It does not seem much to ask and yet how is it possible in countries far removed from Cambodia and other mine-infested nations to respond to this obscene and indiscriminate violence? This unit outlines a collaborative approach taken by the Loreto Sisters (Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary) in response to the global issue of anti-personnel landmines. In 1992 the International Campaign to Ban Landmines was begun by a handful of non-governmental (NGO's) and Human Rights Organisations in an attempt to build enough public awareness to change the political landscape and remove a conventional weapon from the world's arsenals.7 In three years this became one of the most important global campaigns ever staged. More that 100 NGO's are now involved and an ever-increasing number of countries support a total ban on the production, stockpiling, dissemination and use of landmines. The Loreto Sisters, with a particular commitment to the marginalised, especially women and children, and with the desire to respond non-violently to war and violence, made a decision to join the campaign against landmines. The following is an outline of the process used.

  • The congregation had a strong link with Jesuit Refugee Service, one of the NGO's involved in the campaign, and were in a position to collaborate with them, receive information and resources from them, and through them to make links with other groups involved in the campaign: Mines Advisory Group (UK), CAFOD (UK); Australian Catholic Relief, Vietnam Veterans of America Foundation, Mani Tese (Italy) and Pax Christi (Ireland).
  • A seminar was held for about 100 members of the congregation and representatives from NGO's and political parties were invited (a senior minister also came for the opening). A speaker from Mines Advisory Group (MAG) outlined the types, functions and results of the various landmines and gave some of his experiences as a de-miner. A speaker from the congregation linked the landmines’ campaign with the mission focus of the congregation.
  • An afternoon of the seminar was given to small groups planning for action.
  • Kits with information about landmines and the campaign, suggestions for action, proforma letters and addresses of world leaders were distributed to the participants and sent to all the provinces of the congregation.
  • A press statement giving details of the meeting and the congregation's stance was sent to all the leading newspapers (published in one).
  • Copies of the talks from this seminar were disseminated among all communities of the congregation.
  • Reference to the landmines’ campaign was made in letters from the general administration, in talks and in the congregational social justice newsletter. Members were encouraged to write to the coordinator outlining any action taken.
  • Landmines Updates were sent to all communities giving: information regarding the various UN Reviews; details of action taken by various individuals and groups; a progress report on the number of countries committed to a total ban; suggestions for further action.
  • The coordinator kept in close contact with Jesuit Refugee Service, made contact with another campaigner, informed the director of the International Landmines Campaign of their activities, and used resource material from a number of agencies.

What action was taken?

  • There was a concerted effort to write letters to local political leaders and ministers for defence, as well as leaders of countries which produced and/or disseminated landmines.
  • Some joined Amnesty International, Pax Christi and other peace groups or joined in national or church campaigns:
    • Petitions were drawn up and signatures canvassed.
    • Information was distributed to local communities.
    • A number of creative consciousness raising activities were introduced in schools.
    • An international prayer network among the elderly focused on landmines, information was given, and the people encouraged to write.

“There was little direct lobbying of politicians: possibly too much direction from the top and it is difficult to gauge how many of the congregation were actually actively involved in the campaign. However, some were moved, action was taken, a number are better informed about a global issue and the congregation, through involvement in collaborative action, has developed some expertise in ways of collaborating, in coordinating action, in communication and in seeking out resources.... If in any way we can make it possible in Angola, Afghanistan, Rwanda, Sudan or in countries at risk, for men to till fields, women to gather water and children to skip through rice paddies in peace and security we have done much” (General Councillor's address to seminar).

If the World Disarmed:8

  • we could save the lives of 5 million children who die of diarrhoea every year: Cost, $ 700 million, or what the world spends on armaments in 6 hours;
  • we could provide 80,000 poor villages with water pumps: Cost, $ 12 million, or what one atomic bombtest costs;
  • we could save the tropical forests: Cost, $ 1.4 billion per year for 5 years, or what the world spends on armaments in 12 hours;
  • we could prevent desertification: Cost, $ 5.6 billion, or what the world spends on armaments in 2 days.

1.1.3 The present reality of demography

  • Between 1950 and 1996, the population of the less economically-developed regions increased by 168%, compared to an increase of 45% for the more economically-developed regions.
  • Between 1950 and 1955, the annual increment of world population was 47 million persons per an-num. Between 1990 and 1995 the annual increment was 81 million, of which 69 million was in Africa and Asia.
  • The present world population is 5,7 billion.

1.1.4 Children


  • One child in three in the developing world is malnourished.
  • Each day, over 40,000 children die due to malnutrition or easily preventable diseases.
  • Every minute thirty children die for want of food and inexpensive medicines.


  • 120,000 children are born each year intellectually handicapped because of lack of iodine, a deficiency which can be remedied easily and cheaply.
  • 250,000 children go blind each year because of lack of Vitamin A.
  • 4 out of 5 in rural areas do not have adequate water or sanitation.
  • 4 out of 5 do not have access to modern health care.


  • 90 percent of children in the developing world enrol for school but only 68 per cent complete four years.
  • In 1993, 130 million children (between 6 and 11) were not attending school.


  • In 1995, in Africa alone, during the first 10 months, 1/2 million children died due to armed conflicts.
  • During the last decade 6 million have become disabled because of wars.
  • During the last decade 12 million have become homeless because of wars.
  • In Liberia alone there are 15,000 child soldiers.

Increasing problems touching children

  • Child labour: economic exploitation: an estimated 200 million children are forced to work.
  • Child prostitution: one million are forced into prostitution each year, with most of them contracting HIV/AIDS.
  • Street children: over 100 million under the age of fifteen.
  • Commerce of babies.
  • Commerce of children’s organs.
  • Half the refugee population are children.

"Children at Risk": a concrete response

Our involvement with the House Workers' Movement all over India exposed us to the reality of children in domestic work. We became more and more aware of the plight of these little working girls who are silenced and hidden, who are often bonded labourers, covered by labels such as 'our' child, 'adopted'... Little girls who also dream of playing and of wearing school uniforms but get punished when they open the school books of the children in the family.

Sunita, was such a working girl. Her father was in jail and Sunita was sent to work in Bombay at the age of nine. One of the Bombay House Worker's Solidarity leaders got her out of the place of torture. Sunita was then eleven, with beautiful black hair cut unevenly, a deep frightened look and burn wounds all over her body. For small mistakes or incapacities to do the work ordered, her employer would beat her with a hot rod. The Judge in court gave us a choice; either to win the case and Sunita would have to go to a Remand Home till her eighteenth year or withdraw the case and save Sunita.

