13 July 2001
In this issue:
Christianity and the Environment
Burma - Dissidents demand release of student prisoners
China - China and US clinch WTO deal
Indonesia - ExxonMobil Sued For Atrocities in Indonesia
India - Pakistan-India Solidarity Conference Declaration
Korea - Tribunal Finds U.S. Guilty of War Crimes in Korea
India - 16 Adivasis Arrested in Tamil Nadu
Global Week of Protest
|1. FEATURE - top|
CHRISTIANITY and the ENVIRONMENT
Dr. David G. Hallman
Western Christianity is a relative latecomer in recognizing and expressing concern about contemporary human assaults on ecosystems. The path of awakening for Christians has included not only growing awareness of the seriousness of the ecological crises but also the role that their own tradition has played in the relationship between human societies and their environments.
Some of the major tenets of western Christian thought and practice contributed to a perception of an exalted place of the human within the broader natural world which provided some of the legitimacy for scientific, economic and technological exploitation of nature. But throughout the history of Christianity, there are also inspiring examples of individuals and schools of thought which championed a concern for the well-being of all creatures.
In recent times, Christians have become conscious of that checkered history and have become convinced that caring for creation needs to be a fundamental part of how they live out their faith in the world. In addition to the work of theologians reconceptualizing Christianity to respond to the ecological challenge, individual Christians, community parishes, national and international ecumenical institutions have become active in addressing many of the threats to creation. The degree of Christian engagement in environmental concerns should not be exaggerated. It still represents a minority concern within the broader framework of theological, spiritual and social justice preoccupations.
Several communities of experience, often from the margins of the Christian mainstream, have had a particularly important impact on theological understandings of the relationship of humans to the broader natural world. In particular, eco-feminist theologians, indigenous peoples, and activists and ethicists from developing nations of the economic South have challenged the dominant approaches and have contributed insights that have deepened and, in some cases, redirected the focus of Christian involvement in environmental issues.
Out of the plethora of environmental challenges facing the world, a number have become priorities for the engagement of the wider Christian ecumenical community and will likely grow as major challenges for the future. These include climate change, the exploitation of both humans and non-humans by the forces of the global economy and trade, and the spiritual values that can ground a more sustainable relationship between human societies and the rest of the natural world.
Christianity played a role in the development of the western industrialized economic model that is at the root of many of our current ecological problems. Through various sources, Christianity provided support for the scientific and industrial revolutions. From early in the Middle Ages, monasteries preserved and encouraged scholarship in classical Greek and Roman culture. Without this data base, modern intellectual development and scientific progress would have been immeasurably slowed. When Protestantism emerged, it emphasized the distinction between the Creator and the creature. In effect, the Reformers desacralized the natural world and focused attention on humanity's standing and condition before God. This contributed to the study and manipulation of nature by the budding sciences. Francis Bacon contended that all Creation had meaning only in relation to humanity. "Man, if we look to final causes, may be regarded as the centre of the world insomuch that if man were taken away from the world, the rest would seem to be all astray, without aim or purpose."
Ian Barbour notes that, "The "desacralization" of nature encouraged scientific study, though it also - along with other economic and cultural forces - contributed to subsequent environmental destruction and the exploitation of nature."
The industrial revolutions that followed the scientific revolution also benefited from religious attitudes of the day. Early Protestants believed in industrious, disciplined work as they shifted the religious focus from other-worldly to inner-worldly asceticism. The blessing of economic success could be seen as an outer sign of inner faith and assurance of salvation. The virtues of frugality and simplicity, coupled with hard work and saving, converged with the needs of early capitalism. People worked hard and saved, but didn't spend on material indulgence - just the ethic needed to establish a capital base.
There was a sense of religious fervor among those involved in the early scientific and economic pursuits: God was beckoning humanity to use all of its intelligence to usher in a new day of enlightenment and prosperity. The natural world was seen as yielding its long-held secrets to the rigor of scientific experimentation. Economic theories were formulated to describe the unseen laws that governed supply and demand. There was a genuine conviction among the theologians, scientists and economists that God's will was being realized in their efforts.
Theological attitudes which viewed the natural world primarily as a God-given resource whose utility related to exploitation for human purposes continued as a dominant perspective until relatively recently. A document from the 1961 Assembly of the WCC states that, "the Christian should welcome scientific discoveries as new steps in man's domination of nature." The pastoral constitution Gaudium et Spes of the Second Vatican Council expressed a general expectation that, "...(human beings), created in God's image, received a mandate to subject (to themselves) the earth and all that it contains ...thus, by the subjugation of all things to (humanity), the name of God would be wonderful in all the earth".
Though these broad streams of religious intellectual thought have contributed over the past several hundred years to a perception of the natural world as exploitable without consequence, there have been Christian spiritual voices offering a different perspective. Mystics such as Hildegaard of Bingen and St. Francis of Assisi articulated a reverence and valuing of all life for its own sake that contrasts with the more utilitarian approach of later Christianity. There have also been communities of religiously-motivated persons over the centuries such as monastic orders who practiced a conservation ethic in relation to nature around them. These earlier religious voices and practices concerned about the well-being of all creation have found new relevance during the past several decades as western Christians have come to see the seriousness of the ecological problems facing the Earth.
An American historian, Lynn White Jr., was one voice that did much to stimulate public awareness of the critique of Christianity in relation to environmental problems. In a famous 1967 article in the journal Science entitled "The Historical Roots of Our Ecological Crisis", White maintained that Judeo-Christian scriptures, theology and traditions must accept some responsibility for societal attitudes that allowed for exploitation of the environment.
The environmental criticisms leveled at Christianity by White and others shook theologians and lay Christians. Fortunately the response was not in the main defensiveness but rather the launching of an extended period of reflection, reanalysis of scripture and theology, and reconceptualization of models for the inter-relationship of God as creator, the human species, and the rest of creation.
There are three main areas that have been identified in Christian theology and scripture as being particularly problematic. The most frequently cited is the concept of God giving humans authority over all creation: "Let us make the human in our image, after our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the seas, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth"(Genesis 1:26).
