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Caritas keeps eye on Solomons

Caritas Australia has sent representatives to the Solomon Islands in a bid to ensure the presence of the Australian-led peace-keeping force in the troubled country does not exacerbate the existing climate of gun violence.

The Catholic Weekly reports that Caritas supports the regional intervention in the Solomon Islands. Australia has made a large contribution of police and armed forces to a Pacific region coalition of about 2300 personnel that is attempting to bring peace and order to the country.

Pacific program co-ordinator Justine McMahon said that the country has been in a state of crisis since an armed coup in 2000, when the then elected Prime Minister Bart Ulufa'ulu was forced to resign.

"While the people of the Solomon Islands urgently need help to break down the violent, coercive and illegal practices that have developed there since that coup, Australians need to be careful that we do not contribute to a climate of gun violence" she said.

Ms McMahon said Caritas Australia would insist that intervention be accompanied by four crucial elements including an investment in the restoration of trust in public institutions and the building of infrastructure, primarily by Solomon Islanders.

Yesterday another organisation - Catholic Mission - issued a statement underlining its support for the intervention. It said that government instability has caused the collapse of medical and public health systems, and the education system is in "a state of disarray".

Last year Catholic Mission provided over $500,000 to the Solomon Islands to help communities by training and paying local teachers, repairing accommodation, building community centres, providing teaching materials, books, stationery and transport, and reconstructing education facilities.

An Australian doctor Chris Miller, from Newcastle, has recently begun working in Taro in the north of the Solomon Islands. He is working with PALMS Australia and with the help of Catholic Mission was able to take three shipping containers of medical supplies and equipment, as well as books, manual sewing machines and other practical items.

Catholic Weekly/Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle

'Need for reconciliation' (Catholic Weekly)
Caritas Australia | Solomon Islands Intervention: Caritas Australia Policy Brief - summary (HTML), full version (PDF)
A Man on a Mission (Aurora) Part 1 | Part 2
Religious give qualified support to Solomons intervention (28/7/03)
Solomon Islands militants ready to lay down weapons (NZ Herald)
Solomons Archbishop urges warlord to surrender (8/7/03)
Islanders need help to move to peace (Archbishop Adrian Smith, Sydney Morning Herald 7/7/03)
Big trouble in little paradise called Solomons (Catholic Leader)
The Catholic Church in the Solomon Islands
Pacific Islands Religious

31 Jul 2003