Monday, 29 December 2014

Middle East and Eastern Europe Regional Office (MEERO)

I have the privilege of championing the work of World Vision Australia in two regions: Latin America & Caribbean (LAC) and Middle East and Eastern Europe (MEER). Here's a short introduction to what we call MEER:
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The countries where World Vision works across the Middle East, Eastern Europe, Caucasus and Southern Asia region are of huge geopolitical significance.

This is a region where the children, families and communities face staggering challenges every day—challenges that all too inevitably force some children to grow up too fast while not allowing others to grow up at all.

While there are differences in the struggles faced by the children and their families depending, in part, by what country they call home, there similarities as well. Across the region, World Vision is working to provide millions of children: with access to a quality and affordable education and health services as well as knowledge of their rights and a means to protect themselves from those who would exploit them. At the same time, World Vision strives to come alongside parents and community members equipping them to be able to provide for their children’s physical, spiritual, intellectual, and emotional needs regardless of ethnicity, gender or religious beliefs both now and in the future.

World Vision’s work in this region is divided into four clusters of countries:
At present, World Vision is working in more than 1,500 communities across the region striving to improve the lives of nearly 10 million children and youth.

Friday, 31 October 2014

Adeline, a Camp Sodom Survivor

I was making my way through the narrow alleyways dodging the electrical wires that snaked their way through the concrete houses and house front stalls that cling to the sides of the mountains above Port-au-Prince. The kids were yelling “Good Morning” and waving as I passed, the adults eyeing me with perhaps just a little suspicion.

I was on my way to meet Adeline Eliazard and her three children, Nadine Andrice (17), Ernst Andrice (15) and Jerry Andrice (13). With the help of World Vision International Haiti and funds from World Vision Australia, she and her children have been living in a 2 room concrete bunker type house (maybe 40m2) in this densely packed community since December last year. But the four years before that had been very different and very difficult.

On the 12th day of January 2010 a 7.0 magnitude earthquake that lasted about 35 seconds destroyed her home and all that she possessed. And due to a lack of access of care, Adeline’s husband died on January 13, 2010. It was a devastating time for her and her young children.  In the days before the quake, Adeline, despite a heart condition that required treatment, was just making ends meet. She sold cooking oils and made enough to keep her children in school, feed them, and together with her husband’s income they were able to afford the rent.

Following the quake Adeline and her kids, with 69 other families, moved onto a plot of land (about 400m2) bordering a ravine at the bottom of the mountain. She salvaged all she could from her home, not much, and with NGO handouts, set her self up in a tent/shack – this was going to be home for the next 4 years.

Their community was named Camp Sodom; I can imagine it being a horrible place to live. The day I visited the camp site which was now empty, it was hot, 45C; no trees, no shade, the ground is rough gravel and dirt – it is hot, very hot. Sometime time later, in the first year, an NGO built a toilet block but there were no other facilities at this camp. During the 4 years, Adeline’s sister helped her with some rice and beans every fortnight or so, but she had no other source of income and she couldn’t afford the fees to send her kids to school – the choice was food or school.

Sometime in 2013, the owner of the land decided he wanted his land back so, to encourage families to move away, he had the toilet block demolished. For almost a year, Adeline now laughs as she tells me the story, “we did the toilet in plastic bags, but not everyone was so thoughtful”. The owner also employed more direct methods to encourage the people to move.

By the end of last year, Adeline was desperate and completely demoralized. She and her kids had lost so much weight that, as Adeline thinks back, “I looked like a stick. I prayed, God deliver us from this place, show me some hope, please God do something to help”.

That same month she saw some new faces in the camp. World Vision International Haiti, with the approval of the Mayor’s office had come to her camp to ‘transition’ people out, close the camp and return it to the owner. This was a government-sanctioned approach that all NGOs are using in Haiti that provides grants for families to find and rent an appropriate rental property for one year and to set themselves up in some kind of small business.

Adeline wasn’t quite sure what it meant, but for the first time in a long time she saw a glimmer of hope. “When I saw and heard Rolande and the World Vision team, I had hope that my children would be delivered and that we could get out of this place. It was the first time I had hope in a long time.”

Today, almost 12 months later, I am sitting with Adeline and her children in the curtained of front entry of her little concrete house on the mountain, looking down on the land that was her home for 4 years; she smiles lots, despite the tears in her eyes as she retells her story, she is happy and she laughs often.

She now has a small business making and selling peanut butter; she has enough income to enroll her children in the new year of school that starts next month and to buy food. Brand new, pressed uniforms hang wrapped in plastic on the wall waiting for the day that she never dared to imagine would come.

With her sisters help Adeline has managed to get medical help for her heart condition and she is doing ok. Her children are happy: Nadine Andrice is a beautiful young woman, shy at the moment with me in the room, but she has friends in the closely packed community; Ernst Andrice is also shy but he sits protectively close to his mum – he has a look of warning, ‘don’t mess with my Mum’ in his eyes; and Jerry Andrice swaggers into the room, braided long hair and a big confident eye-sparkling smile, he slaps my hand in a high five as he sits down next to me.

A little concerned about what happens after the one-year rent grant is exhausted; I ask Adeline where she will get rent money next year. “I don’t know”, she says, “At the moment I only have enough for food and school, and without a husband to help it is tough. But God will provide, I am praying that God will provide”.

When I was here in an earthquake recovery capacity (for The Salvation Army) 4 years ago, the city was a mess, there were about 1.5 million displaced people, today there are reportedly about 55,000 people still living under temporary shelter in camps. But the majority of camps have been closed and cleared. There are public spaces once again available to and used by the people. People are living back in the communities, some in better conditions than they had before the quake. The sides of the roads are lined with smallholder stalls selling fruit and paintings.

But this 5 years of unprecedented investment at best brings Haiti back to where it was before the quake –it is still the poorest country in the western hemisphere with about 77% of people living below the poverty line. The majority of Haiti’s people are still in need of help – perhaps we should join our voices and hope with Adeline’s prayer, “God provide for your people”.

Daryl Crowden

August 2014

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

I Only Bury Saints

Over 24 years of Salvation Army officership I conducted many funerals - I developed a reputation for “doing a good funeral” - and it always amazed me that every person I buried was a saint. You listen to the eulogies from family and friends and the person was always wonderful, an amazing influence, always happy, always engaged, always caring. They may have had a few quirks, a couple of idiosyncrasies, maybe a wonky choice in footy team selection, but that was always overshadowed by their commitment to family first, the good of all humanity (and the pets too) - and world peace.