Theologians and biblical scholars have helped to place this seeming blanket mandate for domination into a context which highlights a range of conditionalities tied to this authority. In Genesis, the story of creation precedes the arrival of evil or the "fall". Thus, the giving by God of this authority over other creatures occurred at a point where humans were without sin and hence would be expected to exercise that dominion in ways pleasing to God who created and loves the world. Secondly, there is a another creation story in Genesis 2 which uses very different imagery for the human relationship to the rest of nature. The human is to "till and keep" the garden. This perspective challenges an unrestricted exploitative authority that could be read into the first creation story.
Canadian theologian, Douglas John Hall, was an early exponent of "stewardship theology" which sought to transform Christian approaches away from the unfettered dominion model toward one of responsible caring for the Earth. Hall argues that stewardship means that humans are given responsibility to care for the world as God's stewards. That is, humans do not own the Earth but are God's surrogate care-takers: "The Earth is the Lord's and the fullness thereof; the world and all that dwell therein: (Psalm 21:1). To care for the Earth as God would care for it points to a much more responsible attitude since we believe that God loves the Earth. Further, as stewards, humans will be held responsible by the Master for the care which they have exercised, or failed to exercise, on that which belongs to the Master.
A second theme in Christian theology which has been seen as posing problems for our relationship to the environment is the dichotomy which is identified between the spiritual and the physical. In the New Testament Epistles, we hear a number of references that would seem to counsel rejection of this physical world including the following: "Do not love the world or the things of this world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in him" (I John 2:15). "Do you not know that friendship with this world is enmity with God? Therefore, whoever wished to be a friend of the world, makes himself an enemy of God" (James 4:4).
However, biblical scholarship that gained added relevance as environmental awareness grew, has helped to place these letters to communities of early Christians into historical context. At a time when the general expectation was that the end of the world was at hand and that Christ would be returning soon, the writers were encouraging their readers not to place their faith in material wealth. While there has been a persistent stream over the centuries of religious affirmation of creation's goodness, there have also been interpretations of these passages strongly emphasizing other-worldliness and rejection of "this world". Environmentalists have worried that such theology could undermine a social attitude of concern for the well-being of the Earth.
A third concept that has been identified in the critique of Christian theology is the emphasis on personal moral will as the ultimate defining characteristic of the human. While there are philosophical traditions that have also focused on moral agency, Christian theology has given it a particular priority. Though an emphasis on moral will does not of necessity lead to a negation of the value of the natural world, some of its implications seem to point in that direction. Since only humans exercise moral choice and judgement via rational processes, it was believed that higher value was attributed to the human than to the creatures lacking these capacities. The elevation of the rational capacities also implied the denigration of other attributes such as emotions, intuition, and sense perception itself.
New Theological Directions
The critiques of Christianity by Lynn White Jr. and others helped to unleash a robust period of theological reconceptualization regarding the relationship of humans to the rest of creation. In addition to these challenges from outside the religious community, there were also those within the faith who were shaking traditional approaches. The creation-centered work of Thomas Berry and Matthew Fox from within the Roman Catholic tradition provided a radical reorientation to understandings of the inter-relationship of God, humanity and the rest of creation. Their writings would prove quite unsettling to the church hierarchy. "Stewardship theology" referred to above was another of the initial responses and did much to affirm that biblically-sound and intellectually-rigorous alternate understandings to "dominion theology" were possible.
"Process theology" has been a further approach that has widely influenced the evolving Christian thinking about the ecological crisis. Based on the work of philosopher Alfred North Whitehead, process theologians such as John Cobb and David Griffin developed a systematic application of Whitehead with the emphasis on God's loving inter-relatedness with creation. Cobb in particular has played a significant role through his writings in articulating the ecological implications of process theology. One of his principal arguments has been the inherent interconnections of God, humanity and the natural world. "for process theology, as an ecological theology, human beings are part of nature... Humanity is seen within an interconnected nature."
German theologian Jurgen Moltmann comes to similar conclusions within the framework of his own theological analysis. In a book based on his Gifford Lecture series, Moltmann emphasizes the relationship of God to all creation as the starting point. "An ecological doctrine of creation implies a new kind of thinking about God. The centre of this thinking is no longer the distinction between God and the world. The centre is the recognition of the presence of God in the world and the presence of the world in God." Through biblical analysis and systematic theological argumentation, Moltmann describes various manifestations and implications of the presence of the Spirit of God within creation. A consistent theme is the centrality of relationship as the most fundamental defining characteristic of existence. Theological understandings such as Moltmann's and those of process theology echo and in some ways enhance scientific discoveries and reconceptualizations of this century which have also moved in the direction of an emphasis on the primacy of relationships within matter and the natural world.
Eco-feminist theologians have articulated perceptive analytic critiques of traditional Christian theology in terms of its destructive contribution to the ecological crisis and have posited new models for understanding the relationship between humanity and the rest of creation. While recognizing and recovering much rich insight in the Biblical scriptures that can help ground a new environmental ethic, eco-feminist theologians are nonetheless more prepared than some other theologians to acknowledge the ambiguity of the Bible. This stems in part from the broader feminist analysis that recognizes the cultural conditioning of many of the scriptural writers working as they were in very patriarchal societies.
Eco-feminist approaches to reflection on ecological theology and ethics draw on a broad range of human capacities. Their methodology and the content of their analysis are interconnected in the recognition that our ecological problems are due in part to a hierarchical valuing of creatures and the attributes associated with them. Men have been seen as the most valued and the traditional male-oriented emphasis on rationality, control and exploitation has dominated both in human relationships and in terms of the Earth. Eco-feminists insist that intuition and emotion are indispensable as elements in the repertoire of human response if we are to make significant progress in solving our environmental problems. They argue that a reorientation toward the Earth will require a foundation of love and caring for life in its fullness not just rationalistic analyses and technological fixes.
There are creative options proposed by eco-feminist theologians for new theological approaches to our relationship with creation. The 'web of life' is one image that eco-feminists use to emphasize the inter-relatedness and inter-dependence of the various elements of creation.