We chose the latter. So we took Sunita in, got guardianship for her, and found a school for her.

A few days later Arathi, a victim of kidnapping came. Monica ran away from the brothels. Jessie was gang raped as a child of seven. Children deeply wounded, traumatized...

Our response is mainly the crisis intervention. We network with lawyers and with different Congregations and children's homes for the rehabilitation of these children. Just now it has become a search with a larger group of committed persons and communities for the sake of the victims of commercial sex work in the city of Bombay.

The search and the commitment has started, but the way is not clear.... The Bishops’ Conference of the India Labour Commission also sponsors this involvement. It is an involvement at different levels in a large collaborative effort to give our children a "future of justice and peace".

Jeanne Devos, ICM, India

1.1.5 Women

The critical areas of concern facing women today:

  • Poverty: 60% of 1 billion rural poor are women.
  • Education: Of 960 million illiterate adults 70 per cent are women. Out of the of 130 million children not attending Primary School, 70 per cent are girls.
  • Health: 500,000 women die each year because of complications from pregnancy.
  • 500 women die each day due to unsafe abortion.
  • Violence: 1/3 of all women are physically abused. One woman is physically abused every eight seconds. One woman is raped every six minutes. There are 110 million girls and women who have been mutilated (genital organs); 2 million continue to be mutilated each year. More than one mil-lion babies die each year from malnutrition, neglect and abuse who would not have died if they had not been born girls.
  • Armed and other Conflicts: Women make up 80 per cent of the 100 million displaced people (within their country) and of the 29 million refugees in the world. US $800 billion a year is spent on weapons and the international community does not have US $6 billion needed to provide every girl child with education.
  • Economic Participation: Woman are paid 30-40 per cent less than men for doing the same work. Women do 2/3 of the world’s work but get only 10% of the world’s income, and own 1% of the world’s land. If women’s unpaid work in the household was given economic value, it would be worth US $ 11 trillion, and add 70 per cent to global output
  • Power-sharing and Decision-making: Women’s share of seats in the world’s parliaments in 1996 was 12 per cent (15 per cent in 1988).
  • Violence against women, selected countries, around 1990
USA 1 in 5 adult women has been raped
Peru 70% of all crimes reported to police are of women beaten by their husbands.
Norway 25% of female gynaecological patients have been sexually abused by their partners.
Thailand In the biggest slum in Bangkok, 50% of married women are beaten regularly. Examples of commitment with women

Extracts from Chapter documents:

“Our specific ministry as women, considered by Comboni as indispensable to the evangelising mission, makes the promotion of women a prerogative for us. Women should become conscious of their values, of their dignity and the essential role to which they are called in the family, in the Church and society.

Comboni Sisters

“... Because we ourselves are women, we want to work with and for women to find our authentic voice in society and in the Church. Our feminine appreciation of life urges us to live a profound respect for each human person and for the earth which sustains us all. We desire that perspective and attitude of heart to see God in all things, to be in solidarity with the poor and to try to comprehend the world through their eyes. In compassion and courage, with the vision which only comes from the contemplation of the gospel and the signs of the times, it is together that we seek the ongoing conversion of ourselves and others that we might promote justice and peace.

Society of St Ursula

Below are examples of the empowerment of women:

The men (fisher folk) in Cattiparambu were addicted to drinking. Their meagre earnings were spent on drinks, and this led to quarrels within the families, divisions and even murders. The women of the village together with various organisations that worked with them decided to put an end to this evil. We organised a "dharna" (demonstration), and informed the police and other authorities of our plans. We sat in groups in front of all the arrack (a local drink) shops in the village, day and night. This continued for over three months. During this period no man was allowed to enter any of the arrack shops, nor was fresh arrack allowed to be brought into the shops. On one occasion, one man entered a shop forcefully, and came out drunk. The women caught hold of him, stripped him, tied him to a coconut tree and beat him, telling him that they have suffered enough all these past years. They left him in this condition for other men to see. After this no one else dared enter the liquor shop. Since the women were not able to work during all these months, all their families suffered hunger.

We met with opposition, we experienced great difficulties, and were threatened in many ways ... We too experienced hunger, we had sleepless nights.... Through it all, we remained united until the government officials were obliged to take away the liquor licenses, and close all the arrack shops in the village...

For me this was a "God experience" ... I experienced the support of my community, my FMM vocation was challenged, and my commitment to justice has been deepened.

Sr. Cecily George, FMM, India

Woman's consciousness, wellspring for transformation...

This is the story of a group of peasant women in Culong, Guimba, Nueva Ecija, (Philippines). Most of them are members of the Basic Christian Community animated by a dynamic woman leader of the place. Some time in September, 1994, through the leader, the Socio Pastoral Institute Women's Pro-gram team was invited to give a formation training, without any clarity as to what kind of formation they desired. An initial encounter was offered: a one day Basic Orientation Seminar using an experiential approach. Thirty five women participated.

The seminar turned out to be a day of revelation to all. The participants discovered themselves as per-sons, especially their beauty, talents, and value as WOMEN. They became aware of the situation and status suffered by women in the home, in society, and even in the Church: the woman is the subordinate, the exploited, the marginalised, and the excluded in decision- making. During the seminar, they deepened their appreciation of the woman's role as child bearer, as life nurturer; but at the same time discovered that the woman is a life giver in many more ways than childbearing.

Little did we think that this encounter would be the start of our journeying together until now, January, 1997. The seminar was like their first taste of the living waters drawn from their own wellsprings. They had a thirst for discovering life as a woman....

The subsequent encounters gave clarity to the difference between sex and gender. They became conscious of the stereotype roles relegated to women and men and handed on through generations by an unjust patriarchal culture. They discovered, further, the woman's great gift of FAITH in herself, in others, and above all in God. They developed a growing sense of inter-relatedness with nature believing that a healthy life is dependent upon a healthy environment; and that humans exist in symbiotic relation with earth. They prayed and hoped that their husbands might also desire to have the same training as they were having.