And yet, in most cases I knew the person too. I knew that he was at times a grumpy old sod who had little good to say about anyone, I knew that she had little time for others - I knew that the person was just normal, like the rest of us. But at a funeral we paint a picture that perhaps exaggerates the best we saw in a person and we extol the virtue and value of a person as we believe they could have been. (Having said that I did bury some people who I suspect really were saints, great people and wonderful influencers.)

Now, in my new life, and at this time of the year my performance over the past year is being judged, and I have to spend time judging my team. We are rated and our performance (or value) is judged. I know this process is not intended to be nasty, I know there has to be some form of corporate and personal accountability and that the process is not intended to be a validation of our personal value - but we are all human - and from my experience if you judge my work, then you judge me. It is personal. It is about my value. It is about whether or not you value me.

It is important for us all personally, and to any organisation, that we are held to account for our development and performance plans but we need to do all we can to avoid the trap of allowing that management process to dictate to us our personal value. The problem is that, in our humanity, the two are inevitably and inextricably linked. 

As hard as it is, you and I must find ways to divorce our performance value from our personal value - because ‘we value people’ - above all. So, we all have to find ways to value the person and to make sure that we don’t leave it until the farewell or the funeral to tell and show another that they are valued. This valuing is not the sole jurisdiction of Human Resources or Pastoral Care or Leadership it is my responsibility and it is your responsibility.

As a Christian I inevitably turn to the Scriptures to remind me that I am valued: “do not be afraid; you are of more value than many sparrows” (look at Matthew 10:31) and to the example of Jesus who always put the person before the process. But it’s not just a Christian principle to value one another - surely it’s about being humans together?

So, my personal performance challenge is to intentionally find ways to value you, to make sure I do all I can to remind you that ‘God don’t make no junk’ and that regardless of your work, your choice of footy club and your performance rating you are a valued member of the team and my circle of influence and influencers. Your challenge, should you choose to accept it, is to join with me in selecting ‘value people’ as the default setting in your everyday practice.

Monday, 29 September 2014

“Opposing apartheid was a matter of justice, opposing discrimination against women is a matter of justice. Opposing discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is a matter of justice. It is also a matter of love. Every human being is precious. We are all - all of us - part of God's family. We must all be allowed to love each other with honor.” (Desmond Tutu)


Secular narratives of social transformation are often separated from religious narratives of personal transformation. This division ignores the lived realities of people who are struggling for change.

We enter the police station in a mid-size town in KwaZulu Natal, South Africa, knocking on doors to find the officer who’s agreed to be interviewed for our research on spirituality and social transformation. A few minutes later, one door opens. “Hello, apologies for not responding, I was having my moment of prayer, but come in”, says a female warrant officer. We enter her small office. A laptop on a shelf is playing a video with a pastor giving a sermon. A document about “spiritual warfare” is pinned to the wall.

We’re here to find out her views on the role of religious faith in efforts to realize gender equality in contexts where women occupy inferior positions in their households, and where they are regularly exposed to the threat of rape and other forms of violence. A 2012 report from the South Africa Medical Research Council reports that a woman is killed by an intimate partner every eight hours; 37 per cent of South African men admit to having committed at least one rape.

In response to our questions, the warrant officer tells us: “I believe we cannot fight crime without the involvement of the power of God. Churches play an important role...first of all through prayer because fighting these crimes should start spiritually. In addition, faith leaders and churches could also contribute to raising awareness on these issues.”

For her, as for many other people we interviewed, fighting gender-based violence is first and foremost a spiritual issue. No distinction is made between the warrant officer’s public role as a keeper of the peace and her personal faith, a lack of separation that would raise suspicions in other, secular settings. Those suspicions are well founded given that religion has been a force for social injustice as much as social justice, so what is it that turns faith in one direction or the other?

Why do some religious leaders feel compelled to support social change while others don’t? Does the answer lie in a particular reading of religious scripture, or in the spiritual experiences that may underpin religious convictions, or in the feelings of universal love that faith and spirituality sometimes awaken, or in some other factors entirely?

The argument that religious and secular perspectives do not mix is well rehearsed, especially in the world of international development. After all, the goal of ‘development’ has largely been based on a grand narrative of modernity and progress which privileges economic growth, liberal democracy, individual liberty and a secular public sphere - moulding ‘developing’ societies into the image of the West.

Most development success stories are embedded in such secular narratives, even though leaders from the global South like Mahatma Gandhi, the Dalai Lama and Nelson Mandela have written and spoken about the extensive role that religion and spirituality have played in their own journeys. Religious narratives make development practitioners uncomfortable. Not only do they emphasize the personal dimensions of social change that the development industry tries to avoid, but they also bring elements of religion and spirituality into public discourses that many of those working in this field would rather see disappear.

But in our conversations with community leaders, religious figures, teachers, police and others throughout Southern Africa, personal and social transformation emerged as closely-intertwined realities. Religious and secular dynamics are inextricably entangled. This raises significant questions for scholars, policymakers and activists who want to support participatory, democratic development whilst continuing to exclude the spiritual dimensions of life and work from the mainstream agenda.

Conversely, religious actors have frequently failed to connect personal transformation with broader processes of social change. In the Pentecostal churches that have grown so quickly in many parts of Africa, for example, membership has proven to be a positive influence on personal agency. But the idea that such agency should also contribute to the pursuit of social justice is often absent from the perspectives of the churches’ leaders, particularly those who come from conservative theological frameworks which emphasize the primacy of personal salvation. This perspective has frequently been at odds with more theologically liberal frameworks which stress the inclusion of diverse and marginalized voices, and the transformation of personal and community identities.

Yet this tension may be abating as faith-based development organisations begin to adopt approaches in which social and spiritual considerations are joined together. One example is a program run by World Vision International called “Channels of Hope for Gender,” which uses scripture to promote equality between men and women who profess a religious faith. A Pentecostal pastor in Malawi who participated in the program along with 1,260 other people throughout Southern Africa in 2013 told us how reading the Bible in a different manner encouraged him to change the way he acts towards women. “We saw the Bible as one story,” he said, “but now we see that there are different voices, and we need to listen to the voices about what is good in men and women.”

To assess the impact of the program we spoke with other people in the community, including a husband and wife called Ruth and Joseph who run a number of small business enterprises. Joseph keeps livestock and runs a grocery store and tea-house, while Ruth runs a successful tailoring business. It was her success that enabled Joseph to start his own enterprises.