Sallie McFague has suggested reimaging God not only as Father but also as Mother - the nurturer of all life, as Lover - the most intimate of relationships, and as Friend - a constant and supportive presence. Such models of God provide a deeper appreciation of the role of God as Creator and sustainer of life and can contribute to values that would be more environmentally sensitive such as protection of life, joy and love in our relating to the Earth, and solidarity with the oppressed members of creation.
Chung Hyun Kyung has done much to popularize eastern religious and cultural appreciations for the unity of all life and the sacredness of creation. Bringing such insights into dialogue with more traditional Christian approaches has provoked considerable controversy. It is nonetheless an essential contribution if Western Christianity is to honestly acknowledge its cultural role in the economic development model which has come to dominate the global economy and to seek partnership with other faith traditions in building a value base for an Earth ethic.
Equally threatening to some Christians have been the insights being offered by indigenous peoples around the world. Struggling back after several centuries of cultural oppression by colonizing powers, many indigenous peoples are recapturing their traditions that include important understandings of ways in which to relate sustainably to the natural world around them. Western societies seeking to reconceptualise their relationship to the Earth could benefit from the rich contributions of Indigenous creation stories, the understanding of nature as being members of one's family, rituals used to relate to the various seasons and creatures in the natural world, and concepts of community organization for long-term sustainability. Particularly helpful have been the writings of people of indigenous heritage who have connected native spirituality and Christian theology such as the American Indian George Tinker, Stan MacKay (a Canadian of Cree origin) and Rob Cooper (a Maori from Aotearoa-New Zealand).
There has been a risk in the rejuvenation of native spiritual ecological insights that Christians and others might appropriate those concepts and rituals into their own practices in a romanticized manner without recognizing the historical context out of which those indigenous understandings emerged. In part to respond to this risk, indigenous peoples have pressed tough political and economic issues related to the on-going oppression of their cultures and societies in addition to sharing elements of their native spirituality. Christian communities have been challenged to acknowledge and repent of their role over the past centuries as agents of cultural genocide. Some churches and ecumenical organizations have acted in solidarity with indigenous peoples in their struggles in local, national and international forums.
Theologians, ethicists and activists involved in environment and development issues in countries of the economic South have been another source of critical social, economic and political critique of the western development model and its links to Christian traditional understandings of the relationship of humans to the rest of creation.
Theological contributions from the economic South on issues of ecotheology have been relatively recent. Theologians and ethicists from these countries have understandably been more preoccupied with the economic struggles of their countries which have suffered five hundred years of exploitation by imperialistic nations, colonializing powers and now global financial institutions. Countries in Latin America produced a vibrant movement of liberation theology that played a pivotal role in articulating the ethical basis for a systemic social, economic and political critique of the western economic model and its historical exploitation of the South. However, many of the liberation theologians were as anthropocentric and utilitarian in their orientation toward the non-human elements of the natural world as were the tradition Christian theologians of the North.
However, as the depth of the ecological crises became more apparent as well as their inter-linkages with the western economic development model, theologians and ethicists from countries of the economic South began to make important connections between the historical struggles of their countries and environmental problems. Moreover, justice for the poor had always been the primary focus of liberation theologians and it was becoming clear that the poor were also the most vulnerable to the health and social effects of environmental problems.
Leonardo Boff from Brazil is among the more prolific and insightful theologians who has sought to develop an integrated approach to socio-economic issues and environmental concerns. While recognizing the contributions of various critical responses to the prevalent social model such as liberation movements, pacifist and non-violence groups, and ecological movements, Boff argues for the need for a more integrated approach. "It is important today to articulate these different critiques of the dominant system. However, we must urgently seek to develop a new paradigm for society that does not repeat the mistakes of the old but integrates all human beings in a more humane way and establishes more benevolent relationships with the environment."
The insights and analyses of theologians, ethicists and activists from countries of the economic South has had a significant impact on the work on environment and development issues by churches and ecumenical organizations such as the World Council of Churches. Theologian Jesse Mugambi from Kenya has enriched ecumenical understandings of the social, economic and environmental impacts of colonialization in Africa and has articulated nuanced analyses of so-called globalization and the homogenization processes where a few power centers dictate the rules for the rest of the world. Aruna Gnanadason from India who is working currently as a staff member of the World Council of Churches has provided leadership in the integration of gender justice with ecology and economic development.
It is impossible to note all of the influential theologians and ethicists who are contributing today to deepening Christian reflection on the implications of the ecological crisis and what the faith has to offer as constructive responses. Mary Evelyn Tucker, John Grim, Dieter Hessel and Rosemary Ruether, all of whom have done writing in their own right, have made a very important contribution through the organizing of the April 1998 "Conference on Christianity and Ecology" on behalf of the Harvard University Center for the Study of World Religions. The resulting book includes contemporary reflections by many of the most important theologians and ethicists concerned today about the ecological crisis.
Larry Rasmussen and Dieter Hessel have produced a book that looks at implications for the church of engagement in ecological issues after bringing together a wide range of theologians, ethicists, and practitioners for a 1998 "Conference on Ecumenical Earth" at Union Seminary in New York. Rasmussen has also written an ambitious integrative book Earth Community, Earth Ethics which combines analyses of the inter-related crises of environmental degradation and global economic injustice with the articulation of new visions that integrate biblical reflection, theological rigor, and inspiring spirituality.
I would also add some of my own writing to this list of attempts to take the richness of the theological and ethical debates and make it more popularly available to a wider Christian audience (for instance, my books A Place in Creation - Ecological Visions in Science, Religion and Economics and Ecotheology - Voices from South and North).
Church Environmental Responses at Local, National and International Levels
To write about Western Christianity and the environment is not just to discuss the theological and ethical reflections that have propelled the faith into serious confrontation with the ecological crisis. That rejuvenated faith, having had its eyes opened to the seriousness of the problems, its own historical complicity, and most importantly, new models of engaging theology and spirituality in relevant responses, is being expressed in action.
Church denominations in many parts of the world have prepared educational and action resources to assist their members learn more about environmental problems within an ethical and spiritual context and to offer opportunities for activities to make a constructive difference:
The list could include many more examples of efforts by churches at national and local levels to translate their faith into practice in caring for the well being of creation. Persons involved in organizing such efforts will be the first to acknowledge that, though progress is being made, it remains an on-going struggle to convince the churches as institutions and the individual members of the importance of engagement in environmental issues.
