Commemoration of International Day of UN Peacekeepers

Today I join the world in honouring the more than 120,000 courageous men and women from 123 countries that serve the cause of peace through United Nations peacekeeping missions. For nearly 70 years brave men and women have responded to calls from the international community to make possible the effective delivery of humanitarian assistance, to ensure orderly elections, to protect civilians from human rights violations, and to bolster stability in nations experiencing civil war.


Wishing all those observing the feast of Corpus Christi a blessed celebration

Below is the Vatican provided translation of Pope Francis’ homily for “Corpus Christi” given this evening in the square in front of the Basilica of St. John Lateran in Rome:


«Do this in remembrance of me» (1 Cor 11:24-25).

Twice the Apostle Paul, writing to the community in Corinth, recalls this command of Jesus in his account of the institution of the Eucharist. It is the oldest testimony we have to the words of Christ at the Last Supper.

“Do this”. That is, take bread, give thanks and break it; take the chalice, give thanks, and share it. Jesus gives the command to repeat this actionby which he instituted the memorial of his own Pasch, and in so doing gives us his Body and his Blood. This action reaches us today: it is the “doing” of the Eucharist which always has Jesus as its subject, but which is made real through our poor hands anointed by the Holy Spirit.

“Do this”. Jesus on a previous occasion asked his disciples to “do” what was so clear to him, in obedience to the will of the Father. In the Gospel passage that we have just heard, Jesus says to the disciples in front of the tired and hungry crowds: “Give them something to eat yourselves” (Lk9:13). Indeed, it is Jesus who blesses and breaks the loaves and provides sufficient food to satisfy the whole crowd, but it is the disciples who offer the five loaves and two fish. Jesus wanted it this way: that, instead of sending the crowd away, the disciples would put at his disposal what little they had. And there is another gesture: the pieces of bread, broken by the holy and venerable hands of Our Lord, pass into the poor hands of the disciples, who distribute these to the people. This too is the disciples “doing” with Jesus; with him they are able to “give them something to eat”. Clearly this miracle was not intended merely to satisfy hunger for a day, but rather it signals what Christ wants to accomplish for the salvation of all mankind, giving his own flesh and blood (cf. Jn6:48-58). And yet this needs always to happen through those two small actions: offering the few loaves and fish which we have; receiving the bread broken by the hands of Jesus and giving it to all.

Breaking: this is the other word explaining the meaning of those words: “Do this in remembrance of me”. Jesus was broken; he is broken for us. And he asks us to give ourselves, to break ourselves, as it were, for others. This “breaking bread” became the icon, the sign for recognizing Christ and Christians. We think of Emmaus: they knew him “in the breaking of the bread” (Lk24:35). We recall the first community of Jerusalem: “They held steadfastly… to the breaking of the bread” (Acts2:42). From the outset it is the Eucharist which becomes the centre and pattern of the life of the Church. But we think also of all the saints – famous or anonymous – who have “broken” themselves, their own life, in order to “give something to eat” to their brothers and sisters. How many mothers, how many fathers, together with the slices of bread they provide each day on the tables of their homes, have broken their hearts to let their children grow, and grow well! How many Christians, as responsible citizens, have broken their own lives to defend the dignity of all, especially the poorest, the marginalized and those discriminated! Where do they find the strength to do this? It is in the Eucharist: in the power of the Risen Lord’s love, who today too breaks bread for us and repeats: “Do this in remembrance of me”.

May this action of the Eucharistic procession, which we will carry out shortly, respond to Jesus’ command. An action to commemorate him; an action to give food to the crowds of today; an act to break open our faith and our lives as a sign of Christ’s love for this city and for the whole world.

[Original text: Italian] [Vatican-provided translation]

Detention Inquiry Panel Members Statement on the Immigration Act 2016 becoming law — Inquiry into the use of Immigration Detention

Last week the Immigration Act 2016 received Royal Assent. In response to the provisions contained within the Act, the assurances made by Ministers, and the concerns raised in both Houses, members of the cross-party panel of the Parliamentary Inquiry into the Use of Immigration Detention have made the following statement: “Just over a year ago, […]

via Detention Inquiry Panel Members Statement on the Immigration Act 2016 becoming law — Inquiry into the use of Immigration Detention

Tackling gender violence amidst democratic transition.

