20 Sep 2013

Situations of injustice could be undermining peace in Pacific

4:47 pm on 20 September 2013

People around the Pacific are being urged to reflect on their situations within their communities ahead of the International Day of Peace tomorrow.

Organisations involved in activities to promote the day believe peace should be looked at in the context of whether justice is supporting the peaceful co-existence of people.

And they believe at present there are some major impediments to meaningful peace being realised in the region.

Bridget Tunnicliffe reports:

Getting young men involved in activities to mark International Day of Peace tomorrow is being seen as hugely important by a feminist organisation in Fiji. A number of activities are being planned around the Pacific to commemorate the day and Fiji group FemLINKPacific, is collaborating with musicians in Suva to create peace messages through music. The executive director, Sharon Bhagwan Rolls, says young men have typically got caught up in conflicts experienced in the Pacific, including the Fiji coup in 2000.

"SHARON BHAGWAN ROLLS: We've seen young men who were part of the riots during the overthrow of the Labour government, and then of course in Tonga you know you have numerous young men in particular and more recently conflicts at the school level, so I think it's really important that our young men find the space and the channels in which to talk about their issues as well."

The acting general secretary of the Pacific Conference of Churches, Peter Emberson, says it's an important day for people to reflect on peace or a lack of peace in their community, as well as impediments to peace being realised. He says there are some glaring causes of injustice that is undermining meaningful peace in the region including impoverishment through unjust labour laws, climate justice issues, and the fight for nuclear testing compensation to victims. He says there is also the ongoing issue of self-determination of colonies of the Pacific that are still under the colonial yolk.

PETER EMBERSON: Under these conditions they haven't really been given the opportunity to discern for themselves what kind of political and economic arrangements that is inherent in human rights, the issue of West Papua, French Polynesia, Kanaky, to name but a few.

Peter Emberson says this year the Pacific Conference of Churches is challenging its membership and people who call the Pacific home to seriously think about whether the society they live in supports their aspirations. He says churches can play a big part in redressing some of the root causes of injustice and says the question is as relevant as ever.

PETER EMBERSON: The issue of asylum seekers in Papua New Guinea. So as you will see the Pacific is fraught with a lot of justice and injustice issues that we hope people of the Pacific will begin to start thinking about and start to raise awareness with their national leaders and hopefully it will catapult into a big regional discourse.