When Ruth was first invited to participate in the gender equality workshops, she and Joseph decided that she was too busy, so he attended instead. They say that the training has resulted in significant changes. Joseph now takes an active role in the household - cooking, cleaning, fetching water, and looking after the children if Ruth is busy with customers. Previously Joseph made all the decisions on household finances, but now the couple make them together. They see themselves as role models for the rest of their village, visiting and speaking to other members of their community about gender equality and what it means in practice.

Later, Ruth commented to us privately that although she really wanted to attend the workshop herself, she knew that Joseph needed to undertake the training much more than she did. She added that before the workshop, Joseph “was not a praying man, now he prays all the time.” From her perspective, Joseph’s spiritual transformation and the transformation of roles and relationships in her family are part and parcel of the same process.

While the program doesn’t always result in such clear and positive changes, this story and others like it highlight how experiences of personal transformation can provide the motivation to engage in broader action for social change. By contrast, recent interest in religious leaders as potential partners in development work has been highly instrumental, focused mainly on religious leaders and their organisations’ capacities as ‘delivery systems’ for services like health and education, and measured against secular criteria that exclude the spiritual, transcendent and metaphysical aspects of religiosity. While the move to engage with religion is promising, this narrow focus risks ignoring or marginalizing the deeper ways in which spirituality is bound up with social transformation.

Timothy Keller for example, the Senior Pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York, believes that a personal experience of God’s grace is key to an awareness of, and sensitivity to, issues of social justice: “as I preached the classic message that God does not give us justice but saves us by free grace,” he writes, “I discovered that those most affected by the message became the most sensitive to the social inequities around them.”

Similarly, Gary Haugen, the founder of the International Justice Mission, declares that “seeking justice is a straightforward command of God for his people and part of Christ’s prayer that his Father’s will be done ‘on earth as it is in heaven,’” so a relationship with the divine is critical in many people’s decision to participate in the pursuit of social transformation. Religious leaders we spoke to in Malawi and South Africa also emphasised God’s love for all humanity as a critical factor in changing their perspectives on male/female relationships.

Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu has emphasised this calling many times: “Opposing apartheid was a matter of justice,” he writes in The Huffington Post, “opposing discrimination against women is a matter of justice. Opposing discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is a matter of justice. It is also a matter of love. Every human being is precious. We are all - all of us - part of God's family. We must all be allowed to love each other with honor.”

[Brenda Bartelink and Erin Wilson 17 September 2014:

The Gaza Strip

The Gaza Strip is one of the most densely populated areas in the world with about 1.8 million people confined to 365 km.[1] There are about 4,505 people/km2, which is expected to rise to 5,835 by 2020. (In comparison: 2,050 people/km2 in New York City.[2]) Approximately 50% of Gaza residents are children[3]. The area is completely fenced in on three sides, and access to the Mediterranean Sea has, only recently, been increased to a maximum of 6 miles off shore for fishermen.

Israel controls access of people and goods at two border crossings- Erez and Kerem Shalom, and controls all air and sea access. Egypt controls the access in and out at the Rafah crossing. Gazans can only enter Israel at Erez with a rare Israeli military permit or through unpredictable and long lines through Rafah into Egypt. Kerem Shalom is reserved for the movement of commercial supplies/goods.

In 2007, following the Hamas election and subsequent takeover of the Gaza Strip, Israel severely increased closures and restrictions. Gazans survive on foreign aid, the tunnel economy, and remittances, but with 80% reliant on foreign aid[4], this blockade has pushed the population further into poverty, particularly in its restrictions of goods that are allowed to enter. Malnutrition among Gaza’s children is not improving, particularly for those under 5 years. About half of infants and children under 2 years old have iron deficiency anemia.[5] According to UNICEF, one fourth of children under 5 years old are anemic and 10% of children in Gaza are stunted.[6] An end to the blockade offers the prospect to improve child health and nutrition in Gaza.

Restrictions on Freedom of Movement

The blockade affects virtually every facet of life for Palestinians in Gaza, including traveling between and within the Occupied Palestinian Territories (oPt), educational and employment opportunities, and the ability for families to visit one another and live together in peace and security. Palestinians living in Gaza require Israeli permits to enter the West Bank, whether they enter via Erez or from Jordan through Allenby Bridge, the Israeli controlled border crossing between Jordan and the West Bank. There are no other possible routes for Palestinians in Gaza to enter the West Bank.

The Israeli authorities hold complete control over the Palestinian population registry.[7] They have the ultimate say over any address changes, changes in residential status, and the ability to travel. This “separation policy” is enforced by a complex system of identity cards that Israel uses to separate, identify, and monitor Palestinians from the West Bank, Gaza, and Jerusalem. This is largely contributing to the fragmentation of Palestinian society.
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[1] United Nations Development Programme, “Facts about the Palestinian People,” http://www.undp.ps/en/aboutundp/aboutpalpp.html.
[2] “Life in the Gaza Strip,” BBC, November 22, 2012, http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-20415675.
[3] Gaza in 2020 A liveable place? http://www.unrwa.org/userfiles/file/publications/gaza/Gaza%20in%202020.pdf
[4] Amnesty International, http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3894847,00.html.
[5] World Health Organization, “Health conditions in the occupied Palestinian territory, including east Jerusalem, and in the occupied Syrian Golan,” (Report by the Secretariat, May 11, 2012), http://reliefweb.int/sites/reliefweb.int/files/resources/Full_Report_3973.pdf, 2.
[6] Gaza Facts and Figures- UNICEF oPt- November 2012, http://www.unicef.org/oPt/UNICEF_oPt_-_Gaza_Fact_sheet_-_November_2012.pdf.
[7] For more information, please see Human Rights Watch’s 2012 report, “Forget About Him, He’s Not Here”: Israel’s Control of Palestinian Residency in the West Bank and Gaza,” http://www.hrw.org/reports/2012/02/05/forget-about-him-he-s-not-here.

Friday, 22 August 2014

Rag Doll in a Cement Mixer

Isle de La Gonave
Like a rag doll in a cement mixer, so was the Tuesday of my visit. The day starts with a pleasant, short 20-minute flight in a Missionary Aviation Fellowship airplane across the water to Isle de La Gonave. We climb steadily through the smog to 4,500 feet only to push the nose to the ground as soon as we reach altitude. On approach to the island we pass over the top of beautiful calm, clear, turquoise water dotted with small fishing boats and coral islands guarding the coast. All of a sudden the dirt strip on the beach is in front of us; it should have been an indication of what was to follow.