At the international level, several ecumenical organizations, especially the World Council of Churches (WCC), have played a role in both fostering theological and ethical reflection on ecological concerns as well as facilitating the active engagement of their member churches in specific issues. An important consultation was organized by the WCC in 1974 in Bucharest and brought together scientists, economists and theologians to discuss implications of the recently published study of the Club of Rome Limits to Growth. One of the important contributions of this event was the articulation of the concept of "sustainability", the idea that the world's future requires a vision of development that can be sustained for the long-term, both economically and environmentally. During the 1970s, the WCC had a program on the just, participatory and sustainable society (JPSS) which included the "Energy for My Neighbour" project which was intended to sensitize churches about energy problems faced by developing countries and to activate practical steps to ameliorate the energy situation of those in need, and the MIT Conference in 1979 on "Faith, Science and Technology" which became known primarily for its controversial position on nuclear power.
In 1983, the WCC Assembly in Vancouver adopted a process focused on "Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation" (JPIC) through which churches were encouraged to work together on these inter-related themes. Many churches became increasingly attentive to environmental concerns during this period adopting policy statements and initiating education and advocacy activities on specific issues. The JPIC process culminated in a World Convocation on Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation in Seoul Korea in 1990 at which a series of ten theological affirmations and specific covenants for action were approved which provide a description of the inter-relatedness of economic inequity, militarism, ecological destruction, and racial injustice and the theological, ethical and spiritual basis for affirming and sustaining life in its fullness.
There have also been a number of occasions of interaction between Christian theologians and leaders of other living faiths focused on rediscovering the important contributions from within the traditions and sacred writings of each of the faith systems which could help move human societies toward greater respect for the natural world. One of these events was an inter-faith consultation hosted by the WCC in August 1991 to develop proposals for inclusion in an "Earth Charter".
The 1992 UN Conference on Environment and Development in Rio de Janeiro provided an opportunity for witnessing to the spiritual dimensions of the ecological crisis. Many faiths were represented at the Rio Earth Summit and held joint vigils, ceremonies and workshops. The World Council of Churches sponsored a major ecumenical gathering bringing to Rio 150 representatives of churches from over 100 countries for two weeks of prayer, worship, study and involvement in the Earth Summit. Particularly important were the connections made with many other non-governmental organizations representing environmental groups, development bodies, and women's networks.
During the 1990s, the WCC work on environment-related issues focused primarily on global climate change, monitoring the work of the UN Commission on Sustainable Development, and beginning a more significant engagement in ethical issues raised by the growth in the biotechnology industry.
Challenges for the Future
Climate change has become one of the major foci for international ecumenical activity on ecological issues and is likely to continue to be so as the threat increases. Not only does climate change represent a threat to the well-being of God's Earth but it is also a profoundly ethical issue since it is being precipitated largely by the rich industrialized countries while the consequences will be suffered disproportionately by the poorer developing countries and by future generations.
The ecumenical community through the WCC has participated in the UN negotiations on climate change treaties since 1989. In 1996-97, the WCC sponsored an international petition campaign to build greater public pressure on the governments of industrialized countries to take action to reduce their emissions as a lead-up to the Kyoto Summit in December 1997. The WCC made a major statement on climate change as an issue of justice at the Kyoto Summit. Churches in many countries have organized educational and advocacy activities and have sponsored ethical reflections on climate change within the context of models for sustainable societies. These programs have been accompanied with resources to assist individual members take practical steps in their own homes, lives and communities to reduce energy use and contribute to limiting the emission greenhouse gases.
A second major challenge which will likely increase in importance for the Christian community in the future is the interconnection of the environment and the global economic system. These are well illustrated in the climate change issue but they also go beyond and encompass global trade, the role of multinational corporations and international financial institutions, and the scandalous economic inequities between peoples of the world. The ecumenical community has a long history in advocacy and action for economic justice and a more recent history with environmental issues. These two become interconnected when dealing with the implications of increasing economic globalization. Addressing globalization will pose a challenge to the churches in terms of their capacity for analysis of complex systems, resources to be engaged from local to global levels, and strength to persevere despite intense pressure that can be mounted by the vested power structures being critiqued.
A third challenge for the future is the regrounding of the churches' important environmental activity in a spirituality that can both inspire the work and sustain those involved. Throughout western culture generally, there is a widely perceived thirst for spiritual nourishment to counter the bareness of contemporary consumerism and materialism. Institutional religion is aware that many people find its forms of worship and engagement do not adequately satisfy their spiritual needs. Thus, both Christians active in social and environmental issues within churches and non-Christians outside the church, feel the need for greater spiritual nourishment. Concern for the well being of the Earth is one area where a nurturing of spiritual values can be linked intrinsically with a justice agenda.
|2. NEWS in Brief - top|
DISSIDENTSS DEMAND RELEASE OF STUDENT PRISONERS
Burmese student dissidents are urging the ruling military junta, which is currently holding talks with opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, to release large numbers of students jailed for political activities.
The All Burma Federation of Student Unions claimed that "thousands" of students are detained in prisons in Burma. It said student unions are outlawed and can only work as underground organisations.
"Although the military regime and Aung San Suu Kyi have been involved in secret talks, these students have not been released and live in terrible conditions," the ABFSU said in a statement issued in neighbouring Thailand.
Since October, Burma's government and Ms Suu Kyi have held their most significant talks in a decade of political deadlock, leading to the release of dozens of activists from her National League for Democracy.
However, the dialogue has taken place in secret and no details of their content have emerged. Ms Suu Kyi and her two top aides have been kept under house detention for nearly ten months.
Ms Suu Kyi's party won general elections in 1990 but was never allowed to take power by the military, which has ruled since 1962.
The ABFSU is demanding the release of its leader Min Ko Naing, whose real name is Paw U Tun. He was the most prominent student activist involved in Burma's abortive 1988 popular uprising against military rule, in which hundreds of protesters were gunned down by the army and police.
Min Ko Naing completed his 10 year sentence for agitating unrest more than two years ago but was not freed.
"As the regime is currently talking about national unity, democracy and the transitional process, Min Ko Naing and other student activists should be immediately released," the statement said.