RESULTS: They have formally organised themselves as a women’s organisation. Their husbands had the first encounter and have requested a follow up. The women's gender sensitivity is getting sharp-ened. They have eliminated the use of pesticides and inorganic fertilisers. They now promote organic farming. They opted to use the carabao in farming to avoid pollution, have carabao milk for their children, and help eliminate the threat of extinction of the species due to mechanised farming. They DREAM of the time when women and men and the whole of creation will live in harmony, unity, equilibrium and respect!

Josefina Diaz, Missionary Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary (ICM), Philippines

The following are some success stories from Zambia:

  • Catholic women are present at funerals and successfully protect the widow from violent relatives of the deceased who want to grab everything.
  • Women try to support victims of domestic violence to improve police attitudes towards them.
  • Women use the results of research on the causes of violence to fight against it.
  • Women have helped the “widows of the Gabon air crash” get justice concerning the funds due to them.
  • Women marched to the State House to protest against the increasing number of rape cases; arrests were made afterwards.9

At the first MICROCREDIT WORLD SUMMIT (held in February 1997),
the Queen of Spain shared her experiences and hopes for change:

Speaking at the inaugural session, Queen Sofia recalled her recent visit to Bangladesh, a country which is among the poorest in the world. Before undertaking the voyage, she had questioned the policy of giving small credit to women in rural areas of the world. Would this action really benefit these women and offer practical results in the fight to eradicate the poverty that was denying their basic human rights?

“...While visiting villages and speaking to hospitalers and generous Bengali women, I found the answer to these questions. I discovered it in experiencing the deepest solidarity with the suffering of women who had lived through dramatic personal events. Through their testimony and the tangible proofs of their work, achieved in great part with regard to practical objectives and products, I was able to understand that it is possible to conquer poverty and to create an Utopia!” Eco-Feminism

The violence being done to women and to the environment is closely inter-connected. Eco-feminism as the word implies is all about environmental and women’s concerns. The term was first used in 1974 by French writer Françoise d’Eaubonne to describe women’s potential to effect environmental change.

The growing awareness of women’s problems is closely connected to the growing awareness of environmental destruction. Both women and the environment are suffering violence. In many cultures, we hear the “groans” of women, and the “groans” of creation. The destruction of the environment has a particularly serious effect on women. “Women suffer the most when clean drinking water, fuel and healthy surroundings are not available. Women know what the shortage of water means, they know how the health of their families is affected when the environment they live in is not safe. They know what it means when the delicate balance of nature is tilted precariously.”10

The women in poorer countries are doubly affected by the ecological crisis, for they cannot afford to buy bottled water, organically grown food, or pay for medical care. The injustice being done to the environment is aggravating the injustices being done to women, and in particular to the poorer women.

The present eco-feminist movement has contributed to a deeper understanding of the inter-connectedness between all of creation. And so, the present eco-feminist movement seeks to promote, new relationships between women and men, between human beings and nature, relationships of mutual respect, relationships that give LIFE.

Below are extracts from the preparatory questionnaire which were sent to the participants at the eleventh General Assembly of the Asian Meeting of Religious (AMOR) held in India, June 1997:

Roots of Eco-Feminism:

  • The roots of human history wherein the inter-relatedness of the entire eco-system was experienced in its fullness.
  • The perception that the earth and woman generate new life: the feminine revered as ‘Mother Goddess’.
  • The co-relation existing between ecology and feminism and our understanding of it.
  • The communal values that foster and sustain ‘life’ in the human community have been progressively eroded due to the onslaught of patriarchal and capitalist values/ideology.
  • The ‘mastery’ over woman and the earth experienced in the form of control or dominance, specifically on women and nature; the violence and destruction of life, reflect the forces operative in our present context.

“Shoots” of Eco-Feminism:

  • A spirit of enough - frugality (Robert Muller, ex-Assistant to the General Secretary of the U.N., and presently Chancellor of the Peace University in Costa Rica).
  • An understanding of ‘development’ and ‘progress’ where the community of peoples and care of the earth are placed at the centre.
  • A protection of nature, against the indiscriminate exploitation by capitalist and vested interests, is essential for human existence.
  • A greater appreciation of the role of women as givers and nurturers of life in the present context of destruction of life - human life and nature.

1.1.6 Refugees

The presence of so many refugees is a sign of a troubled world. It is impossible to look at refugees and the way the international community responds to them without realising that their presence is an indication that something is terribly wrong in the international system.

  • There are an estimated 29 million refugees and another 100 million displaced people (both within and outside their countries of origin). Only a small minority of refugees manage to leave their countries in times of war; the majority remain “trapped” inside, suffering the gruesome consequences.
  • Refugees are on the increase due to Human Rights’ violations: political, economic, environ-mental, and ethnic. Increased arms’ trade, unjust trading practices, inhuman debt policies, political, cultural and religious exclusion, racism, desertification and other environmental disasters, will continue to add to the number of refugees as we move into the twenty-first century.
  • They have become “disposables”: eye-witness accounts of the treatment of the Rwandan refugees confirm this.

Definition of a refugee

International law defines a “refugee” as a person who:

“Owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his/her nationality and is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself/herself of the protection of that country, or who, not having a nationality and being outside the country of his/her former habitual residence as a result of such events, is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to return to it.”

The definition excludes those individuals who are displaced by violence or warfare and who have not been singled out for individual persecution.

The international system of refugee protection is breaking down. This system was characterized by a consensus that refugees had a special claim on the international community and that it was the responsibility of the international community to provide protection and assistance to refugees - not just the responsibility of the governments of the countries in which they happened to arrive. Today the consensus appears to be in trouble. All three components of the systems - the legal definition of refugees, the Convention itself, and UNHCR, the principal actor in the system - are undergoing change:

  • more restrictive applications by national governments of the classic definition of refugees embodied in the 1951 UN Convention and the 1967 Protocol;
  • increasing questions about the suitability of the definition in an age where most refugees are displaced by war and violence, not by individual persecution, and where the line between economic and political motivations for flight is blurred;
  • weakening of the leadership role of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in refugee protection and assistance.

The stakes in such an erosion of the international system are high. Ninety percent of the world’s refugees come from countries in the South and 90 percent of them remain in the South. Governments of countries far poorer than those of Western Europe or North America - countries which host far larger number of refugees - are questioning why they should be expected to provide for refugees when richer countries are closing their doors. The failure of the three traditional solutions (voluntary repatriation, local integration, and resettlement in a third country) to refugee situations has implications for both North and South.

