Bishop's hard-hitting statement for Peace Sunday
In a bold and hard-hitting statement the catholic Bishop of Lancaster, Rt Rev Patrick O'Donoghue has said that he is praying for an end to the occupation of Iraq, that a one-year moratorium on debt repayment by countries affected by the tsunami is not enough, and has questioned the Prime Ministerís commission on Africa.
In a statement for Peace Sunday on 16th January, the bishop suggested that the New Year presented an opportunity to learn from previous successes and failures, and resolve to do better in the future.
ì2005 could not have begun in a worse way, with the Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami that left a trail of destruction, a grim and ever-increasing death toll and large swaths of the Asian coastline effectively destroyedî the bishop said.
ìMany believe we will never know the true numbers of those who perished; neither will we know the true extent of the social, economic and environmental devastation wrought by the tsunami for a long while yet.î
ìHowever, what we do know is that countries in the region will continue to need solidarity and support to meet the immediate and long terms needs of their people, as indeed for reconstruction and developmentî the Bishop continued.
ìThe recent Government proposal for the Paris Club/G8 to agree a one-year moratorium on debt repayment by countries affected by the tsunami, though welcome, is not enough.î
ìI support the call of aid agencies that rich nations should cancel all debts owed to them by the tsunami affected countries, and this should only be a start to other policy initiatives needed for immediate and long term development needs. It is hoped that these needs will be addressed at the tsunami donors' conference in Indonesia.î
Paying tribute to the ìenormous spiritual and material generosity of the British peopleî in giving aid to tsunami victims, the bishop suggested ìsuch positive attitudes confirm for me that they understand the correct response to the biblical question ëwho is my neighbour?í.
But the bishop continued; ìthere is so much that peace-loving people here and worldwide would love to see done differently. This month the UK assumed the presidency of the G8 and in July 2005 will assume the presidency of the EU. This unique political conjuncture gives the government a chance to use its influence to tackle the root causes of poverty and conflicts around the world. It is clear that the combined impacts of unfair trading practices, the debt burden, inadequate aid, or aid conditional on privatisation, are having a devastating effect on the world's poorest countries. ì
ìThere is no reason why unfair trade rules cannot be dismantled to allow poor countries to compete fairly in the global market; why rich countries cannot set a binding timetable for allocating 0.7% of GNP for aid; why the debt of the poorest countries cannot be cancelled outright; why more aid cannot be given to countries devastated by the AIDS epidemic; why 12 million people should remain as refugees or displaced.î
Affirming his Support for the new campaigning initiative; ìMake Poverty Historyî which involves many churches and Christian agencies, the bishop also questioned Tony Blairís new Africa Commission.
ìOne can also question the need for a new Africa Commission when rigorous analysis and solutions about Africa's problems, already exist. As I see it, it is time to act and that is why I support the Make Poverty History - Coalition's demand for policies to achieve the Millennium Development Goals. I believe the UK is a major player in all these matters, not simply a spectator.î
ìFinallyî the bishop said, ìI pray for the realisation of a viable state for the Palestinian peoples and for an end to the occupation of Iraq so that credible international support through the UN can be mobilised for its self determination and reconstruction - the two issues crucial in the bringing of peace to the Holy Land and the Middle East.î