According to a US State Department report issued in February, Burma has at least 1,800 political prisoners.
CHINA AND US CLINCH WTO DEAL
The United States and China have reached an agreement on outstanding issues that have been holding up Beijing's 15-year old bid to join the World Trade Organisation (WTO).
The deal was agreed during talks in Shanghai, on the margins of an Apec (Asia Pacific Economic Co-operation forum) meeting.
It is now hoped that China will be able to join the world's most important trade body before a new round of global trade talks is held in November. WTO negotiators are to meet in Geneva at the end of the month to determine whether the Sino-American deal is workable. Earlier, WTO chief Mike Moore said it would be a failure if November's trade talks got under way without China.
The major concern of WTO member states is the level of agricultural subsidies the Chinese say they want to give their farmers. Discussions on this issue have been locked since January.
China has insisted on being classified as a developing country which, under WTO rules, would allow it to subsidise up to 10% of the value of agricultural production. But the US and other countries argue that, because of the size of its economy, China should join as a developed country, limiting subsidies to 5%.
Shi Guangsheng, Chinese minister of foreign trade and economic co-operation, told the Xinhua news agency that "during the Shanghai consultations on these remaining issues, both sides reached full consensus." With the exception of Mexico, all the members of the WTO have already signed bilateral trade agreements with China. But Mexico has agreed not to put up obstacles to Chinese membership, even if a bilateral deal is not reached.
Trade officials and analysts have warned that Beijing might shelve economic reforms linked to WTO pledges if it did not gain admission to the trade body soon.
EXXONMOBIL SUED FOR ATROCITIES
A lawsuit has been filed recently in Washington naming the oil giant ExxonMobil corporation as responsible for murder, torture, kidnapping and twelve other charges at its liquefied natural gas operations in Aceh, a region on the northern tip of Sumatra, Indonesia.
The suit, filed on behalf of eleven Acehnese villagers, claims that ExxonMobil hired the Indonesian military to provide security for the corporationıs facilities in Aceh. These troops, under the employ of ExxonMobil, committed human rights abuses against the local population.
Troops stationed at the ExxonMobil facilities tortured villagers in buildings on ExxonMobil property, according to the filing by the International Labor Rights Fund.
"While oil companies and the Indonesian government reap enormous profits, the people are suffering at the hands of the very security forces employed by ExxonMobil to protect its assets," said Kurt Biddle, Washington Coordinator for the Indonesia Human Rights Network.
ExxonMobil, rated number one in the Fortune 500, temporarily shut down its liquefied natural gas extraction facilities in March 2001, citing serious security concerns.
Since January 2000, Kontras-Aceh, a local human rights organization, has reported more than 670 killings and 161 disappearances in Aceh. The Indonesian military and police act without impunity in the resource-rich region. Prominent civic leaders and humanitarian workers have been executed.
From 1989 to 1998, Aceh was declared a Military Operation Area, known by the Indonesian acronym DOM. During this period of military rule, human rights violations soared as police and military intentionally targeted the civilian population as a means to destroy the armed resistance (the Free Aceh Movement) fighting for Acehıs independence. After the dictator Suharto fell from power in 1998, DOM officially ended and investigations into the atrocities committed by the Indonesian military began. Human rights organizations reported that over 1,300 people were killed during DOM and thousands were tortured. At least 12 mass graves were discovered.
Since then, President Abdurrahman Wahid first offered, then withdrew the offer to allow a referendum on independence for Aceh. Calls for a referendum have mounted in Aceh and in November 1999 over a million people gathered in the city of Banda Aceh to demand a referendum. Violence has escalated as thousands of Indonesian troops have been sent to the region. An estimated 7-10 people are being killed on a daily basis in Aceh now.
"The allegations in this lawsuit clearly demonstrate why now is not the time for the U.S. to restore ties with the Indonesian military," said Biddle. "The TNI (Indonesian National Military) are on a brutal campaign of murdering people in Aceh and across the archipelago."
Prompted by the brutal Indonesia military and militia devastation of East Timor after the August 30, 1999 independence vote, the U.S. Congress placed a ban on U.S. training and assistance to the Indonesian military.
Human rights groups have long criticized Freeport-McMoRan - another U.S.-owned multinational corporation operating in Indonesia - for using the Indonesian military to provide security at its mine in West Papua, Indonesia.
A copy of the filing is available at www.laborrights.org
PAKISTAN-INDIA SOLIDARITY CONFERENCE DECLARATION
A Declaratin of Peace was endorsed by the Pakistan-India Solidarity Conference in Delhi which met on the eve of the Musharraf - Vajpaee talks. Signed by 100 Indian, Pakistani and other nationals, as a statement of support for peace and reconciliation between the two countries, the participants appealed to the leaders of both countries to bury the bitterness and mistrust of the past 50 years and open a new chapter of peace, reconciliation and friendship between the two great nations of this subcontinent.
During the conference, the participants expressed their wish to co-exist as friendly and peaceful neighbours so that they could channel all their energies and resources towards the betterment of their people and towards elimination of hunger, disease and illiteracy. They also urgee their leaders to agree on seeking peaceful solutions to all outstanding issues, to refrain from further nuclear escalation and militant confrontation. It is time for reason to replace prejudice. It is time for people of the two great nations to collectively demand their right to peace, progress and prosperity.
For over half a century now, the people of India and Pakistan have borne the burden of hostilities between the two States. We, the representatives of numerous civil society groups which have endeavoured for years to reform relations between India and Pakistan, welcome the Summit between General Pervez Musharraf and Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee and urge that they seriously engage in a sustained dialogue. The resources of the two countries must be transferred from bombs to books, from submarines to schools, from missiles to medicines, from frigates to food, from runways for bombers to railroads for people. The two leaders must also pledge to eliminate the terrifying nuclear menace that threatens the people of the entire South Asia region.
II. The Pakistan-India People's Solidarity Conference has identified and arrived at an agreement on three major areas of concern between the two countries, which we feel need to be addressed at the Agra Summit. These are as follows:
The Kashmir issue is not only a territorial dispute between the two States but involves the people of Jammu and Kashmir. Therefore, a just and democratic resolution of the Kashmir dispute demands the involvement of the people on both sides of the LoC in a non-sectarian solution. A Kashmir solution can work only in the atmosphere of Pakistan-India friendship, which this Summit must guarantee.