A refugee shares his experience:

“I arrived in Australia in July 1995, straight from the war-torn central African nation of Burundi. It was a great change for me as there was no common ground between life in the two countries. Al-though Burundi has been making headlines in the media for the past two years, and in spite of its famous drummers, so far it remains unknown to a lot of people. Every time I am asked where it is, I just mention that it is Rwanda’s next door neighbour, and the sad pictures of the 1994 genocide are re-called.

“Now in Australia I have led a different life, as a new member of the refugee family. I have said good-bye to the never ending summer, especially to Lake Tanganyika which shaped my life, as violence was escalating in my city. I did not have a chance to say good-bye to my friends nor even to my parents. But what hurts most is the cruel feeling which keeps recurring: the feeling that I might never see them again. Many people back home call me ‘the lucky boy’. But little do they know how hard it is to be far away, especially to be by yourself...

“Hardly can they imagine that now I am like a leaf carried by a river. It is hard to answer the eternal and embarrassing question: ‘When are you going back home?’ But when you know you have no other choice to survive, you close your eyes and take the decision.

“The greatest challenge to anyone in my situation is to adjust to the new environment. To achieve this the major factor is to be financially independent. This certainly is a pre-requisite for a refugee more than anybody else, in order to be at least partially accepted by the community.

“I have learned from my little experience that I have to ‘work as a refugee’ to survive. I have now realised that a refugee has to be strong both physically and psychologically. Yes, even if you happen to cry, you let the tears flow into your heart. You carry the pride and sorrow inside yourself, and just keep smiling. The earth keeps turning and the sun shines for everybody. At the end of the day you just sigh and sing, hoping that some time, somewhere, someone will stare and care.”11

Prevention is preferable to Cure

Refugee movements are not inevitable, but can be averted if action is taken to reduce or remove the threats which force people to leave their own country and to seek sanctuary elsewhere. That is a fundamental principle of the emerging approach to the issue of human displacement. The concept of prevention includes activities such as

  • monitoring and early warning,
  • diplomatic intervention,
  • economic and social development,
  • conflict resolution,
  • the protection of human and minority rights,
  • the dissemination of information to prospective asylum seekers.

It means addressing both the root and immediate causes of flight. ...

Countries of origin are being called upon to eradicate the causes of flight and to facilitate the return of refugees or displaced people. In other words, there is a growing tendency for the international community to concern itself with conditions that until recently would have been treated as internal matters: violations of human rights, repression of minorities, indiscrimination, violence and persecution.


Ten action steps

Step 1 Increase your awareness
Step 2 Become involved
Step 3 Understand the principles of the international system
Step 4 Understanding the policy issues in your own country
Step 5 Strive for justice and peace
Step 6 Demonstrate solidarity
Step 7 Extend hospitality: “welcome stranger”
Step 8 Join the immigration debate
Step 9 Engage in advocacy
Step 10 Provide services which respond to material, social and spiritual needs.


Even as many in our society turn away or ignore the strangers in their midst, some Christians and some churches are choosing to be on the side of uprooted people. Some churches have identified themselves with strangers and exiles for centuries. Signs of hope are emerging in community and church initiatives around the world to create new ministries, new vehicles of ecumenical co-operation, and new ways of upholding human dignity and creating sustainable community.

We invite member churches through witness and service to all levels of the life of the churches to rediscover their identity as Church of the Stranger.12

1.1.7 Elderly and handicapped

  • They are being discarded in subtle ways;
  • Society gives value only to those who "produce";
  • They are tolerated, rather than cared for with love;
  • Society and some families tend to operate from a value system which excludes them.

1.1.8 Cultural And Religious Injustices

  • There is a clear distinction between the indigenous peoples' concept of "culture" and the modern concept of "culture": the former excludes no one; the latter has an in-built cultural exclusion.
  • Cultural and religious "exclusions" have cost 120 million lives in this century alone.
  • People are considered "non-persons" for cultural, linguistic and religious reasons.

  • Many governments have on their secret agenda the elimination of minority groups or "non-persons", because they are considered "surplus" peoples.
  • Till recently the 41 million indigenous peoples of Latin America and elsewhere were considered non-persons: their situation in many regions has not changed considerably.
  • Fundamentalist groups and sects are often used and abused by the politically powerful. Hence, they are considered as "threats" by other groups.
  • Globally, a new culture is being born, with a new value system, replacing traditional cultural and religious values. The mass-media is the principal factor of this phenomenon.

1.1.9 Racism

  • Through biased educational, legislative, legal, medical and religious practices, and through deeply rooted linguistic and other conventions, people are systematically robbed of their humanity and their hope because of their race.
  • Racism is an evil that exists in every sector of society and of the Church.


Till recently we spoke about groups being marginalised, but the new phenomenon is to exclude these groups. It is easy to identify the excluded but more difficult to identify those who exclude.

Below is an extract from a Provincial Chapter Document:

Universality - heritage of Mary of the Passion - is first of all a spiritual attitude of openness taking us beyond frontiers, ethnicities, castes, nationalities. The starting point is to take the path of conversion and recognise our own ethnocentrism in order to go beyond it towards the other.

In the present mingling of peoples and in the context of nationalism, our intercultural and international communities are called to be signs and instruments of communion.

Justice calls us to recognise and respect the equality of every person and culture, and to work continually to uproot our prejudices in an attitude of permanent conversion. Therefore, the provincial chapter members ask that we deepen our awareness of the evils of racism/ethnocentrism - within ourselves - within our FMM communities, in the areas where we minister, and in the world at large, striving to remove barriers that keep us from gathering at God’s table.

Within each community, the members have the co-responsibility to call each other to make this statement a reality in daily life.

Franciscan Missionaries of Mary, USA

Action against Racism

“I have been working with South East Asian immigrant women living in Vancouver Canada since 1993. The women have become aware that social service organisations are merely “band aid” to pressing problems and were doing little preventive work. The women have collectively organised themselves into a large number of women’s advocacy groups to educate, support, network and strategise with other women to bring about legal and social structural change.

The main issue is the lack of recognition of foreign education and work credentials in Canada.

The forms of discrimination experienced are: a baccalaureate degree counts for no more than college entrance. A post graduate degree just might give a woman a first-degree equivalency.