About 60km off the coast of the main island La Gonave has seen little investment over the years. There is one carpet road, about 250m long from the harbor to the main town of Anse A Galets. The rest of the island’s 200km road system varies between a few meters of nice smooth sand to extreme, rocky, four-wheel drive. The community I was heading for, Nan Café, is a bone jarring 22km and 2 hours away amongst hills clothed in avocado trees and carved out of limestone.

We have been working in these hill communities since 2002 and over the years we have worked with the communities and other partners to ensure access to schools for about 95% of the children with an increasing percentage of girls staying in and finishing school. When we arrived on La Gonave there were 3 clinics and 1 health care professional for the island’s population of 83,099 people. Today we have established and handed over 9 clinics to the government and there are 22 health care professionals serving the communities throughout the island. The statistics for health problems as a result of poor sanitation have decreased, and household incomes have increased because of improved agriculture practices, fishing techniques, vocational trainings and charcoal production. (Instead of cutting down the whole tree people have learned more sustainable ways of harvesting the wood.)

Much has improved but there is still so much more to do. The school attendance is high, but the percentage of children that can read and write at the appropriate level for their age is very low, much needs to be done to raise the quality of education. I met with 20 young people who told me the stories of their schools and communities. All of them are in or have finished school – an improvement – but then what? With our partners we have provided some vocational training but there are not enough jobs on the island. Despite that the young men and women still want to learn to be plumbers, electricians, tailors and of course, IT gurus.

Port de Bonheur, La Gonave, Haiti
This program has 3 years to go before we close out, but right now, after 12 years in the community we are planning and working toward the transition to sustainability and complete community ownership. Are they ready to continue on their own, can they do it? Their answer: “of course we can, and we must, our families futures depend on it.”

Australian sponsors support about 6,700 children in three development programs, (Grand Lagon, PACODES and Port be Bonheur) on La Gonave. If you are one of them I can tell you, after visiting all three programs, that you can be proud of what the children and their parents have achieved – lives are being transformed and hope is growing stronger.

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Return to Haiti

I look out my window and there is a wall of pastel coloured houses climbing up the mountainside, it
looks to me almost like a Lego construction, gone a little wrong. The houses seem impossibly conjoined, wallpapering the mountainside like a 3D image.

I must admit it's not the image of Haiti that I remember from my time here in 2010. I saw them then, and I remember commenting on how so much of this seemingly fragile community survived, but at that time I was concentrating on the destruction in the valley and the city below these houses. A lot has changed in 4 years, both for me and for Haiti.

Four years ago I spent 8 weeks here with the Salvos: an amazing group of people served a community of 20,000 displaced people in Delmas 2 and initiated numerous other recovery and rebuilding programs. (Have a look at my blogs from July/August 2010) Today I returned with World Vision and I come to see the work (about 6,500 children and their families are supported) that Australian's support on La Gonave, an island just off the mainland, and to finalise the transition process for a displaced people's camp in Port-au-Prince. There are still about 100,000 people in temporary housing.

The unprecedented outpouring of funds to the country has ended, the influx of every kind of NGO and Aid provider has retreated, the country that was the poorest in the western hemisphere is still the poorest, the people are still amongst the most vulnerable and there are still people here, very passionate, committed people wanting and trying to make a difference. The Salvos are still working in areas no other NGO will go, including World Vision;  World Vision is still working in some of the poorest and most vulnerable Haitian communities that have been ignored by Haiti's own systems.

As I drove into town from the airport some of my first impressions included: the condition of the roads are still amongst the worst I have ever travelled on; the traffic is still utterly chaotic, at one point on a road two lanes wide 4 lanes are created, 3 going into town and 1 out, before they all try to merge into one to enter a roundabout; there are open areas where 4 years ago there were thousands of temporary houses; there are small piles of rubble, cleared slabs and some new buildings going up where there were huge piles of rubble and there are still white UN vehicles driving like they own the roads.

The problems associated with the 2010 earthquake are innumerable, but amongst them is the fact that many seem to be acting like they have done their bit, they have given much to Haiti and now it should be fine and there are so many other places in the world that need help. But Haitians still need help, children still need access to quality education and health systems and parents still need help to improve their capacity to provide for their children.

Friday, 8 August 2014

Participatory Grace

This morning at home in Melbourne, before standing under a wonderful warm shower, I filled the kettle from the tap and boiled the water without fire. And I was thankful!

Not so long ago I sat in the shade of a tree with a small group of people who have no taps in their homes – in fact some have no ‘home’, but rather a concrete or wooden box. The water they get comes from the ground, some will walk up to 8km a day to collect it and it will be contaminated with salt, arsenic and other chemicals from fertilisers. They drain it through a cloth to filter out the solids before using it. Some of them will collect firewood if they can find any in this arid place, the lucky one or two will buy and carry a gas bottle to their home. They’ll cook their lentils and leaves in the brackish orange water and they’ll wash themselves which will result in many having skin conditions. But this is not unusual; over 884 Million people around the world do not have access to clean water; every 21 seconds a child will die from water related illness. (That’s about 2 in the time you started reading.)

So when I come home and turn on a tap, believe me, I am thankful. But it wears off, my thankfulness is not long lasting, nor is it particularly transformative. After a few days, I take my fortune and my privilege for granted - that is until I go back overseas and see the people again.

It is great to be thankful, all the major faith traditions encourage believers to live lives of thankfulness, but, unless it is just about making myself feel good and religiously safe, it is not enough. It is good to reflect each day on what I am thankful for, but I cannot help but ask “so what”? Surely thankfulness is only a catalyst, (or perhaps the yeast).

My thankfulness has to translate into something else; something beyond words or it is just a temporary feel good. Thankfulness has to be embedded into who I am. Thankfulness has to inform what I do, how I act, it has to be brought to life.

Thankfulness is a catalyst for graciousness; graciousness is the act of extending respect, decency, (humanity) and undeserved favour to others. When thankfulness is held captive in my soul it must result in acts of acceptance, solidarity, respect and favour becoming normal practice in my living. This participatory grace does not ask: “who are you, where are you from, who do you worship, or even, why do you deserve it?” Instead my thankfulness transforms my selfish inclinations and responds in grace and love: “I have seen you - can I help?”