III. We call on the two governments to:
AFTER 50 YEARS OF SUFFERING: TRIBUNAL FINDS U.S. GUILTY OF WAR CRIMES IN KOREA
By John Catalinotto
Fifty years of enforced silence were broken on June 23 when Korean victims of U.S. war crimes finally had the chance to tell an International War Crimes Tribunal about what had happened to them.
Some 600 people attended the historic gathering at the Interchurch Center of Riverside Church. Large delegations of Koreans came from South Korea, Japan, Canada and Germany, as well as from all over the U.S. Most evidence was presented in Korean and English to the multinational audience.
The U.S. State Department had refused visas to a delegation of 11 lawyers bringing evidence from the Democratic People's Republic of Korea. The South Korean government had barred some witnesses from boarding planes to the U.S., sparking protests in Seoul.
Tribunal organizers saw this as proof that both Washington and Seoul fear the impact of the truth about the U.S.'s colonial relationship with Korea.
The testimony of victims from North Korea was presented via videotape.
Listening intently to the evidence were over two dozen jurists from 17 countries. Twelve of these countries participated in the 1950-1953 war against Korea. After four sessions of deliberating over the testimony, this jury unanimously found the U.S. government and military guilty of 19 counts of war crimes committed against Korea from 1945 until 2001.
KOREA TRUTH COMMISSION FORMED AFTER NO GUN RI EXPOSE
The tribunal was the culmination of over a year's work by the Korea Truth Commission, which had been formed after the exposure of U.S. atrocities against Korean civilians at No Gun Ri during the Korean War.
The KTC enlisted the aid in the U.S. of the International Action Center and Veterans for Peace, and the cooperation of many other organizations internationally. Yoomi Jeong of the KTC and Sara Flounders of the IAC co-chaired the tribunal.
Former South Korean Supreme Court Justice Byun Jung Soo and former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark--who drafted the original indictment against the U.S. at the KTC request--were the chief prosecutors.
Opening the prosecution, Byun noted that "U.S. crimes have been suppressed and covered up" and should be revealed in detail. People from North and South Korea have come together in the tribunal movement, he said. They hope the tribunal work will serve as an example for those who want the reunification of the two Koreas.
Clark pointed out that the U.S. military went into Korea in September 1945 to "stop Soviet troops and they divided the Korean people in half, putting into power a military government in the south that used brutal means to eliminate every form of sympathy with Koreans in the north."
When war broke out in 1950, the U.S. declared North Korea "Indian Territory," Clark said. This was a racist term meaning a free-fire zone. The invading troops killed 3.5 million civilians in three years. Washington has kept up the "torture of economic sanctions" since.
Clark explained the KTC's decision to focus not only on the U.S. slaughter of civilians during the 1950-1953 Korean War, but also on the periods that preceded and followed it: first, the repression and murder of leftists from 1945 to 1950, and later the U.S. occupation of the south and economic sanctions against the Democratic People's Republic of Korea in the north following the 1953 truce.
1945-1950: CRIMES AGAINST PEACE
Mara Verheyden-Hilliard, legal representative of the Partnership for Civil Justice in Washington, presented the prosecution's brief for the 1945 to 1950 period. She instructed the jury that during this period the U.S. committed "crimes against peace," which were defined at Nuremberg as the most serious of all war crimes.
As an example of the political persecution and outright slaughter by the U.S.-backed military regime in the south during this period, the tribunal heard the testimony of witness Lee Do Young regarding the massacre of a quarter of the population of Cheju Island after an uprising in the spring of 1948. The island lies off the southern coast of the Korean peninsula.
Lee said he was still frightened that the regime might punish him for presenting his testimony. Indeed, Seoul stopped some of the Cheju witnesses from coming to the tribunal.
Lee's own father, who had worked for the rural government, was killed later, in August 1950, for alleged participation in the uprising on the island. His story brought up an additional aspect--the U.S.-backed slaughter of hundreds of thousands of leftists and activists in South Korea in the summer of 1950.
Lee said he found one person who confessed to executing his father, but that person's superior officer denied it.
WAR CRIMES IN SOUTH KOREA
Prosecutor Shim Jae Hwan spoke on behalf of those Koreans killed by the U.S. military in South Korea. "The U.S. brought in massive military force and killed innocent people, brutalized women, young and old," Shim said. "The U.S. must admit its crimes, apologize for them and compensate the Korean people."
A half-dozen witnesses from South Korea then came forward to describe U.S. atrocities. Their stories, which they had been unable to tell for 50 years, caused many in the audience to weep. Any criticism of the U.S. was interpreted as sympathy with the DPRK and was punishable under the National Security Law, so they had had to swallow their suffering in silence.
One witness told of a pond near his home village. When drained, it yielded five truckloads of bodies. Outside the auditorium were exhibits showing the location and details of this and other atrocities. He said that some 3,500 people were killed in his area.
Kang Soo Jo, who had been a young girl when she lost her mother to the war, told of being shot in the leg. She showed her mangled leg and foot to the audience. In fury she demanded the U.S. either "return things to the way they were before or give compensation for my suffering."
A man from a northern province of South Korea told of being bombed non-stop by U.S. B-29s. "We raised South Korean flags to say hello, but were surprised by bombs. I lost my mother and father. Fifty-nine people were killed in that attack," he said, out of 450 people killed altogether in the village and environs.
U.S. officials claimed what happened was an error, he said, but then bombed again for 40 minutes a few days later.
An "error," was made, another survivor said, when U.S. planes bombed and machine-gunned a boat carrying refugees and flying the South Korean flag. Some "150 people were killed in the bombing. Others were shot on the stairwell trying to leave the boat."
That U.S. commanders considered these to be "errors" only means that the attacks were meant for civilians who might be sympathetic to the north. Either way, attacks on civilians are war crimes.
WAR CRIMES IN NORTH KOREA
Attorney Lennox Hinds, the permanent representative to the United Nations of the International Association of Democratic Lawyers, led the prosecution's presentation on civilian massacres in the north. He also raised the U.S. use of biological and chemical warfare.