Discrimination in the work place: Sirjit says “as soon as they see the colour of your skin.. you are looked upon as if you don’t know anything, have a language problem or will not do the job properly.” They have these notions of Indian women - they give the jobs to mainstream people and tell you “you don’t have Canadian experience.”

Devi says : “You have to be the first among the first to succeed as well as a native born Canadian”.

Pushpa says : “It’s hard to be a foreigner; I have to get 100 percent to get a man’s job. These women’s statements are packed with many elements of racism and sexism - the assumption of ignorance be-cause of skin colour; the assumption that an Indian woman has nothing to contribute or that whatever skills she has are valueless; covert racism in placing higher expectations of performance from an im-migrant woman who is visibly different.

Action: Programmes directed towards getting recognition of foreign credentials. Providing workshop and practical manuals e.g. How to become a teacher in British Columbia. Pro-active anti-racist and anti-sexist educational workshops and projects promoting policies of British Columbia Multicultural-ism Act 1993.

Helen Ralston RSCJ, Canada

There is a programme of formation in anti-racism in Sacred Heart High School in Bonn. In Berlin, an RSCJ is the delegate for migrants affairs for the Cardinal Archbishop. This brings her into contact with the press and politicians who are the law and opinion makers with respect to immigrants. She has animated a group of students to work on immigration law for presentation to the parliament.

Society of the Sacred Heart, Germany

The following is an extract from Dr. Martin Luther King’s vision of a land unified by love and spirit, as one, not halted by the boundaries of colour or race:

“ ... I have a Dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the colour of their skin but by the content of their character. This is our hope. This is my faith.... With this faith, we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of Hope.”

1.1.10 Violence

It is no exaggeration to say that we are living in a culture of violence. Pope John Paul II in his encyclical, Gospel of Life enumerates some of the elements of a culture of Death. Basically, it means the same, for any form of violence is destructive.

Violence can be personal, societal or global. It can be systemic and structural. It can be political, economic, cultural and religious. It can be institutionalised. It is experienced in families and in communities. We are aware of its many causes and expressions.

Bob Kearns, a Josephite pastor in the USA, shares with us his experience with a group of third graders: Speaking about the fifth commandment, he asked them: “What kinds of violence do we know to-day?" Here is what came spontaneously from the lips of eight year olds:

“Serial rape, beating up people, stabbing, shooting, poisoning, suicide, kidnapping of children, setting bombs and fires, torturing animals, abusing children, killing old people, abortion, AIDS.”

Kearns asks, “Whatever happened to the days of getting angry with my brothers and sisters or getting into a fist-fight?”

Michael Crosby13 defining violence says it is, “any force that inflicts injury”. According to his definition it has three elements:

  • it represents any force;
  • it is unwanted;
  • the force inflicts injury.

The "force" and the "injury" can be physical or mental, individual or corporate, psychological or sociological, concrete or ideological, religious or spiritual, etc. In elaborating on this definition, we should be placing more stress on the “force" that inflicts the injury rather than the other two dimensions. This keeps us concentrated on the cause as we have to attend to the impact and effect.

This leads us to ask, what are the different types of “forces” and “injuries” which are operative in this world. Thomas Merton had this to say in his book, Faith and Violence:


“The real moral issue of violence in the twentieth century is obscured by archaic and mythical pre-suppositions. We tend to judge violence in terms of the individual, the messy, the physically disturbing, the personally frightening.... That is reasonable, but it tends to influence us too much. It makes us think that the problem of violence is limited to this very small scale, and it makes us unable to appreciate the far greater problem of the more abstract, more global, more organised presence of violence on a massive and corporate pattern. Violence today is white collar violence, the systematically organised bureaucratic and technological destruction of man.”

We still have the tendency to limit our understanding of violence with something physical and individual, and we do not equate it with the organised, bureaucratic, systemic forms of violence that are responsible for our present culture of death.

Concretely, violence manifests itself in the following forms in the world of today:14

  • in the treatment of the poor and marginalised, of women and children, of the elderly and handicapped;
  • in the heavy burden of debt carried by the poorest countries;
  • in austerity or the Structural Adjustment Programmes;
  • in the profit-driven economy;
  • in a form of consumerism;
  • in unemployment and underemployment;
  • in unequal access to arable land, and other essential resources;
  • in the present international monetary system;
  • in the destruction of the environment.

The following are some examples of a clear option for non-violence by the Franciscan Sisters of Penance and Christian Charity:

“The sisters of our province have dealt with the theme of “non-violence” intensively this year. During the Visitation of the convents the impulses and common reflections centred on it.”

The discussions revolved around questions and aspects such as these:

“How does violent and non-violent behaviour express itself in our daily lives? Non-violent behaviour towards ourselves and listening to our own inner truth? Non-violence as an expression of tolerance? Respect for the dignity and growth of the other persons? Non-violence - a Franciscan attitude - the principle of subsidiarity, a principle of structure in which non-violence expresses itself.”

A Personal Testimony15

Michael Crosby, OFM cap.

To bring this material home, I suggest some things that have helped me in my own ongoing effort to become more non-violent:

  • Respecting myself for who I am and others for who they are by giving up the need to control others and by respectfully not letting others control me.
  • In all interchanges that may have elements of conflict, follow the fourfold path: show up; pay attention; speak your truth; give up the need to control the outcome.
  • Be aware of the ways I get "my own back up" when my power, possessions, and prestige may be threatened. What do I do to protect them and my boundaries? What makes me defensive?
  • Be aware of my fears and what I do consciously and unconsciously when they arise. Under-stand how they can keep me from risking.
  • Ask myself if I have any hard feelings in my heart toward anyone. If I do, seek reconciliation by means of asking forgiveness or offering repentance. Be open to others when they seek reconciliation with me.
  • Be grateful and appreciative of the little acts of non-violence; rejoice and be glad in the promotion of peace.
  • Seek to become a mystic/contemplative in prayer; it will sustain and authenticate the prophetic/challenges involved in resistance.
  • Realising that all reconciliation must be based on justice, find creative ways to challenge the institutions, "isms," and ideologies that sustain injustice. Don't just denounce; seek alternatives.
  • Develop ways of thinking that de-centre myself from myself and put me in greater solidarity with the victims of violence, including the earth itself.
  • Try to live according to the six principles of Pax Christi's Vow of Non-violence (see Appendix A3.3); promote it in all my preaching.
  • Ask myself: "Do I really care" about those with whom I differ, whom I challenge, who challenge me?
  • Be aware of the sources of my anger when it is destructive (i.e., projection, blaming, scape-goating).
  • Nourish and be nourished by communities of non-violence and resistance.
  • Find at least one cause that I am willing to sacrifice for; engage in a campaign worthy of the cause.