Words of thankfulness must translate into and inform acts of Participatory Grace.
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May God be gracious to us as we choose not to ignore;
May God equip us as we animate our thankfulness into acts of participatory grace;
May the God of Hope guide us – always.

Friday, 1 August 2014

Gaza Crisis Risks Long-term Problems for Children

In February last year I crossed through a heavily fortified border crossing (Erez) into North Gaza. I was going in to monitor an Australian government funded program with a mental health specialist. One of the components of the program is psychological first aid (PFA): training ordinary people (adults and children) how to assist those who have survived crises. At one of the schools I visited, (now rubble) I watched a trainer teaching teenagers how to "look, listen, link". 

I listened to children sing songs about freedom and watched as they danced and played, I visited home gardens, tomato greenhouses and strawberry farms that only 3 months before had been bombed in the most recent 'incursion', but now were rebuilt. I listened to stories of resilience, but frustration and confusion. The area of North Gaza I visited, the streets I walked, the building I worked in are all rubble now - but more importantly the people I sat with, the children I listened to are again suffering. 

PFA is a surprisingly simple yet extremely powerful tool that, for a number of years now, has been assisting the people of Gaza. (We have also used it in the North of Sri Lanka.) In response to this latest war, Alison Schafer, the person I travelled with, the architect of our PFA program who has a lot of experience in Gaza and one of the authors of this tool made these comments:

As missiles rain down on Gaza, the war is exacting a huge psychological toll on children, which will plague the region for decades to come according to a World Vision mental health and psychosocial support specialist.

Alison Schafer says most human beings have a remarkable capacity to recover naturally from a crisis, once their sense of security is restored and their basic needs are met. But in Gaza children are in a perpetual crisis because of either war, the threat of war or a blockade that prevents the delivery of essential supplies.

“The challenge that is unique to Gaza is that children never achieve any ongoing sense of safety at all, and their parents cannot provide it because they have no control and they have nowhere else to go,” she says.

Ms Schafer says such prolonged periods of stress cause a massive increase in cortisol levels in the brain, which adversely affects the mental development of children. Research is suggesting that this could be making children more at risk for aggressive behaviours and psychological problems in later life.

She adds that people suffering extreme adverse childhood experiences may have their lives shortened, with a significant risk of death before 50 years of age compared with children who have not experienced such events.

Ms Schafer says it’s critical for children’s mental health for the current hostilities to cease and for the blockade of Gaza to end.

Once this is achieved, it will be important for children to get back to a regular routine as quickly as possible, such as by going to school and participating in after-school activities. Children will also require more support from their parents.

“You are going to have children clinging to mother’s legs; you’re going to have children seeking attention. If they are not provided that attention in a positive way such as during family meals or family games then they are going to start exhibiting negative behaviours,” she says.

Ms Schafer says while aid organisations can provide a range of psychosocial support, the most important thing they can do is support parents to assist their children’s recovery.

“Children will naturally seek support from their parents and so they should. We should not be disempowering parents.”

Ms Schafer, who is based in Australia, has supported work in Gaza for about five years, providing psychosocial support to farmers and their families. The programs have been suspended due to the current fighting. Ms Schafer hopes to return to Gaza in September to continue work in mental health and psychosocial support.

Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Disability Inclusion in Development

Outside staccato horns blare in constant discord, hungry crows complain in hungry unison, kamikaze tuktuks like angry mosquitos cut through the traffic. Here inside the workshop room, a group of 25 of us are talking about inclusive development. The speaker is hearing impaired, she cannot hear any of the auditory chaos that assaults our ears and makes it difficult to hear her voice.

Our day started with the story of Jesus turning over the tables in the temple and by doing so advocating for access for all people to the place of worship. “Please try to find ways to remove the barriers”, the speaker (a Sri Lankan Methodist pastor) said, “don’t ignore my disabled son” he pleaded, “look for paths to make him feel wanted” he begged. As he spoke an Australian sign interpreter stood beside him translating the words of a Tamil man for a Sinhalese deaf man and an Australian deaf woman. (Different dialogues and languages they tell me - so we go between International, British and American.)

As the Sinhalese man (from Deaf Link) signs his prayer for us he asks that “we will see the importance of the subject”, his signs are obviously full of energy and passion, his face broad with a smile as he prays that the fact he is welcome here and fully included, is a catalyst for change and a sign of hope.

This is an important milestone as we endeavour to make sure that in this new project we are not just doing things for people but that we are doing all we can to ensure that disabled people are full participants and partners. That’s basic development you say, and it is, but even today many organisations (including us) would prefer to deliver services: it’s easier, it’s quicker and it provides good photos and statistics.

Inclusive development is harder, it takes more time, and it requires more creativity. But the catch phrase, nothing about us without us guides our design, our intentions and our hopes.

As the cacophony of chaos continues unabated outside our deaf Sri Lankan colleague is teaching us to say, “hello, I work for World Vision”. Small steps but vital as we seek to transform the lives of some of Sri Lanka’s most vulnerable people in the North.

Link to:
UTube Link to a video produced by Deaf Link Sri Lanka
Deaf Link Sri Lanka's Facebook page.

Sunday, 27 July 2014

Day 5: Turning the Tables Over

Can you hear Whitney singing: “I believe that children are our future, teach them well and let them lead the way… Give them a sense of pride…” Isn’t this a reworking of Jesus’ words about children?

Within the Salvo ranks (and the church) we have a passionate, articulate, well educated, internationally aware and globally connected generation of young people who are desperate to be part of something that makes a difference. They understand the realities and theories of climate change and the causes of global greed, power dynamics, politics and poverty. They know what the MDGs and the HDIs are. They want to be involved in changing their world – their future – they want to make a difference.

But we, the leaders, the teachers are not instilling a sense of confidence or hope; we are not giving them a sense of pride. We are instead telling them why we can’t do it. Operating from our fortresses, defending our headquarters and intent on reversing our declining relevance we tell them why they are being unrealistic and unreasonable to expect the church to be more engaged in the lives of people beyond our walls and our borders. (As one leader said to me: “our priority is to take care of our own”. Sounds like a mantra from Prime Minister Abbot’s play book.)

We have not taught them well and we are certainly not letting them lead the way. As a result (too) many of these passionate leaders are finding other organisations where they can get involved, where they can try and fail and be engaged in Jesus’ ministry. And the Salvos, instead of regaining their reputation as global leaders in social justice, are playing it safe, defending their conservative position and, in the process, losing the very people who may well turn us around.