Hinds introduced into evidence a study made in 1952 by an eight-member delegation from his organization at the invitation of the DPRK. This IADL study showed evidence of mass murders, massacres and other atrocities that violated Article 16 and Article 6A of the Nuremburg Laws, said Hinds.
It also showed that the U.S. used weapons banned by the articles of war, including bacteriological and chemical weapons. U.S. planes had dropped canisters containing flies and other insects infected with plague, cholera and other epidemic diseases. A letter was then read to the tribunal from Stephen Endicott, whose research into declassified documents appears in the book "The United States and Biological Warfare: Secrets from the Early Cold War and Korea."
Expert witness Anne Katrin-Becker of Germany told of U.S.-led massacres that killed one-fourth of the population of Sinchon province--35,383 people--mostly elderly people, non-combatant women and children. In October 1950, U.S. troops forced 900 people into a building and burned it to death, and in another area 1,000 women were drowned.
In a video the KTC made earlier this spring in North Korea, survivors testified of U.S. atrocities carried out against their villages and loved ones. The crimes were similar to those in the south, but with no pretense of "error."
Former U.S. bomber pilot Charles Overby confessed to his own role in dropping 40 bombs each run, each with 500 pounds of TNT, on the population of North Korea.
1953-2001: CRIMES AGAINST HUMANITY
The fourth prosecutor, Kim Seung Kyo, addressed crimes against humanity committed from 1953 to 2001, including political repression, military dictatorship, U.S. troop occupation, the infamous National Security Law that led to charges against a million South Koreans, the torture ofpolitical prisoners, the massacre after the 1980 Kwangju uprising, and U.S. Air Force bombing practice at Maehyang-ri.
Ismael Guadalupe of the Committee for the Rescue and Development of Vieques testified on the U.S. Navy's use of his island as a bombing practice range and expressed his solidarity with the Koreans at Maehyang-ri. The work of the tribunal has furthered Korean-Puerto Rican solidarity.
Other presentations included IAC West Coast coordinator Gloria La Riva on the struggle of the Daewoo workers, Sandra Smith from Canada on the deprivations caused by sanctions, and former German Admiral Elmar Schmaehling on U.S. plans for a National Missile Defense.
The tribunal showed cooperation between North and South Korean organizations, as well as solidarity of the U.S. anti-war movement with the Korean Truth Commission, which is rooted in mass organizations in South Korea.
KTC Secretary General Rev. Kiyul Chung, Brian Willson of Veterans for Peace and Brian Becker of the IAC ended the presentations with political analyses of the tribunal and a call for continued activity by all the participants to help get U.S. troops out of Korea and allow the Koreans to reunify their country.
AFTER HEARING THE EVIDENCE, INTERNATIONAL PANEL OF JURISTS SAYS "GUILTY"
The Members of the Korea International War Crimes Tribunal, meeting in New York, having considered the Indictment for Offenses Committed by the Government of the United States of America Against the People of Korea, 1945-2001, which charges all U.S. Presidents, all Secretaries of State, all Secretaries of Defense, all Secretaries of the armed services, all Chiefs of Staff, all heads of the Central Intelligence Agency and other U.S. foreign intelligence agencies, all Directors of the National Security Agency, all National Security Advisors, all U.S. military commanders in Korea and commanders of units which participated in war crimes, over the period from 1945 to the present, with nineteen separate War Crimes, Crimes Against Peace and Crimes Against Humanity in violation of the Charter of the United Nations, the Charter of the Nuremberg Tribunal, the Hague Regulations of 1907, the Geneva Protocol of 1925, the 1929 and 1949 Geneva Conventions, the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide of 1948, other international agreements and customary international law, the laws of the United States, the laws of Korea and the laws of other nations that have been forced to provide bases, support and military personnel for United States actions against Korea;
The Members of the International War Crimes Tribunal find the accused Guilty on the basis of the evidence against them: each of the nineteen separate crimes alleged in the Initial Complaint has been established to have been committed beyond a reasonable doubt. The Members find these crimes to have occurred during three main periods in the U.S. intervention in and occupation of Korea.
The best-known period is from June 25, 1950, until July 27, 1953, the "Korean War," when over 4.6 million Koreans perished, according to conservative Western estimates, including 3 million civilians in the north and 500,000 civilians in the south. The evidence of U.S. war crimes presented to this Tribunal included eyewitness testimony and documentary accounts of massacres of thousands of civilians in southern Korea by U.S. military forces during the war. Abundant evidence was also presented concerning criminal and even genocidal U.S. conduct in northern Korea, including the systematic leveling of most buildings and dwellings by U.S. artillery and aerial bombardment; widespread atrocities committed by U.S. and R.O.K. forces against civilians and prisoners of war; the deliberate destruction of facilities essential to civilian life and economic production; and the use of illegal weapons and biological and chemical warfare by the U.S. against the people and the environment of northern Korea. Documentary and eyewitness evidence was also presented showing gross and systematic violence committed against women in northern and southern Korea, characterized by mass rapes, sexual assaults and murders.
Less known but of crucial importance in understanding the war period is the preceding five years, from the landing of U.S. troops in Korea on September 8, 1945, to the outbreak of the war. The Members of the Tribunal examined extensive evidence of U.S. crimes against peace and crimes against humanity in this period. The Members conclude that the U.S. government acted to divide Korea against the will of the vast majority of the people, limit its sovereignty, create a police state in southern Korea using many former collaborators with Japanese rule, and provoke tension and threats between southern and northern Korea, opposing and disrupting any plans for peaceful reunification. In this period the U.S. trained, directed and supported the ROK in systematic murder, imprisonment, torture, surveillance, harassment and violations of human rights of hundreds of thousands of people, especially of those individuals or groups considered nationalists, leftists, peasants seeking land reform, union organizers and/or those sympathetic to the north.