1.1.11 Factors of a manipulated globalisation

  • Trans-national Corporations

The MAIN Actors are the Trans-national Corporations (multinational companies) which owe loyalty to no one, especially to no nation state. Most industrialised nations are in debt but not the trans-nationals. They are the engines of globalisation. Nation states and politicians now work for them.

  • Communication Technology

Computers are now the language of modern life. The NET defines life for many. Money moves at the speed of the computer and thus becomes the “only true human language”. We are being obliged to be part of the communications-super-highway.

  • The Economically Powerful

The rich and the wealthy do not really show any loyalty to their own country or nations, but rather to the new global community. Jet travel, cellular and satellite phones, computers and tax havens off shore allow the rich to move about the world as if it were their home and show no allegiance to their home country.

  • The Media

Who owns it? Who runs it? The media is biased, and often manipulated to serve the interests of those who wield political and economic power. The Media of the rich nations accept the agenda of the trans-national corporations and try to convince the rest of the world that it is the only reality worth working towards, the only truly human reality, the real sense of progress

  • Fundamentalism

Because of a subtle insecurity of individualism and its icons there is a swing to the right in terms of Religion and Fundamentalism. In certain contexts, fundamentalism is also used as a weapon to fight modernism.

According to Felix Wilfred, Globalisation seems to carry the whole world along. But in fact, it leaves more and more behind it in the desert of misery. It uproots people with the promise of plenty, but in fact it saps them mercilessly and allows them to dry out and die. The poor and the weak in our society are increasingly deprived of the security their traditional occupations, however menial these may be, provide. They are incapable of competing in a system whose very nature is to leave behind many as it progresses. The agricultural sector has experienced the heaviest blow of globalisation… Globalisation for them in effect means marginalisation…

It is easy to drag peoples and nations into global economics. This progressively leads to the loss of the most noble aspects of their culture. All of them are supplied with a surrogate global culture, which ultimately serves the vested interests of the powerful.16


1.2.1 Integrity of creation

“The land is my mother. Like a human mother, the land gives us protection, enjoyment and provides for our needs - economic, social and religious. We have human relationships with the land: mother, daughter, son. When the land is taken from us or destroyed we feel hurt because we belong to the land and we are part of it”.17

Deacon Djiniyini Goudarra

  • There is a close inter-connection between social injustices and environmental injustices.
  • The increasing environmental injustices are the consequences of the social injustices. The former cannot be addressed without addressing the latter.
  • The present patterns of production and consumption are the principal causes of the environmental degradation.


1.2.2 The world's oceans18

  • which regulate the earth's climate;
  • which provide 100 million tons of sea food annually;
  • which are rich in salt and minerals (magnesium, nickel, copper);
  • which can be distilled into fresh water;

are now being polluted:

  • by toxic substances from industries;
  • by sewage/garbage from urban areas;
  • by pesticides, fertilisers, animal manure, etc. due to modern methods of agriculture and farming.

1.2.3 Pollution of land and air

  • due to the burning of fossil fuels for industrial purposes;
  • lead emissions from cars;
  • increasing number of refrigerators and air-conditioners;
  • dumping of toxic waste material.

1.2.4 Desertification and soil erosion

  • Desertification has ecological, social, economic and human consequences.
  • It is the process whereby arable land loses its trees, bushes and grasses. The fertile topsoil is then exposed to wind and weather. This depleted soil turns into sand.
  • Each year about 23,000 sq. miles of fertile land turns into desert. Another 77,500 sq. miles of cultivable land and pasture are destroyed or seriously depleted. Eventually these areas become so ex-posed that the desert takes over.
  • Desertification is specially taking place in the land south of the Sahara: also in certain parts of Asia, along the east coasts of the USA and Latin America.

1.2.5 Deforestation

  • The forest is home to many people, animals, birds and insects. It provides food, medicines, fuel, charcoal, wood and paper.
  • Vegetation supports human and animal life in several essential ways. Protecting the plant cover is the most important way to prevent desertification.
  • Green plants absorb carbon dioxide and give off oxygen. Fewer trees mean less Carbon Dioxide will be absorbed, and more CO contributes to the greenhouse effect.
  • Tropical rainforests constitute 3/4 of all forests in the tropics. The rainforests contain 60% of the world's plant and animal species.
  • Rainforests are disappearing because of:
    • mining operations
    • the timber industry
    • road construction
    • cattle rearing (to export beef to the North)
    • ownership of land.
  • Rich and poor countries consume the world's trees in roughly equal proportions: the poor countries use it for survival, while the rich use it mainly for luxuries (for construction - 75% by rich countries; for paper, 87.5% by the rich countries).
  • More than half of the world's tropical forests have disappeared since 1950. Recent studies show that an area the size of New Zealand is destroyed each year.

Consequences of the destruction of rainforests:

  • Deforestation is the principal cause of the elimination of:
    • indigenous peoples who live in forests,
    • species: animals, birds, plants, including 7000 medicinal components.
    • 1 species disappears every 12 minutes. (There are probably about 30 million species, of which 1.4 million are known),
  • Serious Climate Change, due to the destruction of the "carbon sinks".

Consequences of Accelerated Climate Change:

  • It makes weather patterns erratic and increasingly hard to predict. Droughts, storms, floods and hurricanes are likely to be more frequent and more severe than in the past. Ice, snow and glaciers will be reduced.
  • As atmospheric warming increases the temperature of the ocean, its change will lead to a rise in sea level.
  • Effects on agriculture will be uneven but substantial. Some major cropland areas will be lost. Desertification will expand.
  • Hydrological changes will be disruptive.
  • Changed climate conditions will place stress on forests, grasslands and other eco-systems.

The effects of accelerated climate
change exacerbate social inequalities
within and between countries.

1.2.6 The greenhouse effect

  • Combustion of coal, oil and gas,
  • Release of industrial chemical gases,
  • Burning of Forests,
  • Anaerobic fermentation,

increase the amount of Carbon Dioxide and other gases in the atmosphere. This reduces the radiation of heat into space. Heat is then trapped as in a greenhouse, and the earth heats up.