Salvos were born to be militants, we were training change agents, we were thumbing our noses at conservative church, we were challenging the politicians, we were trying and failing but we were transforming lives. And that’s what (I believe) young people want to sign up for. (I have met some of these people but I might be wrong of course!)

If we want to keep young people then we might have to turn some boardroom tables over. We have to give them something to be proud of and to invest their lives in. We have to reclaim the role of global leaders in social justice – there is enough reputation there to do it – but it requires us to be willing to put aside the default position of protection and give young people a real voice. A voice that at times will be chaotic and unpredictable but simultaneously articulate and proud. We need leaders who will teach, mentor and coach through the chaos and at times despite their uncertainty, not leaders who are more worried about defending, at all costs, the increasingly irrelevant status quo and their position in it.

[That’s the last rant of my 5 day challenge. Thank God for that you say.]

Saturday, 26 July 2014

Day 4: Turning the Tables Over

I have heard a theory that the reason that so many children are being killed in Gaza is because Muslim parents are intentionally gathering their kids on the roofs of buildings that Israel has identified and targeted. Why would they do that? Apparently, so the theory goes, because they know that their children will go to heaven - the Qur’an says so.

Apart from the sheer arrogance, superiority and stupidity that this rumour portrays, all I can actually think of saying is – are you serious? Do you honestly believe any parent, Muslim, Jew, Christian or whatever would sacrifice their child because of the promise of eternal life? And yes, you’re right down through history it has happened – but equally by many misguided people of faith - including extremist fundamental Christians.

I have eaten and shared life with some of "these Gazan Muslims" whom you label as child killers. My friend Mohammed has so far lost 9 members of his family in this 'surgical war', 4 of them children. And none of them were standing guard over Hamas rockets - all were in their homes hiding while the rockets screamed in. (Let me just state that attacks, by either Israel and Hamas, which risk killing innocent people should not be condoned by anyone.)

I’m a Christian, I believe that my daughter will go to heaven; the Bible tells me so. But that doesn’t mean I would intentionally put her in front of a firing squad to hasten that journey! Really, how stupid is that argument. Just as well there are no tables handy, it would test my agenda to “Do No Harm” because I might throw it at someone!

Friday, 25 July 2014

Day 3. Turning the Tables Over

Last week I was reminded that, in the its early days, The Salvation Army had a proud history of leading the ‘global’ justice agenda. I was told that when the Salvos got mad it was contagious. But then when asked if it was time for Salvos to get mad again the speaker diplomatically avoided the answer and gave a vague (and I felt) excuse for why we ‘couldn’t’.

I think the presenter is wrong. And I think that the reason the original ‘table turner’ got mad was because of injustice, and I can’t see anywhere where his priority for justice and his bias for the poor has changed. Therefore I suggest that it IS time for Salvos to get mad, it is time for the church to get mad. Or are we too bound by financial ties and a desire not to offend. Are we too worried that in getting mad we will upset the power brokers? (Jesus’ wasn’t worried, but maybe the world has changed!)

It is possible to get mad, to get politically active, without being party political – and it is past time we had the courage to start turning tables over again – failing to do so perpetuates the perception that the Church (and Christians) are maybe irrelevant and apathetic, or perhaps insular and self-absorbed, or at worst only willing to show anger through a myopic and vitriolic persecution of other faiths. (I find it’s always easier to point at others instead of examine myself – the apostle John tried it (“what about him”) and Jesus put him back in his box.)

Day 2: Turning the Tables Over

Today I travel to Sri Lanka to do some work on a water, sanitation and hygiene project that we have designed for some of the most vulnerable and disempowered people living in the Northern Province. So, I find myself thinking about asylum seekers, and specifically about those locked away in the hold of an Australian Customs ship by the policies of my government. I am ashamed, I am frustrated, I am sorry.

I am not suggesting this is an easy fix; I don’t want to see people dying at sea in an attempt to reach the only hope they can imagine. So how about, instead of drastically cutting our Aid budget and spending multi-millions on detention centres, we commit the money to “those” people and partner with them at home to improve their livelihoods and develop their infrastructure and services? Maybe then many would not be desperate enough to risk the voyage from home or the separation from family. (I know, I know… there are numerous other factors in the decision to seek asylum, but this is one thing we could and should do.)

Keep trying to Turn the Tables Over in Canberra.

Day 1: Turn Over the Tables

It is good to be thankful, (I think the Bible mentions that) but it seems to me that sometimes even Jesus decided it was time to turn over some tables and be angry. So, how about a 5 day challenge: I'd like to call it the - Turn Over the Tables challenge?

Day 1. I am disappointed by Christians that use the Israeli-Palestinian war (and just about every other fight) as an excuse to demonise Islam and Muslims. It seems to me that there is as much (if not more) documented evidence to support a theory that Christians have been responsible for apartheid, genocide and hatred. This is not just, or perhaps even, a religious issue, this is a human rights issue - on all sides - and the people being hurt are the most vulnerable and the least powerful.

Christians should be advocating (and praying) for peace and reconciliation - not publishing messages that perpetuate hate and discord (I think Jesus mentioned something about that and would have turned those tables over.)

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

60,000 Children seeking asylum

60,000 unaccompanied children are expected to attempt to cross the U.S. border in 2014. (It was 24,000 in 2012, and next year the number is anticipated to be 130,000)

The exponential growth of unaccompanied children traveling through various countries in Central America to reach the United States is a humanitarian crisis. In addition to these 60,000 children who are exposed to abuse, exploitation, starvation, violations and even death during their journey, the numbers of people seeking asylum in countries in the region has grown by 435% since 2009.

Most of these children come from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. While poverty in these countries has always been a reason for emigration, in the last few months the number of children fleeing these countries has grown enormously. In addition to having one of the highest rates of violence in the world with death rates even higher than countries with ongoing armed conflicts or war, like the Democratic Republic of Congo and Afghanistan, the recently escalating violence targeting specifically children and youth is considered the main reason for this increase. 58 percent of children interviewed by UNHCR indicated they were forcibly displaced because of armed violence by organised actors, such as drug cartels and gangs, domestic violence, and in the case of Mexico, forced recruitment by human trafficking networks. US President Barack Obama has declared the growing influx of these unaccompanied children as humanitarian crisis for the US.

