MELANESIA: Anglican religious communities get training in social-justice, human-rights advocacy

November 29, 2010

Social justice, human rights and advocacy were the topics of a Nov. 12-28 training gathering at Tabalia, West Guadalcanal, in the Anglican Church of Melanesia.

More than 150 members of the province's four religious communities participated in the training, according to a press release from retired Diocese of Malaita Bishop Terry Brown.

The workshop's themes included the theology and meaning of human rights, how to do advocacy for social justice, the issues of gender equality (including violence against women and children), respecting the environment and promoting good governance. The workshop also examined human rights abuses in Solomon Islands and how the religious communities might address them. Issues identified included sexual exploitation of children in logging camps; domestic violence; environmental destruction by logging, fishing and mining; and corruption, from the village to the national level, including problems in the electoral process, the release said.

The Melanesian Brotherhood, Sisters of Melanesia, the Society of St. Francis and the Community of the Sisters of the Church participated in the gathering. This is the first time such a large group gathered from all four provincial religious communities, according to the release.

Seven members of the Melanesian Brotherhood were killed in 2003 by militants during ethnic conflict in the Solomon Islands. The martyrs had been providing supplies to innocents trapped by ethnic conflict, negotiating the release of hostages and searching for the missing, and injured and dead. Their names were enshrined in Canterbury Cathedral's Chapel of Saints and Martyrs of Our Own Time during the 2008 Lambeth Conference of Bishops closing Eucharist.

"One aim of the workshop is to enable religious communities to assist communities to do advocacy for social justice in the many local communities where they have households," Brown said in the release.

Participants also prepared an action plan for their future social-justice work and issued a communiqué.

The workshop was organized by Franciscans International, an international non-governmental organization that supports the advocacy work of Franciscan religious communities, both Roman Catholic and Anglican, around the world. Support for the event has come from the Society of St. Francis Legacy Fund and the four provincial religious communities in Solomon Islands.