Importance of Justice in the World

Importance of Justice in the World

Dr. Paul Hwang Director of ALL Forum

“The Practice of Justice”

This is the subtitle of the third part in the document Justice in the World . It includes what I have already mentioned in the previous issue ‘the Church must first be just in people’s eyes when it says something about justice.’(no.40) The document also shows its support ‘diversity’ of the voices of the People of God by pointing out “freedom of expression.” “The Church recognizes everyone’s right to suitable freedom of expression and thought. This includes the right of everyone to be heard in a spirit of dialogue which preserves a legitimate diversity within the Church.” So the church should not be excluded such diversity, rather it promotes and guarantees plurality in ideas, interpretation and thoughts on church teachings and even dogma by learning to be “listening Church” stressed often by Pope Francis.

In the same line with Gaudium et Spes , the document on world bishops’ synod points out the principle of the Gospel when it comes to the relationship between State and the Church: “In regard to temporal possessions, whatever be their use, it must never happen that the evangelical witness which the Church is required to give becomes ambiguous. The preservation of certain positions of privilege must  constantly be submitted to the test of this principle….”(no.47) The Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World cleary supports the said idea right above: “[Church] will even give up the exercise of certain rights which have been legitimately acquired, if it becomes clear that their use will cast doubt on the sincerity of her witness or that new ways of life demand new methods….In this, she should make use of all the means—but only those—which accord with the Gospel and which correspond to the general good according to the diversity of times and circumstances.”(no.76.e)

Justice and Daily Life of the People of God

The document of the Justice in the World is quite meaningful for laypeople as itlinks justice to everyday life of Christians as a believer and a citizen at the same time. “Christians’ specific contribution to justice is the day-to-day life of individual believers acting like the leaven of the Gospel in their family, their school, their work and their social and civic life. …. Accordingly, educational method must be such as to teach people to live their lives in its entire reality and in accord with the evangelical principles of personal and social morality which are expressed in the vital Christian witness of one’s life.” (no.49) It goes on to spread and expand the ‘double membership’ as a faithful and a citizen to the extent of a world citizenship which concerns what happens in theworld today: “…This cooperation concerns first and foremost activities for securing

human dignity and people’s fundamental rights, especially the right to religious liberty. This is the source of our common efforts against discrimination on the grounds of differences of religion, race and color, culture and the like.

Collaboration extends also to the study of the teaching of the Gospel insofar as it is the source of inspiration for all Christian activity…”(no.61) The synod document notes that the principles it follows are found in CSTs from Rerum Novarum to the letter Octogesima Adveniens . There is a remarkable connection between the one of its most significant paragraphs and the one which

mentions “salvation by deeds of justice.”(no.56) The former is the phrase of ‘Action for justice as a constitutive dimension of the preaching of the Gospel’(no.6) which is closely interrelated to the latter: In the better understanding of the world situation provided by Gaudium et Spes, “Christian works out their salvation by deeds of justice.” The document clearly mentions the principle ideas such as human rights, international justice, the right to development, political action found in Pacem in Terris, Mater et Magistra, Populorum Progressio , and Octogesima Adveniens respectively influenced by the Gospel itself and Vatican II, particularly Gaudium et Spes . It also put much emphasis on peace by saying that “It is absolutely necessary that international conflicts should not be settled by war, but that other methods better befitting human nature should be found. Let a strategy of non-violence be fostered also, and let conscientious objection be recognized and regulated by law in each nation.” (no.65)

Joint Statement in Support of Garo (Mandi) People of Madhupur Garh, Bangladesh who fear eviction from their land

Joint Statement in Support of Garo (Mandi) People of Madhupur Garh, Bangladesh who fear eviction from their land

We the undersigned organizations across the world condemn the act of eviction of local indigenous communities from their land by the declaration of National Park, Eco Park and reserve forest in the name of recovering forest land by the Bangladesh governments’ Forest Department. The Forest department is conspiring against the local indigenous community consisting of Garo, Koch and Barman in order to capture their inherited lands from their ancestors.

According to a report published in the different national dailies, the government has decided to recover the country’s occupied forest lands. The eviction drive is supposed to start from January 30. We have also learnt that this drive will start from Gazipur first and Tangail has been kept second in the list. Local indigenous people have been passing days in fear of eviction.