1.2.7 Depletion of the ozone layer

  • The release of Chlorofluorocarbons into the atmosphere is thinning the ozone layer which protects the earth against ultraviolet rays: it has diminished by 4-8% during the last 10 years.

Damaging effects:

  • effect on the immune system
  • increase of skin cancer
  • more eye diseases
  • reduced timber yields
  • lower crop production
  • disturbances to the ocean system
  • degradation by paints and plastics

1.2.8 Inter-connectedness between social and environmental injustices

  • 1 billion people are affected and 2 million are killed each year due to drinking and washing with polluted water;
  • in the year 2000 two and a half billion people will consume wood at a greater pace than its rhythm of regeneration;
  • the rich 20% consume 85% of non-renewable energy resources;
  • industry continues to produce two and a half billion tons of toxic waste each year and to dispose of it in the poorer countries;
  • 17 of the world's major fisheries have reached or exceeded sustainable limits - 9 are in serious decline;
  • emissions from fossil fuels have increased almost 400% since 1950.

1.2.9 Examples of commitment to the environment

A success story from an environmental group:

Elected to the Senate in 1994, Marina Silva de Souza has risen about as far as any woman has in Brazil. But she has never forgotten her beginnings. One of 11 children of a poor rubber-tapping family in the Amazon, she spent her early years hunting, fishing and making rubber. In the 1980's she joined with Chico Mendes to organise peaceful demonstrations against the deforestation of the Amazon, and the expulsion of rubber-tapping families, who depended on the rain forest for their livelihood. They met with much resistance from the wealthy landowners and cattle ranchers, who were clearing the forests at a rapid rate. "We wondered" she said "if anyone was listening to us". But listened to they were and the rubber tappers crusade became an inspiration for grass roots environmental groups around the world. Since the late 1980's and the assassination of Mendes, Silva she has carried on the struggle, concentrating her efforts on the establishment of reserves of rain forest set aside for non-destructive agricultural pursuits such as rubber-tapping and Brazil-nut harvesting. Today 1.9 million hectares in Silva's State of Acre are dedicated to reserves managed by the forest communities. "If I am able to see a little farther than others," she says, "it is because I am supported by the shoulders of giants - the rubber tappers, the native Indians and the scientists."19

In her recent book The Fire in these Ashes, Joan Chittister wrote, what is needed now is an ecology of life, justice and peace if the planet is to survive and all its people are to live decent human lives.20 For the planet to survive and people to live decent human lives it requires a transformation of economic systems, consumption patterns and values which underpin much of the life style of the affluent. The demands made by this life style are impoverishing the poor and killing the earth. According to Sean McDonagh, “We are causing changes of a biological and geological order of magnitude and are only now beginning to wake up to the consequences of our activity.”21

It is this very magnitude that leaves people feeling depressed, powerless and unsure of what to do. The role, however, of those committed to Christian justice, to making peace and to caring for the earth is very clear. It is essentially a prophetic role. Unsustainable structures require critique, industry must be challenged and the consequences of consumerist practices highlighted. It is not a time for the fainthearted. But it is a time for the imaginative: new theologies are coming to birth; liturgies which spring from creation find their way into churches; and creative responses to present situations are found in unexpected places. There is much to be done. Wanagri Maathai, that great and courageous leader of the Kenyan Green Belt movement and inveterate planter of trees urges us to action:

“You cannot just say you're going to prevent desertification or deforestation, just like that. It is not a single issue, it is not a single answer; it is a complex concoction of all kinds of issues that interplay and interlock. And when we try to solve these problems they're not going to be solved at the meetings by the politicians, by writing beautiful documents. In the final analysis, the problems will be solved by taking action at wherever we are individually. That is why I would like to emphasise this concept of acting locally, but thinking globally. In the final analysis, each of us must make that decision to take action; but all the talking, all the documents go on. It has been going on for a long time.”

Problems associated with care of the environment can be approached in a variety of ways through structural analysis, through collaboration, through local level practical action and in combinations of all three. Structural analysis can help identify whose interests are served by industrial pollution, etc. Clean-up days, Greenpeace activities or World Wildlife Fund can put us in touch with a network and with information, expertise and group solidarity. Action locally, and in the home is what keeps our daily lives environmentally "real" and puts the theory into practice. (In Appendix 2 several practical suggestions in response to daily environmental challenges are outlined).

Below is an extract from a sharing from the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary, from the Philip-pines:

An Environmental Ethic for Personal and Social Transformation

  1. Justice Today: Sustainable Sufficiency (SAPAT) for All
    • SAPAT is the Filipino term for ‘enough’, ‘sufficient’.
    • ‘The rich must live simply so that the poor may simply live.’
    • Acceptance and adoption of SAPAT as a way of life, as a way of being in society, calls for a truly alternative manner of viewing the world and living in it that must stand in stark contrast to the dominant current culture.
  2. SAPAT Principles
    • Principle One: Enough of the destruction of the environment.
    • Principle Two: Take from nature only that which is enough.
    • Principle Three: Eat and buy only what is enough and needed.
    • Principle Four: Each person must have enough to sustain a healthful and dignified life.

Throughout the years, considerable strides have been made in the protection of the environment where our sisters have been working. In the course of their protest against illegal logging in their area, the Mangyans and the sisters were harassed and threatened. This reached crisis proportions when one of the Mangyan leaders was stabbed.

The Comboni Sisters have made the following option:

To initiate the campaign of ‘enough’ by limiting our personal and community demands and being satisfied with what is necessary ...

The following is a parable for Reflection and Discussion


There was a very loving, fruitful and provident mother. In her Immense fertility she happily be-got hundreds nay, thousands of children. Her name was "Earth" and her children's names were "men" and "women".

Lovingly and with utter prodigality she regaled them with cool and chaste water to drink, fleshy and juicy fruits to eat, soft, green and fresh grass to lie on, nights and days, months and seasons.

When men and women, Mother Earth's children, were small they loved their mother dearly. They caressed her night and day with their bare hands and feet.

They were so grateful to Mother Earth that they established great festivals to usher in and celebrate the seasons, the harvesting of the crops, the beginning and ending of the rains, summers and winters.

