Talks & Books

ABBEY TALKS on Justice & Peace issues

"Human Trafficking"

Sr. Maggi Kennedy

Sr. Maggy, Provincial of the Missionary Sisters of Africa, reflects on her experience of working against trafficking in Africa, and why the Catholic Church is well placed to help deal with this problem. Talk originally delivered to Bishops in Rome. November 2014.

talk on human trafficking - audio

"The Joy of the Gospel:
Pope Francis’ Programme for the Church"
Julian Filochowski (ex-director of CAFOD)

Inspirational talk on Pope Francis' recent encyclical "Evangelium Gaudii" and what it tells us about the Christian vocation to care for the poor. (Talk given to the Newman Society, on October 16th, 2014, 38mins)

Joy of the Gospel Talk - 40mins

Joy of the Gospel Question time - 30mins
( Who are the poor today? What has been the Church's attitude to justice, up until Pope Francis? Should we welcome migrants? Should Pope Francis fear for his life? )

"What is Catholic Social Teaching?"
Fr. Paul Nicholson, S.J.

The Justice and Peace Group were delighted to welcome Fr. Paul to speak to us about Catholic Social Teacching for our annual Speaker Day.

Fr. Paul is currently Director of Hurtado Centre for Refugees in Wapping, having worked as convenor of the Lancaster diocese Faith and Justice Commission, community development in Sunderland, Director at Loyola Hall Spirituality Centre and novice-master.

Since the 32nd General Congregation of Jesuits in 1976, working for justice is as mandatory and integral a part of the Jesuit vocation, as preaching the gospel. In the talk, Fr. Paul explains why.

Catholi Social Teaching talk - 30mins
Attached handout is here


Report on Development in W.Tanzania
Fr. Dimitrius Kazonde M.A., Director of CARITAS,
Sumbawanga diocese, W.Tanzania


Fr Dimitrius kindly gave a talk to a group of UK teachers visiting Tanzania in the summer of 2014, summarising the development projects that he is running, and the philosophy behind them. Below is an approximate transcript of the talk.

Caritas Sumbawanga has two main aims - social service to the community, and promoting sustainble development. It tries to give people the opportunity to work for their own development. "We are not saying 'we will help you' but 'we will help you to help yourselves' ".

Caritas in Sumbawange has 4 sections - 1) women and children's rights and welfare; 2) sustainable agriculture, water & sanitation; 3) social welfare & emergency relief in case of famine, flood, refugees or other crises; and 4) savings and credits, giving people the opportunity to join a micro-finance bank and receive advice about getting loans and making savings.

The section for women and children supports and empowers women and young people to find ways to improve their own quality of life, and stand up for their rights. To improve their food security, women are given their own plots and shown how to grow crops that have a market value, using this income to improve the nutrition of their own families.Caritas also supports women to make their voices heard, to defend their rights in public and counteract the cultural discrimination that still exists against women in Tanzania. For example, a boy of 10 may inherit property, but his sister of 30 may not.

The section on sustainable agriculture & water sanitation tries to empower small holder farmers cultivating no more than 2 or 3 acres, to make their plots more productive. It teaches farmers about the benefits of using fertiliser, making compost and practicing crop rotation. The livestock programme has encouraged farmers to keep dairy cows and goats, for milk and for manure (fertiliser). One of the most successful projects has been the support of the UK charity "Send a Cow" which has provided 4 villages with cows. It encourages the receiving farmers to later pass on a calf to another family, thus perpetuating the benefits. Farmers have also been shown how to keep fish for their own consumption.

farmer A hired farm-hand taking care of a school's plot of banana & mango trees and pigs for market. Each teacher will also typically be given a plot of land to supplement their salary - usually they will use it to grow maize, for sale and personal consumption.

It may be surprising that Caritas do not encourage tree planting in Sumbawanga - partly because of the lack of water to keep trees growing. Instead, local people are encouraged to recognise the value of the trees and water sources that they already have, and to take the trouble to protect them. Caritas will not try to implement a new project eg bore hole or irrigation, even though this is clearly a high priority of any development index, without such a need being expressed by the local community and without their firm commitment to protect such a source. All projects are purposely small scale, providing at most a simple water system from a spring to a village, as only such small scale proejcts are sustainable by the local communities. Another example of a successful small scale project run by a local Tanzanian charity (Tanzania Nature Forest), is bee-keeping, and two villages have been supplied with bee-hives for honey production.roadmarket

Women selling their produce by a section of tarmacked road en route from the airport at Mbeya. ("Thank you the American People"!) The earth is very poor, red dust: one of Caritas' activities, is to make farmers aware of the importance of making and using fertiliser.

Some of the social services that Caritas is involved in, is running a school for the blind and providing further opportunities for employment, an orphanage where orphans are then fostered once old enough to leave, facilities for children with special needs and albinos, who have been traditionally excluded from tribal society. These services have in the past been well supported by parishes in Switzerland, Scotland and the U.S.