Image courtesy of IMCS

In this regard, Indigenous people of Tangail’s Madhupur Upazila staged a demonstration in the Upazila on 31st January 2021, bringing an allegation that the forest department is attempting to evict them from their own land in the name of recovering forest lands. Terming the forest department’s attempt to evict them a conspiracy, hundreds of people from Garo, Koch and Barman communities brought out a procession and formed a human chain in Madhupur bus stand area. They also submitted a memorandum to the prime minister through Madhupur Upazila Nirbahi Officer Arifa Zohura.

Article 10 of the UNDRIP says, “Indigenous peoples shall not be forcibly removed from their lands or territories. No relocation shall take place without the free, prior and informed consent of the indigenous peoples concerned and after agreement on just and fair compensation and, where possible, with the option of return.” Article 19 of the declaration says, “States shall consult and cooperate in good faith with the indigenous peoples concerned through their own representative institutions in order to obtain their free, prior and informed consent before adopting and implementing legislative or administrative measures that may affect them.” As a member country of the United Nations, Bangladesh needs to follow the UNDRIP properly.

The United Nations has recognized this customary and traditional land right and called on member states to take action. There are several UN declarations in this regard. The convention, namely ILO Indigenous and Tribal Population Convention 107 was ratified by the government of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman in 1972. Article 11 of this convention says, “The right of ownership, collective or individual, of the members of the populations concerned over the lands which these populations traditionally occupy shall be recognised.”

Article 12 (1) says, “The populations concerned shall not be removed without their free consent from their habitual territories except in accordance with national laws and regulations for reasons relating to national security, or in the interest of national economic development or of the health of the said populations.” And article 12 (2) says, “When in such cases removal of these populations is necessary as an exceptional measure, they shall be provided with lands of quality at least equal to that of the lands previously occupied by them, suitable to provide for their present needs and future development. In cases where chances of alternative employment exist and where the populations concerned prefer to have compensation in money or in kind, they shall be so compensated under appropriate guarantees.”

Image courtesy of IMCS

On February 15, 2016, the Forest Department of the Environment and Forest Ministry issued a gazette notification declaring 9,145 acres of land in Madhupur Garh area—home to the Garo, Barman and Koch indigenous peoples—as reserved forest under the Forest Act 1927. The government made this decision without taking the free, prior, and informed consent of the indigenous peoples of Madhupur. It provoked fear that lives of more than 20,000 forest-dependent indigenous peoples living in the area would be adversely affected. The communities have since been protesting against this decision. Local indigenous leaders alleged that the main objective of the government’s move is to grab the lands of indigenous peoples by manipulating loopholes in the Forest Act, 1927.

We call upon the Government of Bangladesh to immediately stop this Eviction process. This is a blow against human rights. As per the ILO C107 Indigenous and Tribal Populations Convention, 1957, the Bangladesh government should recognize the lands traditionally occupied by indigenous peoples at Madhupur Garh.

1.All India Catholic University Federation (AICUF)
2.Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact (AIPP)
3.Asia and Pacific Alliance of YMCAs (APAY)
4.Asian Lay Leaders Forum (ALL Forum)
5.Bangladesh Indigenous Peoples Forum
6.Bangladesh Banai Development Organization
7.Bangladesh Catholic Students Movement
8.Bangladesh Jatiya Hajong Sangathon (BJHS)
9.International Movement of Catholic Students- (IMCS-Pax Romana)
10.International Catholic Movement for Intellectual and Cultural Affairs- (ICMICA-Pax Romana)
11.International Movement of Catholic Students (Pax Romana) Asia Pacific, Manila, Philippines
12.International Movement of Catholic Students, Nepal
13.North South Initiative (NSI), Malaysia
14.Union of Catholic University Students of the Republic of Indonesia
15.University Catholic Chinese Students Association (UCCSA), Taiwan
16.Eirini Freri – European Coordination (JECI-MIEC) International Young Catholic StudentsInternational Movement of Catholic Students, Brussels, Belgium
17.Jorge Parra Herrera, Latin America Coordination, European Coordination (JECI-MIEC) International Young Catholic Students- International Movement of Catholic Students, Quito, Ecuador

Solidarity With the Students and civilian leaders of Myanmar

Solidarity With the Students and civilian leaders of Myanmar

Solidarity Statement by International Teams of IMCS Pax Romana and ICMICA Pax Romana

It is with a great sense of duty and concern that we the International Catholic Movement for Intellectual and Cultural Affairs and the International Movement of Catholic Students condemn in strongest terms the recent attacks on due process, justice and democracy in Myanmar.