In their child like simplicity they even prayed to her and worshipped her in their fields, in their homes and in their little temples.

As the children of Mother Earth grew and became learned and educated, they turned colder and colder towards their mother. In the end they forgot all her favours and all her love and generosity. Their festivals and celebrations ceased. Their prayers stuck in their throats. Their worship was forgotten. They regarded with horror and contempt their former prayers, worshipping, festivals and celebrations. And as they grew more "civilised" they learned to wrest from her bosom, by cunning and by force, the treasures she lovingly concealed for men and women yet unborn!.

Finally, now, when they have reached the peak of development, they have changed their attitudes towards their benign mother. Mother Earth is now a rival to conquer, a wild beast to entrap and subdue, a miser to strip bare. And so her children brutally "cannibalise" on her, maim her, strip her of her mantle of beauty and pollute her. And yet, all over the world the intellectuals, the philosophers and great thinkers keep repeating: “At last we conquered earth. We know the secrets of nature. We emancipated humankind from obscurantism, fear of natural phenomena and superstitions. We are now rich and prosperous. A bright future is waiting for us. We need not pray or worship anyone any more!”

But I question: “Is it really so? Can we live without our Mother?”


  1. Who are the children of the world? Is this just a poetical figure of speech or does it express a true reality? Explain.
  2. How did "primitive" man (and woman) feel towards the earth and nature? How did they ex-press it?
  3. Did the festivals, celebrations, rituals and myths of "primitive” human beings have any value? Which?
  4. Is it a loss or a gain that those festivals have ceased? Why?
  5. How do modern human beings feel towards the earth? What is earth for them?
  6. How is it that their attitudes towards the earth have changed so radically?
  7. What do modern human beings do to the earth today?
  8. Can the earth sustain such a beating, pilfering and raping of her resources any longer? Why? What will be the consequences of it all?
  9. How should “rational" human beings use (not abuse) the riches and resources of the earth to prevent those catastrophic consequences?


for Personal Reflection

Once upon time there was a class,
and the students expressed disapproval of their teacher.
Why should they be concerned with
global interdependency, global problems,
and what others of the world were thinking feeling and doing?

And the teacher said she had a dream in which
she saw one of her students fifty years from today.
The student was angry and said,
“Why did I learn so much detail about the past
and the administration of my country
and so little about the world”.

He was angry because no one told him
that as an adult he would be faced
almost daily with problems of global interdependent nature,
be they problems of peace, security, quality of life,
food, inflation, or scarcity of natural resources.

The angry student found he was the victim
as well as the beneficiary.
“Why was I not warned?
Why was I not better educated?
Why did my teachers not tell me about
the problems and help me understand
I was a member of an interdependent human race?”

With even greater anger the student, shouted
“You helped me extend my hands
with incredible machines,
my eyes with telescopes and microscopes,
my ears with telephone, radios, and sonar,
my brain with computers,
but you did not help me extend my heart,
love, concern, to the entire human family.
You teacher, gave me half a loaf”.

by Rye Kinghorn,
quoted by Robert Muller: The Birth of a Global Civilisation

1.2.10 Concluding comment

As Religious and
as Justice, Peace, Integrity of Creation promoters,
it is important that we take
this “new world order” very seriously.

As Christians, concerned about building the Reign of God,
we need to search constantly for the Plan of God for this world.
This calls for a re-reading of the Scriptures
(Section II).

It is necessary for the JPIC promoters/ animators
to examine justice problems very carefully
before they take action to solve the problems.
It is necessary for them to do so because
they need to understand the problems that they are dealing with.
A method of examining or analysing justice problems
is required because there is a danger
that such problems may be made worse
if justice workers are not fully aware of
the root causes of these problems.
We do that by using Social Analysis
(Section III).

1 There is a need to re-think some of our vocabulary including terms like “First World”, “Third World” etc. On the basis of economy, the one world created by God has become divided into four, and sometimes five worlds! The term “two-thirds world” is gradually replacing the term “third world”, as the poor people in the world today are more or less two-thirds of the world’s population.

 2 The World Movement of Christian Workers has launched a Four Year Plan (1996-2000) to promote Human Dignity, to Revive Hope and to weave New Forms of Solidarity. The detailed Plan is included in their bulletin, INFOR, No 154, (Bruxelles, July-August 1996)

 3 The word “billion” in U.K.and Germany mean a million millions (1,000,000,000,000); in France and U.S.A., a thousand millions (1,000,000,000). The word “trillion” in U.K. means a million million million (1,000,000,000,000,000,000,); in France and U.S.A. it means a million millions (1,000, 000, 000, 000).

4 The Human Development Report is an annual publication of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

5 Felix Wilfred, “No Salvation outside Globalisation”, SEDOS: (Rome), 1996/305

6 Justice and Peace Magazine, Scotland, October 1996.

7 Nicoletta Dentico, "Landmines: the silent sentinels of death". Talk given at a public Education Meeting organised by the JPIC Commission January, 1995

8 Development and Environment Kit, Norway, 1991.

9 AMECEA (Documentation Service, Kenya, No. 462, December 1996), p. 5.

10 Aruna Gnanadason, “Towards an eco-feminist theology, (CCA News, May-June 1992).

11 Resource Kit on Uprooted People, (Australia) p. 18

12 ibid., pp. 21, 24 - 27.

13 Michael Crosby, OFM Cap, “Coming to Terms with Violence”, The CMSM Shalom Strategy, USA, 1996, p. 18-20)

14 Terry Miller and Marie Dennis in their article on, “The Global Face of Violence” in the Shalom Strategy, explain the different forms of violence that are being manifested in today’s society, p. 164-172.

15 Ibid., p. 36-37

16 Felix Wilfred, “No Salvation Outside Globalisation”, in SEDOS, Rome, 96/305.

17 Recognition: The Way Forward, An Issues Paper from the Australian Catholic Social Justice Council, 1993, p. 20

18 The following facts and figures are taken from the, Environment and Development Kit, (Visuell Inform, Nor-way,1991)

19 “Grass Roots Heroes”, (Times, April 29 1996)

20 Sheed & Ward: Kansas City, 1995, p.102

21 Passion for the Earth, (Geoffrey Chapman: London) 1994, p.64.

22 Peter Ribes, SJ, Parables and Fables for Modern Man, Vol.4 (St. Paul’s: Bombay, 1991) p.70