There is currently a large amount of road building taking place in Tanzania, replacing the dirt tracks which even now are the only connections between major towns. Much of this road building is being done by the Americans and the Chinese (and frequent road signs to this effect remind any travellers of this fact: "Thank you the American People"). Fr Dimitrius says that although the new road connecting Sumbawanga to the port city of Kasanga on Lake Tanganyika, and to the airport at Mbeya, will bring many benefits in terms of investment, trade and exchange of skills to Sumbawanga, he says many Tanzanians lament the fact that it has been built without local input - both Americans and Chinese contracts insisting on ex-pats being flown in as project managers, while Tanzanian locals are only employed for the most menial physical labour.

On a positive note however, the political opposition in Tanzania is beginning to emerge, giving hope for greater government scrutiny, and thus opening the way for greater development. The recent discovery of natural gas off the coast of Tanzania for example, is going hand in hand with the view that this is not something that Tanzanians will allow foreign multinationals to take control of, for their own profit, rather than Tanzania's.

If you would like to contact Fr. Dimitrius about Caritas' development work in Tanzania, please write to caritassba@yahoo.com


Transforming Healthcare in the Third World:
An Ethiopian Story.

Prof. Gordon Williams, OBE MS FRCS

(Talk given jointly to the Newman Society and J&P group, Oct.31st 2013)

The ratio of doctors to population in Ethiopia is 1:56,000. This compares to 1:500 in the UK. Specialists such as gynaecologists are even rarer - except for the very rich, no ethiopian woman will ever see one. During this fascinating talk, Professor Williams explained how following his retirement from Hammersmith Hospital he has made his home in Addis Ababa, and in the last 10 years has set up two medical schools. Students are recruited who will hopefully choose to stay in Ethiopia, and provide the healthcare that their own government apparently does nothing to support. Both male and female students are selected from all parts of Ethiopia, including the poorest. Having equipped the medical school and supported students during their studies from charitable donations and partly out of his own resources, Professor Williams will be delighted to see the first cohort of 50 doctors graduating in November of this year. For the last 30 years, Professor Williams has also made it his priority to visit and work at the Fistula hospital, operating free of charge on women with bladder fistulas - a hole in the bladder wall that is caused during protracted labour - a socially ostracising and physically debilitating condition causing constant leakage of urine and occasionally also of faeces, and can only be repaired surgically, if at all. Fistulas are unheard of in any areas where there is even minimal gynaecological provision. For the 25% who cannot be cured, the Fistula hospital provides an education, skills and training package, and in some cases, work as a nurse aid. Some inoperable patients have even themselves been trained to become very successful "fistula surgeons" and trainers of doctors, despite being illiterate and innumerate. Prof. WIlliams also spoke about the work of other NGO's, whose contribution is unfortunately often marred by excessive competition, insufficient commitment and inefficient running costs. At the end of the talk,a collection towards the Professor's work amassed £526.50, which will doubtless be put to immediate, direct and very good use. Please remember this work in your prayers. If you would like to send your own personal donation, please write a personal note with your name and contact details with cheque enclosed and made out to "Imperial College Charities Fund 3305". Please send the cheque to :

Russell Shea Imperial College Health Care Charity
Charity Office Ground Floor
Clarence Memorial Wing

St Mary's Hospital
Praed St
London W2 1NY


Fr Raed Abusahlia: Peace in the Holy Land  

Taybeh is the only Christian community in the Holy Land. Fr Raed Abusahlia, Latin parish priest of Taybeh, speaks about peace, vocation, and the secret of eternal youth. Below is the recording of his talk, given at the Abbey 16th June (with permission).

Listen to the talk here (clicking on the link will download an mp3 file)


The Morality of Nuclear War and the Drones

See the Peace page.



Book Reviews

pooreconomics"Poor Economics"
A.Banerjee, E.Duflo

Solving poverty in the third world is sometimes supposed to be a matter of increasing aid - food, water, health programmes, education, skills training, infrastructure; trade - liberalisaing trade agreements, removing protectionism; economics - cancelling bad debts, microfinance, cheap loans; and politics - democratisation, anti-corruption, foreign diplomacy and intervention.

In this book, two economists take a bottom-up approach to evaluate the many kinds of interventions that have been attempted in efforts to combat poverty, across 18 nations. Their findings are based on rigorous research and audit - what actually happens when such interventions take place?

Time and again, they discover by far the most important, and perhaps the most neglected factor, is what the poor themselves want and choose to do, and why: what fears, desires, weaknesses, aspirations, risks and limitations do they face? Simple stereotypes such as the indolence, or passivity of the poor, is not borne out by their research. In comparison with us in the western world, the poor work much harder, in a very hostile climate which expects far more of them in terms of investment, work, self-discipline and self-motivation.