Eleven years ago, the nation moved from military rule to democracy after ruling the country for decades. On early hours of Monday, 1st February, 2021 the military organized coup took place and the elected leaders of the people, especially the top echelon of the NLD leadership have been arrested and Aung San Suu Kyi taken to unknown locations for detention, under unsubstantiated charge of the violation of the country’s import-export laws.

It is important to alert the military that the world is watching most especially the young people of Myanmar whose future and destiny they are toying with.

We strongly advocate for a round table dialogue between the military high ranking officials, led by the commander-in-chief Min Aung Hlaing, and the Civilian Leaders, to return power to the civilian leaders and call on the Civilian Leaders to address the concerns of the military if any.

We appeal to the students, youth and women of Myanmar to maintain peace and harmony as their plight is a global concern and we won’t rest until normalcy returns to Myanmar.

We call on the international community to intervene in this constitutional violation of the rights of democratically elected leaders so that participatory democracy is returned to the people of Myanmar.

International Teams of IMCS Pax Romana and ICMICA Pax Romana



Statement by ALL Forum on the Military Coup in Myanmar

Asian Lay Leaders (ALL) Forum denounces the Military Coup and associated violence, which
has suspended the civilian government and effectively returned full power to the military in
Myanmar once again.

Myanmar’s military took control of the country and declared a state of emergency for a year on
1st February 2021, after detaining civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi and other leaders of her
ruling National League for Democracy (NLD), staging a coup against the democratically elected
government. The raids came hours before a new session of parliament which was scheduled to
open and members who won the November 2020 elections were set to take their seats. The
military and its aligned Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) has alleged voter fraud
in the November vote, but Myanmar’s election commission has said that there is no evidence to
support its claims. They also arrested and detained democracy activists, leaders of other
political parties, NLD lawmakers and chief ministers of 14 states and regions.

Power has now been handed over to the commander-in-chief of the armed forces, Senior
General Min Aung Hlaing, will now serve as acting president. Myanmar’s military has ruled the
country for a half-century before beginning a celebrated transition to democracy in 2010 and
allowing elections in 2015. But the current military-drafted constitution enshrines power for
military generals, who have a quarter of seats in parliament and maintain control over key
ministries. The persistence of a Military rule in Myanmar reverses the emerging political
openness that has occurred in recent years.

Many countries in Asia and UN have condemned what the Military has done in order to take and
maintain the power. International communities in the world also know vividly what has
happened from all the media.

ALL Forum amid commemorating the 50th anniversary of “Justice in the World”, one of most
important documents of Catholic Social Teachings (CSTs), expresses a deep concern for its
people and strong solidarity with the justice-peace loving Myanmar people who are now
protesting against the military at the streets, homes and workplaces.

Responding to Cardinal Charles Bo of Yangon archdiocese who expressed in an open letter on
3rd Feb. his sadness of “the moment of darkness” in the country’s history but at the same time
hope of “the resilience of people in their struggle of dignity”, ALL Forum shares and echoes his
concern and support for Myanmar people.

Therefore, ALL Forum calls on the Myanmar military to:

  • Immediately and unconditionally release all those currently arbitrarily detained.
  • Immediately restore the Internet and all forms of communications across Myanmar.
  • Allow Parliament to resume and elected Members of Parliament to fulfil their mandate without impediment.
  • Go back to their original service of protecting the people of Myanmar, the nation and its democracy; and not rule them by unlawful methods or even forces.

ALL Forum is pledged to support and have solidarity with Myanmar people’s struggles to protect its democracy with all the goodwilled believers and citizens until the Military publicly apologize and deliberate what we demanded above soonest.

On Feb 6, 2021, Asian Lay Leaders (ALL) Forum

Download full statement here