What can we do?
  • Support migrating children – especially in shelters and detention centres
  • Work with churches and others to help reintegrate children and their families that have been deported from the USA and Mexico 
  • Work with UN organisations and others to create awareness about the risks for the migrating children in their communities and countries 
  • Work with governments on improving child protection measures and systems to avoid the further expulsion of children 
  • Strengthen our engagement with communities and partners to address the root causes of this exodus, specifically violence and lack of opportunities 
  • Work to influence policy and public opinion in the USA to better understand the reasons for this unprecedented growth and provide a more balanced response to the affected children and countries.
Due to the complexity of the situation and the multi-causality of displacement and violence, we need to make working in partnership with other stakeholders, especially UN agencies, national governments, churches and faith based organisations (FBOS), local and international Non-Government Organisations (NGOs), civil society organizations, as well as donors and the private sector.

Somehow we need to get involved to change the options for these kids.

Monday, 2 June 2014

Webs of Interconnectedness

I was sitting in a room of unfamiliar faces, in an unfamiliar country. It was that first day of a conference - that day I dread when, for the first time, we all look around the room pretending not to judge and stereotype as we measure one another. In these moments of uncertainty people sought out the comfortable and the familiar as small groups formed around the room: Swahili speaking Africans, Indians, Filipinos, Francophone Africans, Indonesians, Sri Lankans, Eastern Europeans, Americans and the Aussie – all coming together in language groups, simultaneously forming bonds of friendship and barriers of protection.

But, as the conference got underway, and the theme began to unravel, the single purpose that brought this disparate group together in the middle of nowhere Kenya, began to break the barriers, expand the bonds and create a new web of interconnectedness that seemed unlikely but quickly became the comfortable and the normal.

As much as I find the first moments of an event like this uncomfortable, eventually I love being in a varied group of people like this, hearing new stories, understanding issues through a different worldview and learning once again that it is through this diversity and difference that I learn to be more. And at the end of the time I have made new friends, new connections and together we have begun to fulfil our expectations.

Vinoth Ramachandra writes; “The theological understanding of human personhood is that we image God in relationality. Just as God's being is dynamic relationality, so we are constituted as persons through webs of interconnectedness. We become the occasion for each other’s self-fulfilment. Those who love us make us what we become; we only learn love by being loved.”

People are designed to be in relationship, to explore and become enveloped by webs of dynamic interconnectedness. It is by being loved that I become more than I am and that I learn to love others. But that is often messy and sometimes painful, it takes effort and time, it takes intention and perseverance and it often leaves you vulnerable and open to criticism. But, after fighting with it for a long time, (and watching it modelled by someone I love), – I am nevertheless convinced that it remains the only way to be real, to be human, to be!

Sunday, 18 May 2014

Lukenya IPACS

Flying into Nairobi this afternoon reminded me of flying over North Western or Central Victoria (Australia). The landscape is brown, flat and arid. It's not the red dirt of the Centre, but the browns and blues of the desert. It should be wet, the monsoons should have started, but the wet season has not come yet, which the tourists are loving, but the locals are worried, it means hardship for them.

I'm here attending (and helping to facilitate) a course to be accredited to train the art and science of Integrating Peace-building and Conflict Sensitivity into Programming (IPACS). And here is in the bush at the Lukenya Getaway, off the Mombassa-Nairobi Highway, in the middle of nowhere. The drive in found us slowing down and navigating around herds of Zebra and Impala (Zulu for gazelle). In the evenings, they tell me, we will be visited by giraffe and other animals.

But for now, I sit looking out over the wide empty brown, sparse trees dot the horizon, tall with high branches and flat tops. I sit separated from the 'wild' by a fence of brilliant red bougainvillea, listening to the birds and some annoying loud neighbours. In the other direction a dusty, slow parade of trucks carrying goods along the african arterial from Mombassa to Nairobi and beyond to Uganda and Rwanda is constant and apparently unending. It feels like a long way from anywhere here in Lukenya.

Thursday, 24 April 2014

1,100 FACTORY DEATHS ONE YEAR ON: COLES STILL USING BANGLADESH SWEATSHOPS

One year after the Rana Plaza collapse that resulted in 1,100 factory deaths, the Transport Workers’ Union (TWU) has notified the National Human Rights Commission of Bangladesh of suspected human rights abuses by Australian retailer Coles.

In the wake of the tragedy, the Bangladesh Government is urging western firms like Coles to sign a Fire and Safety Accord, setting legally enforceable minimum working standards for garment workers.

Transport Workers’ Union National Secretary Tony Sheldon said other Australian retailers such as Woolworths, K-Mart and Target had signed the Fire and Safety Accord. But Coles refuses to sign.

“At Coles’ AGM last year, they said they had stopped buying clothes from Bangladesh, but as recently as January, Coles was still selling Bangladesh clothing, likely sourced from sweatshops and firetraps like Rana Plaza," Mr Sheldon said

“We’ve made this notification to the Human Rights Commission because basic labour rights are protected in the Bangladesh constitution and it is unconscionable that Coles believes they are above the law – it has to stop.

Today marks the first anniversary of the factory collapse in Rana Plaza, Bangladesh, which killed 1,100 people.

The TWU has organized a candlelight vigil to pay respects to the victims of Rana Plaza and honour their memories by fighting for safe work everywhere.

The Bangladesh Fire and Safety Accord is an initiative of the Bangladesh Government and key NGOs, and sets minimum standards for safe work, fair pay and enforcement of workplace rights in Bangladesh.

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

OP3 CRC - Third Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on a Communications Procedure

Children whose human rights have been violated will be able to bring their grievances directly to the United Nations after a historic international treaty entered into force on Monday 14 April.

The treaty, called the Third Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on a Communications Procedure – or OP3 CRC for short – sets out an international complaints procedure for child rights violations. It allows children from States that have ratified the protocol to bring complaints directly to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child. The UN will then investigate the claim and can direct governments to provide remedies.

Despite the near universal ratification of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, it was the only international human rights treaty that had no means for victims to seek justice when they have not found a solution at the national level.

“Every day we witness violations of children’s most basic rights. Children are fighting to survive, let alone thrive. They experience discrimination, violence in their communities, schools and homes, as well as a lack of access to basic services,” says World Vision child rights expert Sara Austin, who will address a special event at the UN in New York to mark the entry into force of the treaty.

“Tragically, the rights of children are often neglected by decision makers and children’s views and opinions ignored. This new treaty gives children the ability to be heard directly by the United Nations and have a say in holding governments accountable.”

