Jul 24, 2014

Caritas Internationalis statement in the UN

Below is the joint Statement of Caritas Internationalis delivered during the  21st Special Session of the UN Human Rights Council on the human rights situation  in the Occupied Palestinian Territory including East Jerusalem in Geneva, 23rd  July 2014;

Joint Oral Statement submitted by Caritas Internationalis (International Confederation of Catholic Charities) and co-signed by Dominicans for Justice and Peace (order of Preachers)

Mr. President,

Caritas Internationalis and Dominicans for Justice and Peace express their deep concern on the renewed tensions in the Holy Land and the grave violations reported in the Gaza Strip which are exacerbating the already complex and urgent human rights and humanitarian situation for most civilians.

The whole population in the Gaza Strip is suffering and the loss of innocent civilian lives has been deplorable. Since the beginning of the hostilities, more than 600 people have been killed, over 4000 injured, amongst them many children and women , and more than 102,000 are displaced . The number of civilians killed and injured is growing every day.

Caritas Jerusalem – the Caritas member organization in the Holy Land, which provides basic primary health care services and humanitarian assistance to the affected population through a medical center with outreach services to six local health committees mainly composed by volunteers - reported that more than 15,000 houses of civilians and 30 medical centers have been destroyed by the airstrikes and 122 schools bombarded. They further inform that unexploded ordinances and explosive remnants of war present a major hazard to the population, particularly to children, when they leave their place of shelter to search for their belongings among the rubble of their destroyed houses.
Although Caritas continues its disaster relief and ongoing humanitarian assistance and development work in the area, movements inside Gaza have become dangerous as a result of frequent bombings being imposed on the local civilian populations. An immediate ceasefire is vital to help the citizens of Gaza and the Occupied Territories to preserve their human life and dignity.

Mr. President,

During the special prayers for peace in Israel and Palestine, convened in the Vatican on June 8, 2014, Pope Francis said: “Peacemaking calls for courage, much more so than warfare. It calls for the courage to say yes to encounter and no to conflict: yes to dialogue and no to violence; yes to negotiations and no to hostilities; yes to respect for agreements and no to acts of provocation; yes to sincerity and no to duplicity. All of this takes courage, it takes strength and tenacity”.

Hence, we urge both parties to take the courage to break out of the cycle of violence and to say yes to peace and no to violence and hatred to ensure a better future to their children.

Finally, in addressing this distinguished assembly we:
• Call on both parties to the conflict for an immediate ceasefire in order to enable humanitarian and medical relief supplies to reach people in need.
• To lift the blockade on Gaza lasting for the past 12 years and open the crossings from both the Egyptian and Israeli sides to ensure the freedom of movement and allow recovery efforts.
• Urge all parties to the conflict, Israeli security forces and Palestinian armed groups, to respect their obligations under the International Humanitarian Law and International Human Rights Law to take all measures to protect the lives of civilians from both sides, Israelis and Palestinians, and refrain from targeting civil objects and populated areas.
• Call on the international community to use all its influence to ensure that existing peace agreements are upheld to achieve a fair solution to this long and exhausting conflict, and in particular to end occupation as it is the main cause for the conflict.
• Request appropriate Human Rights Council’s Special procedures and mechanisms to ensure an effective follow-up to the implementation of its decision.

Jul 15, 2014

Japanese Bishops' Statement of protest

As the Japanese government on 1 July made historical change of interpretation of the Constitution on the National Security issue, the standing committee of Catholic Bishops Conference of Japan (CBCJ)issued a statement of protest on 3 July. It has been translated into English and you may find the text of the statement in this link of the homepage of CBCJ.

According to the statement by the standing committee, the Cabinets of the past have maintained the interpretation of the Constitution that "the exercise of a right to self-defense allowed under Article 9 means a nonaggressive national security policy in all cases, while the exercise of a right to collective self-defense, which enables the use of force even when our country has not been attacked directly, is ruled out by the Constitution and thus constitutionally unacceptable."

As you may know, after the unconditional surrender by Japanese Government to the allied forces in 1945, Japan changed its Constitution in which Japan commit itself to permanent peace and especially in the Article 9 the renunciation of war is stipulated. Article 9 reads as follows.

Article 9. Aspiring sincerely to an international peace based on justice and order, the Japanese people forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of force as means of settling international disputes.

In order to accomplish the aim of the preceding paragraph, land, sea, and air forces, as well as other war potential, will never be maintained. The right of belligerency of the state will not be recognized.

But immediately after the promulgation of the constitution on 3 November, 1946, war in Korea broke out in 1950. Because of this drastic change of security environment in the area, the occupied authority led by US requested to re-establish a kind of military in Japan. That was the beginning of the Self Defense Force. Japanese military which we have now are never recognised as military as such but as Self Defense Force because of the interpretation of the Article 9 which, according to the past governments, allowed Japan to have a minimum armed force to protect its territory and people. Thus it is not "land, sea, and air forces, as well as other war potential" but minimum necessary self defence force without the right of belligerency.

However, again the drastic change of international security environment made international society led by the US requests Japanese government to allow the SDF to be involved in peace keeping operation under UN. That is the reason why SDF has been part of several peace keeping operation under UN flag but try to keep out from actual exchange of fire. It could be unrealistic for many that a military force involved in peace keeping operation is not allowed to use its own weapon except the case of strict self defence. But that was because of the interpretation of the constitution by the past government and there was the reason to do so if we read the constitution literally.

Now according to the new interpretation by the present cabinet of the constitution, Japanese SDF may join the collective self defence even though Japan itself is not attacked. Of course, the prime minister strongly declared that he has no intention to send SDF to actual military operation abroad. But as the interpretation has been changed by just one cabinet without prior discussion in the parliament means the same tactics could be employed by future cabinet to make wider interpretation.

Bishops of Japan believe that "it is false to think that national security can be ensured by military buildup and the use of force. This is a dangerous idea that aggravates distrust among nations and shatters peace. Moreover, the backtracking on the principles of the Peace Constitution at this moment obstructs the easing of tensions in East Asia so that dialogue and trust among nations will be beyond our reach. Peace is built solely on respect for the dignity of all. Peace can be built only by sincere reflection upon history and apology for past conduct followed by forgiveness."

As 10 days of Peace which will begin on 6 August, the memorial of Hiroshima, through 15 August, the day of surrender of Japan, we have to think about how to realise peace in this world. When we see actual conflict in present days, such as the terrible conflict between Israel and Palestine, we feel as if it is impossible to achieve peace without military power. But, at the same time, when we see so many people, especially children, are killed for no reason, we can not just keep quiet. These people, each one of them are precious creature of God possessing precious gift from God that is human life. We have to continue to pray for peace and peaceful negotiation to end such brutal killings. And we also have to be sensitive to any move of governments to find excuses to go into military action to resolve international conflicts.