Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Social Justice and Human Dignity

The Ctholic Church gets a bad press these days and is often dismissed as irrelevant by many in the 'West'. However, the Church does some tremendous work in the promotion of social justice and human dignity in the world.

Cardinal Oscar Rodríguez Maradiaga is the leader of the Catholic Church in Honduras and a leading proponent of Social Justice. He is a modern day hero!

Here are some quotes from a recent Tablet article that I found absolutely inspirational: (

On the $700 billion bail out of Wall Street:
"Seventy billion?” incredulous at the figure, then he realises his error. "No, seven hundred billion!" President of Caritas Internationalis, the Vatican-based umbrella organisation for Catholic charities in 162 nations, Rodríguez shakes his head and says: "I am very sad that the riches of this country [the United States] are being used to save big corporations who we don't know are honest or corrupt."
He repeats the astonishing sum: "Seven hundred billion. Can you imagine that money, and only because people are not able to run their corporations in the right way. How come it is always the money of the poor that is lost? How come the money of the rich is always saved? I'm not blaming or accusing, just putting the facts on the table. When it comes to alleviating poverty, there are no resources. But when it comes to saving the rich, there are always resources."

On Third World and First World:
"We need to be able to imagine ourselves not in a Third World and a First World but in one world in which our duties to the poor are shared. We need to imagine a world in which the needless deaths of nearly 10 million children a year are an abomination that cannot be tolerated,"

On Liberation Theology:
"few people will talk about liberation theology these days". He himself is not so reticent. Rodríguez recalled a conference on the Church's social teaching two years ago in Mexico where Fr Gustavo Gutiérrez, the Peruvian theologian considered a founder of liberation theology, was asked if the movement was dead. "I don't know if it is dead. I was not invited to the funeral," the cardinal says Gutiérrez quipped before adding: "Eighty per cent of liberation theology is the option for the poor, and this is alive." Cardinal Rodríguez himself seconds that view, and it is one he always preaches at the Vatican, where he says officials "don't know the reality on the ground". That reality, he says, is one of the markers differentiating the Church in the underdeveloped South from that of the industrialised North.

On Development:
"Development is the new name for peace," Paul VI declared more than 40 years ago in his great social justice encyclical, Populorum Progressio, and Cardinal Rodríguez sees the same challenge today. Yet this is not a question of a one-way sacrifice, North to South, he says, rather it is about rectifying an imbalance across the board. He points to labour being concentrated in the South and capital in the North. He contrasts residents in the southern hemisphere being held back by the basics they cannot afford, while those in the North seek luxuries they cannot afford, and adds: "When you do not have limits, you always need more. So you get this vicious cycle that leads the economy to this crisis."
"Let's think of goals that are not economic," says Rodríguez. "It is a big mistake to reduce life to the economic sphere. There is no time for writing, thinking, reflecting - using your brain to be more, not to have more."
"There should be limits. This is wisdom."

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

ZIS on Facebook

Thembinkosi Foundation has launched a Facebook group called Build a school in Africa. The aim of the group is to spread awareness of our project proposals and subsequently to co-ordinate some of our fundraising ventures. Please visit our group at:

Build a school in Africa

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Living Simply, West Papua & ZIS

In recent times I have been reflecting a great deal on the themes of living simply and of sustainable development. Yesterday at the J & P day Serile from West Papua gave an amazing account of fishing in his country. He told us that in West Papua there is a consensus among the people that when one goes fishing one only uses a simple fishing line. He said that fishing nets were available in West Papua but in order to ensure that people only fished to an extent whereby they could feed their own family all agreed to only fish in order to feed themselves and their families. If only this philosophy could be adopted across the world. Imagine a world where people only sort enough?!? There is so much that the world can learn from its poorest and most marginalised people. And yet it's the 'Western' countries that are called 'developed!'

This is this sort of community that we seek to create at the Zambezi International School. We envisage a school where all live in solidarity, with one another and the wider community. We envisage a school which is self sufficient and at one with its environment. We envisage a school which sustainable in its mission to empower its students and the people of its wider community through a range of outreach projects.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Free West Papua

I spent much of today at a Justice and Peace day - where I met some truly inspirational people. I was privileged to meet the UK based leader of the West Papuan independence movement, Benny Wenda, for the second time, as well as his compatriot and fellow activist Serile. These two men are part of only two families who have managed to escape oppression in West Papua and flee to the UK to raise the profile of the political oppression faced by the people of their country at the hands of the Indonesian government. The stories they have to tell are amazing. Benny's story is a harrowing one of being forced from his home as a child and growing up with a disability whilst living in hiding in the jungle from Indonesian troops who brutalised, and still brutalise, his people. Benny later describes his experiences of being shunned and spat at by Indonesian schoolmates and of being arrested and imprisoned as an adult. The story of his escape into Papua New Guinea and his subsequent journey to the UK is captivating. Benny is the most gentle and captivating of speakers and someone who truly inspires his audience.

More information about the Free West Papua movement can be found at:
Free West Papua

A sickening aspect of the West Papua story is that multinational companies are exploiting the natural wealth of the West Papua and are working in cahoots with the Indonesian government. BP are one such multinational company who are developing a massive natural gas project in West Papua in the midst of a genocide. Although BP claim that they don't actually pay money directly to the Indonesian military, unlike one or two other multinationals, their work still benefits the Indonesian government and thus indirectly funds the brutalisation of the West Papuan people. For more information about BP's role in West Papua see:
Boycott BP

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Exciting developments

Wow! We are totally gobsmacked by the number of people joining our Facebook group 'Build a school in Africa.' The interest in our project is overwhelming. It's interesting how many people want to help us with the project as well. Several teacher friends have expressed an interest in working in Zambia once the school and outreach projects have started!

Our fundraising venture is in its infancy at the moment but the rollercoaster ride is about to get exciting! Ideally an Angel Investor who believes in our project would be a godsend but we are so grateful to all those people who have committed themselves to supporting us financially. It really is the case that every little bit helps.

When Betty and I moved to Liverpool 5 years ago from Botswana we promised ourselves we'd empower ourselves and then head back to Africa to make a real difference to people's lives. Through the grace of God that's what we are going to do!

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

ZIS and the empowerment of teachers

ZIS will also operate as a beacon school within the Kazangula district offering a range of outreach projects to partner schools. ZIS will work with partners to promote the Continued Professional Development of teachers in partner schools, collaborative In Service Training provided by our most experienced and successful teachers and will provide opportunities for pupils across the district to learn within our state of the art campus.