The Members find that in the period from July 1953 to the present, the U.S. has continued to maintain a powerful military force in southern Korea, backed by nuclear weapons, in violation of international law and intended to obstruct the will of the Korean people for reunification. Military occupation has been accompanied by the organized sexual exploitation of Korean women, frequently leading to violence and even murder of women by U.S. soldiers who have felt above the law. U.S.-imposed economic sanctions have impoverished and debilitated the people of northern Korea, leading to a reduction of life expectancy, widespread malnutrition and even starvation in a country that once exported food. The refusal of the U.S. government to grant visas to a delegation from the Democratic People's Republic of Korea who planned to attend this Tribunal only confirms the criminal intent of the defendants to isolate those whom they have abused to prevent them from telling their story to the world.
In all these 55 years, the U.S. government has systematically manipulated, controlled, directed, misinformed and restricted press and media coverage to obtain consistent support for its military intervention, occupation and crimes against the people of Korea. It has also inculcated racist attitudes within the U.S. troops and general population that prepared them to commit and/or accept atrocities and genocidal policies against the Korean people.
It has violated the Constitution of the United States, the delegation of powers over war and the military, the Bill of Rights, the UN Charter, international law and the laws of the ROK, DPRK, People's Republic of China, Japan and many others, in its lawless determination to exercise its will over the Korean peninsula.
The Members of the Korea International War Crimes Tribunal hold the United States government and its leaders accountable for these criminal acts and condemn those found guilty in the strongest possible terms.
The Members call for the immediate end of U.S. occupation of all Korean territory, the removal of all U.S. bases, forces and materiel, including land mines, from the region, the rectification of environmental damage, and the cessation of overt and covert operations against northern Korea.
The Members urge the immediate revocation of all embargoes, sanctions and penalties against northern Korea because they constitute a continuing crime against humanity.
The Members call for emergency funds to be provided to the people of northern Korea through the Democratic People's Republic of Korea to feed the hungry and care for the sick, whose suffering is a direct result of U.S. policies.
The Members call for reparations to be paid by the U.S. government to all of Korea to compensate for the damage inflicted by 55 years of violence and economic warfare.
The Members further call for an immediate end to all interference by the U.S. aimed at preventing the people of Korea from reunifying as they choose.
The Members call for the U.S. government to make full disclosure of all information about U.S. crimes and wrongful acts committed in Korea since September 7, 1945.
The Members urge the Commission to provide for the permanent preservation of the reports, evidence and materials gathered to make them available to others, and to seek ways to provide the widest possible distribution of the truth about U.S. crimes in Korea.
We urge all people of the world to act on recommendations developed by the Commission to hold power accountable and to secure social justice on which lasting peace must be based.
Done in New York this 23rd day of June, 2001
THE CHIEF JURISTS
[Source: Workers World Service]
|3. RESOURCES Received - top|
DAGA receives a lot of juournals, periodicals, newsletters and many other forms of printed resources from its network of Action Groups in Asia and around the world. Please click on "Resources" in the left bar for an extended listing.
|4. Urgent APPEAL - top|
INDIA - SIXTEEN ADIVASIS [TRIBAL PEOPLE] ARRESTED IN TAMIL NADU
The International Secretariat of OMCT requests your URGENT intervention in the following situation in India. The Secretariat has been informed, by a reliable source, that 16 Adivasis (tribal people) have been arrested on June 12th 2001 by the police and have not been released yet. The arrested Adivasis (6 women and 10 men) are:
According to the information received, the arrest followed a massive night intervention by the police in the village Thuvaipathy in the Coimbatore District of Tamil Nadu.
The events of June 12th 2001 follow Adivasis attempts to reoccupy and cultivate their ancestral lands which have been fenced off, and are under the protection of police forces, for the construction of the Coimbatore Zoological Park (CZP).
Reminder of the situation
According to the information received, the Coimbatore Zoological Park (CZP) is a registered society set up in 1986 by leading industrialists and businessmen of Coimbatore. The CZP proposes to establish the "Coimbatore Zoological Park and Conservation Centre" at Thuvaipathy Village, about 30 kilometres from Coimbatore City, threatening more than 1000 Adivasis (around 150 families) with the loss of their ancestral lands.
While the proposed site for the establishment of the CZP is located on the ancestral lands of the Adivasis, their rights over an important part of this land are not recognised by the state of Tamil Nadu. According to the information received, the Adivasis ancestral lands are divided, in term of tenure, between patta lands and poramboke lands. Patta lands are pieces of land owned privately, while poramboke lands are government lands.
It is reported that the CZP has already acquired 71 acres of patta land, much of which was held by the Adivasis, through fraudulent and coercive measures. Moreover, the Tamil Nadu authorities leased around 180 acres of poramboke land to the CZP under a government order in April 1998, giving up the Adivasis land to the CZP. It should be noted that while the State of Tamil Nadu is under a constitutional obligation to ensure the rights of the Adivasis to their lands, it has yet to enact legislation protecting the tribal people from being deprived of their lands.
Since 1987, the Adivasis have been opposed to the establishment of the "Coimbatore Zoological Park and Conservation Centre". The Adivasis have faced repeated threats from the authorities and the CZP, as well as destruction of their property, since they started resisting attempts to displace them. In particular, it is reported that:
Since March 2001, the following incidents have been reported, showing a climate of increased pressure by the authorities and the CZP on the Adivasis to give up their claim to their ancestral lands:
Please write to the Indian authorities urging them to:
H.E. President K.R. Narayanan,
H.E. Atal Bihari Vajpayee,
Mr L.K. Advani,
Justice A. N. Varma,
Dr. J. Jayalalitha,
Geneva, June 28th 2001
|5. ANNOUNCEMENT - top|
GLOBAL WEEK OF PROTEST
At the Dakar South-North Consultation last December 2000, participants agreed to declare the week of July 15 to 21 as a GLOBAL WEEK OF PROTEST AGAINST THE DEBT. The dates were chosen primarily because they are immediately precede the G8 Summit in Genoa, Italy. The following activities have are being planned for Genoa:
Other events including the mobilizations on the 20th and 21st are also being planned.
It is hoped that the Global Week of Protest will also be marked by activities and mobilization in many countries in Asia, as well as activities and mobilizations in Genoa.
Please send your comments, reactions, inquiries and other information to: firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com
Documentation for Action Groups in Asia (DAGA):