Category Archives: Learn

Pope’s Visit to Bangladesh

December 12, 2017

Author: Christopher Cox

Category: Learn

Pope Francis meets with a Rohingya refugee during an interreligious meeting at the Archbishop's house in Dhaka on December 1, 2017. Pope Francis arrived in Bangladesh from Myanmar on November 30 for the second stage of a visit that has been overshadowed by the plight of hundreds of thousands of Rohingya refugees. / AFP PHOTO / Vincenzo PINTO (Photo credit should read VINCENZO PINTO/AFP/Getty Images)

Pope Francis meets with a Rohingya refugee during an interreligious meeting at the Archbishop’s house in Dhaka on December 1, 2017.

A guest post from Rosaline Costa

The blessings of Pope Francis for Bangladesh is a special grace today not only for the Catholic Christian community but as a whole for the people of the country. His presence has been so important today in my opinion because the country has been going through several important and long-term crises – political unrest and power games, human rights violations for the religious minorities, a huge influx of Rohingya refugees, the plight of garment workers, poverty, and, worst of all, the rapid growth of Islamic extremism. Ordinary people, the majority of a population of 160 million people, are helpless. At this very critical time the Pope’s visit to Bangladesh, his speeches, the Holy Mass, meeting with inter-religious groups and the Rohingya representatives have brought a kind of hope, relaxation and peace among people.

In three days of addresses delivered in Bangladesh, never did Pope Francis assert that his visit was only for the Christians, but for all people. He spoke in favor of dialogue, peaceful living together, patience, cooperation, and unity in diverse religious beliefs. The following quotation struck me very deeply:

The words we have heard, but also the songs and dances, that had enlivened our assembly, have spoken to us eloquently of the yearning for harmony, fraternity and peace embodied in the teachings of the world’s religions. May our meeting this afternoon be a clear sign of the efforts of the leaders and the followers of the religions present in this country to live together in mutual respect and goodwill.

He further stressed on the cooperation among people of different faiths. He said:

It is a particularly gratifying sign of our times that believers and all people of good will feel increasingly call to cooperate in shaping a culture of encounter, dialogue and cooperation in the service of our human family. This entails more than mere tolerance. It challenges us to reach out to others in mutual trust and understanding, and so to build a unity that sees diversity not as a threat, but as a potential source of enrichment and growth. It challenges us to cultivate an openness of heart that views others as an avenue, not a barrier.

Pope Francis spoke indirectly to protect the environment, respect the workers, remembered the tragic collapse of Rana Plaza, among other concerns. While speaking about the political corruption he said, “How much our world needs heart to beat strongly, to counter the virus of political corruption, destructive religious ideologies and the temptation to turn a blind eye to the needs of the poor, refugees, persecuted minorities and those who are most vulnerable.”

The Pope stressed praying for one another and empathy to preserve peace among people of different faiths. I heard of some non-Christians giving important reactions to the visit of Pope in Bangladesh. Among them, some Muslim youths expressed their heartfelt hope that the Pope’s visit will bring unity and cooperation among people.

I feel also that no other religious leader would carry as much influence as Pope Francis did in Bangladesh and Myanmar. Previously, no other religious leader was approached by wide swaths of people. Yes, the Dalai Lama is one, but I have not seen him surrounded by massive and diverse people like Pope Francis during his Papal Visit in South Asia.

I am sure this visit will bring changes among the ordinary people but I have a question in my mind how long our Catholic and Christian religious leaders and the political leaders will be able to preserve memorable events. Will they be as before, running after power, name and fame, instead of thinking for the people for whom they have been called, or will they have heart to put into practice in their own life of what Pope has said and something of the life that he leads?

Rosaline CostaRosaline Costa has worked at the office of the Justice, Peace and Human Rights under the Justice and Peace Commission of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Bangladesh for 30 years, from June 1986 up to the date she left Bangladesh in early July 2016. The Commission’s working area was not only in Bangladesh but South and South-East Asia also. During this time, Rosaline worked extensively for women garment workers, on issues of child labor, and on behalf of religious and ethnic minorities.

Report: Global Pollution Kills One in Six People

October 10, 2017

Author: Christopher Cox

Category: Learn

Air_Pollution_in_DhakaAn extraordinary new medical study reveals that pollution kills nine million people every year. Put another way, that is at least one of every six deaths on the planet, and the tally could be higher as the consequences of pollution remain poorly understood.

The report from The Lancet Commission on pollution and health makes a stark claim:

Pollution disproportionately kills the poor and the vulnerable. Nearly 92% of pollution-related deaths occur in low-income and middle-income countries and, in countries at every income level, disease caused by pollution is most prevalent among minorities and the marginalised. Children are at high risk of pollution-related disease and even extremely low-dose exposures to pollutants during windows of vulnerability in utero and in early infancy can result in disease, disability, and death in childhood and across their lifespan.

The Lancet, a weekly peer-reviewed general medical journal, is one of the world’s oldest and best known general medical journals.

One graphic from the study illustrates the global impact of pollution deaths by country:

Figure 8 Number of deaths per 100 000 people that are attributable to all forms of pollution, 2015 GBD Study, 2016.42

Figure 8
Number of deaths per 100 000 people that are attributable to all forms of pollution, 2015
GBD Study, 2016.42

While the study does not make this claim, it does not surprise us, given the garment industry’s vast contribution to the world’s pollution, that countries that make a lot of clothes also have a lot of people die from pollution with India and Bangladesh among the highest per capita deaths attributable to pollution. Again, while the study does not make a formal empirical correlation, it may not be too strong to say that “our clothing kills.” Pollution from chemicals in cotton fields, from the petroleum-based synthetic fibers, from the dyes, and from the disposal of our clothing in landfills, creates a deadly toxic mess.

The Guardian provided an excellent summary of the study here.

A one-page info-graphic, provided by The Lancet, about the studies finding can be found here.

Book recommendation: Sewing Hope

October 10, 2017

Author: Christopher Cox

Category: Learn

Sewing Hope

Sewing Hope

This new book from UC Press chronicles the Alta Gracia factory in the Dominican Republic, which boasts a living wage, high health and safety standards, and a legitimate union – all verified by an independent monitor. The Human Thread received an advance copy to review. Sewing Hope is both full of data with academic rigor arguing for a living wage as well as rich stories of the impact in human lives of such a wage. We highly recommend the book.

The books authors are Sarah Adler-Milstein and Professor John M. Kline, a keen ally in the work of The Human Thread. Adler-Milstein is a worker-rights advocate and has served as Field Director for Latin America and the Caribbean for the Worker Rights Consortium. Professor Kline is Professor of International Business Diplomacy at Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service. He is the author of four books, including the textbook Ethics for International Business.

Orders for the book may be placed here, or from your favorite local book seller.

Details announced for Papal Visit to Bangladesh

October 10, 2017

Author: Christopher Cox

Category: Learn

Yesterday, the Vatican Press Office released the program for the Apostolic Visit of His Holiness Francis to Myanmar and Bangladesh (November 26 to December 2, 2017). The full calendar can be found here.

Here at The Human Thread, we have our eyes focused on this visit. Catholic News Service has a summary of the highlights of the program here. While nothing on the official calendar commits Pope Francis to speaking directly about the conditions of garment workers, he will be visiting the National Martyrs’ Memorial in Savar, the same community northwest of Dhaka where the Rana Plaza building once stood.

For obvious reasons, the ongoing Rohingya crisis will dominate the headlines, but Pope Francis’ visit to two extremely poor countries will likely elevate solidarity, care for creation, and human rights in unexpected ways.