So far only 10 countries – the threshold required for the treaty to become international law – have ratified, including Albania, Bolivia, Costa Rica, Gabon, Germany, Monténégro, Portugal, Slovakia, Spain and Thailand. An additional 45 countries have signed the protocol, indicating their intention to ratify - but Australia is not one of these. (Click here for a list of states who have ratified or signed the treaty.)

“We congratulate the first 10 countries that have ratified the protocol, and we urge all others to follow this positive example. States must demonstrate their commitment to promoting and protecting children’s rights by ratifying this new treaty so more children can access international justice,” says Austin.

Want to know more about OP3 CRC?

Monday, 7 April 2014

Failings of History – “Never again”?

20 years ago, on this date, the Rwandan genocide began: the murder of 1,000,000 people in 100 days (400 people per hour). It is called genocide because it was the intentional mass murder of people belonging to one particular group. The murders occurred because of tension between the African ethnic groups, the Tutsis and the Hutus. Most of the people killed were Tutsis and it was a group of rebels (RPF) led by the Tutsis that stopped the killings.

It took 6 weeks and about 500,000 lives before the UN agreed that genocide might be happening in Rwanda. And the international community never responded because the UN and international community (particularly the U.S.) couldn't agree how to pay for an intervention. And it took 16 years after the event before the UN recognised it could have done more to prevent the genocide.

In 2007 and 2008 I had the privilege of working with a community of 70 families to build a new home, a new community. It was a life changing event for me (and my family). Next month, I have the privilege of returning to Kigali (the capital city of Rwanda) to participate in a Peace-building Network Conference and to attend some of the 20 year genocide memorial functions.

I also hope to revisit that community in Gituro; that barren hilltop in the middle of nowhere, to meet some of the people and to see the development that has occurred in the last 6 years. I remember the changes I saw when I revisited a year after my stay with the community, I can only hope and imagine the changes that I will see this time are not limited to infrastructure, but that they extend to lives transformed, society reformed and people continuing to live lives committed to following Jesus, even when that road has taken many of them through the valley of the shadow of death.

Can you imagine how tough these memorials are for this nation and her people? Let’s pray that the never again pronouncement screams so loud in these months of memorial that it bounces around in the thick skulls of our leaders, (political and religious). In the meantime we, the lucky nation, the luck people could learn to be more hospitable and more compassionate of those who are vulnerable, abused and dispossessed.

April 7, 1994
The genocide begins. 
Armed forces from Rwanda and a Hutu militia called Interahamwe begin the mass murder of Tutsis, as well as Hutus who sympathize with Tutsis.
April 8, 1994
The Tutsi Rwandan Patriotic Front tries to end killings. 
A group of Tutsi rebels called the Tutsi Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) tries to rescue its troops and end the killings.
April 11, 1994
The Red Cross states that tens of thousands of people have been murdered. 
Less than a week after the murders begin, tens of thousands of Rwandans are dead. About 2,000 of them are killed after United Nations soldiers are removed from a school that they are protecting.
April 15, 1994
20,000 people are murdered at the Nyarubuye church. 
Approximately 20,000 people seek refuge from the murders at the Nyarubuye Roman Catholic Church. Most are killed by attackers carrying spears, hatchets, knives, and automatic rifles.
April 21, 1994
The United Nations removes most of its troops. 
Only 270 United Nations soldiers are left in Rwanda after the UN removes 90 percent of its troops. The UN is afraid that its peacekeepers will be killed.
April 30, 1994
Rwandan refugees flee to nearby areas. 
As the mass killings continue, tens of thousands of people from Rwanda try to escape. Most go to nearby Zaire, Burundi, and Tanzania.
May 1994
A half of a million Rwandans are murdered. 
With no help from other countries, Tutsis continue to be murdered. By the middle of the month of May, the Red Cross states that nearly a half of a million people have been killed.
May 17, 1994
The UN says that genocide may be happening in Rwanda. 
Reluctant before now to say that the killings in Rwanda are genocide, the UN now agrees that the murders could be genocide. It plans to send in 5,500 new troops to help, but the United States and the UN cannot agree on how to pay for it and sending the troops is delayed.
June 22, 1994
Operation Turquoise begins. 
The UN sends 2,500 French troops to Rwanda to create a safe zone. The action, called Operation Turquoise, is not successful as Tutsis continue to be killed in the safe zone.
July 18, 1994
The genocide ends. 
Pastor Bizimungu is named president and Faustin Twagiramungu is the new prime minister.
April 2000
The UN admits it could have done more to stop the killings. 
The United Nations Security Council announces that it did not do enough to prevent the genocide in Rwanda 16 years ago.


Tuesday, 1 April 2014

The Pied Piper: A Modern Day Fairy Tale

The Pied Piper stole away the children of the town of Hamelin after the town's leaders did not keep their promises to him. 

In this version World Vision relates the infamous tale to the idea that a slew of modern "pied pipers" - major killers like pneumonia, malaria and diarrhoea - are stealing away our children because world leaders have not kept their promises. What will it take to make convince our leaders that it matters?


Friday, 28 March 2014

Stopping Cost Blowouts with Sovereign Borders

PM Tony Abbott says his Government is "stopping the border protection costs blowout", and Mr Morrison has cited the closure of a number of mainland detention centres as one of the first cost savings made because the arrival of asylum seeker boats has slowed.

So what are the costs?


Friday, 21 March 2014

Ending Modern Slavery

27 Million people are today enslaved, that's more than double the number of people removed from Africa during the entire transatlantic slave trade.
This horrific indictment on our society was highlighted again this week with yet another attempt to do something about it. Mining magnate Andrew Forrest launched an organisation (The Global Freedom Network) to end modern slavery. The Network is supported by Pope Francis, the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby and the Grand Imam of al-Azhar, (the senior Sunni Muslim authority). Leaders of other faiths have been invited to join the network.

Mr Forrest said he was moved to act after meeting a nine-year-old Nepalese orphan who had been a victim of human trafficking. "She looked at me with this look of abject terror - this horror, this disgust, this revulsion - and she screamed," he said.

"Since that time, Nicola, my wife, and I can't actually get that sound out of our heads. We committed ... to do something about it and that's when I came and ordered a full audit of Fortescue's supply chain and discovered slavery there as well."

But initiatives like Forrest's can only be successful if we support it too. So, I would urge you to find 20 minutes and sit down with your computer and take a look at this presentation by Lisa Kristine.