With the highlights of the May 12 2016 Forbes Women’s Summit freshly imprinted (particularly the remarks of Samantha Power in relation to women and human rights)— underlining calls to strengthen the voice of women in the context of tackling displacement, structural violence, and trafficking issues must remain high priority. Friday’s US State Department briefing covering Secretary Kerry’s forthcoming visit to Myanmar/Burma on May 22nd inevitably trains the spotlight of South East Asian specialists on the situation there, particularly in the aftermath of international scrutiny brought by Oxford University’s May 11 South Asian Research Cluster Conference. The event’s targeted  objectives spanned academic disciplines and policy mandates in an effort to raise awareness and exert influence at leadership, research, and practitioner levels.

In the aftermath of the fall 2015 media spotlight on the crisis, Yu Kojima cited Myanmar’s June 2014 endorsement of the UN Declaration of Commitment to End Sexual Violence in Conflict as a serious starting point for addressing gender violence against IDPs in the country. The endorsement followed several high profile international publications on the issue—from the publication of Fear and Hope by the Women’s Refugee Commission over a decade ago, to the more proximate Gender Equality Network’s January 2013 Discussion Paper Developing Anti Violence Against Women Laws. Endorsement of the UN Declaration came in the month prior to the comprehensive July 2014 report Sexual and gender-based violence in Burma/Myanmar—prepared for the Australian Research Council Discovery Project: Preventing Mass Sexual and Gender Based Violence in Conflict and Post-Conflict Settings in Asia-Pacific. A November 2014 Actionaid Gender Analysis Brief followed, offering pithy insight into bottom up awareness-raising and response initiatives (prior to releasing the brief the organization trained 60 women paralegals across the country to command basic knowledge of various types of violence, equipping them with the legal know how to respond with appropriate intervention and reporting techniques).

Last week’s event at Oxford brought together academics and Myanmar specialists from across the humanities and social sciences, including Amartya Sen, Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, Daniel Feierstein, Barbara Harrell-Bond, Michael Charney, Shapan Adnan, Penny Green, Thomas McManus, Maya Tudor, Azeem Ibrahim, and Maung Zarni. Along with former UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Myanmar, Tomas Ojea Quintana, lawyers, civil society representatives, and activists added to the cohort—in their midst  Arzhil Mohd Amin, Laura Haigh, Narul Islam, Mathew Smith, Ahamed Jarmal, and Hameed Hussain. Additional presenters and delegates representing public health and medical engagement perspectives included Dr S. Saad Mahmood, Dr Ambia Perveen, and Nicola Pocock. Of note was the consensus urging for more explicitly anthropological and feminist modes of engagement by international law and policy makers. Calls for top down action initiatives found harmony with concurrence that justice should be understood through a social process, legal-anthropological lens.

With UNHCR reporting this month that displaced villagers are returning to Rakhine State, the issue of pursuing accountability for sexual violence against IDPs following resettlement emerged as particularly pertinent. Broad discussion, outside the Myanmar context, of global accountability for atrocities followed by way of Daniel Feierstein’s Annual ISCI Lecture at the University of London on May 12. Linking the path to justice and human rights compliance with sustaining historicist and peace building approaches in the context of ruptured communal and social ties,  a combined truth and reconciliation–international prosecution emphasis leveraged a multi-faceted approach to accountability. Mapping the relationship between identity and conflict made for the seminal point of departure.

Where the business community’s readiness to assist in re-building post-conflict communities to empower women and girls was a key message that emerged from this year’s South East Asia Symposium—last week’s conference was more muted on the issue of business community engagement of IDP sexual violence issues in Myanmar. I look forward to reviewing this over forthcoming projects.