The poor are, in fact, highly entrepreneurial, out of necessity, rather than out of choice, but potentially well placed to make huge and rapid profits with minimal capital, despite lack of access to the sort of risk-minimising benefits we in the west are used to - free and available healthcare, health and climate insurance, sufficient food and water, affordable savings/ banking services and loans. Lack of access to these things means that at every step, the poor bear much greater burden and risk exposure. It only takes an illness, or one bad business decision, or instance of fraud or corruption, to convert a successful and thriving business into a poverty trap, that neither more work, nor more loans, can free them from, with knock on effects for the next generation of family members. Where this is compounded by ignorance and uncertainy (eg how to save, the amount of fertiliser to use, the benefits of free immunisation or completing education), inertia from loss of hope and opportunity, and fossilised or corrupt political ideologies, simply giving aid will make no difference.

This book identifies very clearly what the real game-changers in alleviating poverty could be, while being equally clear that there is no "magic bullet" that will solve all the world's poverty in a decisive or permanent way. If nothing else, it makes you more aware of the incredible struggle and spirit that some people in the world have to live in, if they are to survive "living on the edge".

Linda Polman: "War Games"

wargamesHave you ever wondered how there can be so much need for so many charity start-ups, asking for your money? And are they really more effective than the efforts of governments, or of the heavyweights of the aid industry, who employ costly CEOs and significant admin staff?

Linda Polman spares no punches in painting a portrait of the aid industry as a political white elephant - a tool exploited by murderous regimes for their own gain. From Sierra Leone, to Afghanistan, Ethiopia to the Central African Republic, a picture emerges where ever increasing numbers of NGOs converge and compete, unconditionally handing out aid, their over-riding aim to justify their own existence, and be be seen to be doing something, no matter what the political fallout.

Ruthless regimes carry out genocide, rape, pillaging, mutilation and terror upon their own citizens, knowing that the Europeans will soon arrive to "fix it" , thus financing them back into power. Aid pours in to find its way into the pockets of the army and the regime, via arbitrary taxes, theft, and even overt demands to "drop it off" at convenient locations, perpetuating cycles of violence and corruption.

If one NGO were to refuse to play ball, others leap in, delighted to have their logo now at the forefront. So unstoppable is the flood of aid, that even where agencies cannot operate autonomously for fear of attack and kidnap (eg Afghanistan) and must employ chains of subcontractors, each skimming off a hefty percentage, they continue financing their projects.

Even the infamous Ethiopian famine was apparently no more due to drought, than a politically engineered disaster, instigated by forced migration, and resource destruction, sacrificing an entire inhabited area with its population, and burning babies alive, in order to galvanise the world's compassion for the famine victims, and open wide its coffers.

While it may be true that even a starving militiaman is also a human being who needs medical care and food, Linda Polman is crystal clear that it is high time to take stock of where unconditional charity is taking the Third World.


Paul Collier: "The Bottom Billion"


A Professor of Economics at Oxford University and the Director for the Centre for the Study of African Economies should have some reliable and interesting things to say about how to address the problems of the poorest countries, or "the bottom billion".

In a short best-seller, Paul Collier debunks the myth that money alone, whether as aid or debt-cancellation, will solve the poverty of the poorest. Not aid, but development can enable poverty to be overcome. Without the structures that lead to economic growth, the most resource rich countries are doomed to perpetuate the cycle of conflict, corruption and poverty, in a way that affects us all.

Collier advocates a four instrument model - aid (technical assistance or budget support) , security (peace keeping troops and protection against coups), international charters (setting standards for democratic governance, accounting, trade and customs regulation) and mobilising changes in global trade policy. Those countries lacking in resources, transport infrastructure or coastline, surrounded by bad neighbours and crippled by corruption, bad governance and conflict, do have little option other than subsisting through aid. This description does not however define most of "the bottom billion".

A fascinating book, arguing that even major aid charities such as Christian Aid can get it wrong through leftist ideology or ignorance of trade economics. Governments, NGOs and institutions are taking note of his insights - worth reading for that reason alone.


Jubilee Debt Campaign

Why we should drop the debt of poor countries: "Everything you wanted to know about Third World debt but were too afraid to ask - in a short handbook". Read Jubilee Campaign's clear and readable summary of the issues here.

Uncovering Britain's Debt Secrets - the growing case for a "debt audit" at the Department for Dodgy Deals (aka The Export Credits Guarantee Department) download

The Department for Dodgy Deals:Ending the UK's support for toxic debt download

World Development Movement Publications


Broken Markets - A report showing that financial speculation has a clear impact on rising food prices and how financial markets regulation can prevent another global food crisis.

Betting on Hunger - An 8 page booklet to help to give you an introduction to food speculation: how it impacts the poor, what speculation is and what can be done about it.

Climate Debt Briefing - ahead of the Durban talks in late November 2011. These could be our last chance to save the current international climate deal as the first period of the Kyoto Protocol ends in 2012. The talks are also expected to set up a new fund to deliver finance needed by countries affected by climate change.