Faith: The Journal of the International League of Religious Socialists

Winter 2001 Edition (HTML Version)

Previous Editions
Religious Socialists in the Dominican Republic
The Stockholm Process: A Plan for ‘Smart Sanctions’
Retrospective: Highlights from Past ILRS Congresses
Managua 1986: No Peace Without Justice and Democracy
Report from the ACUS Congress Alois Reisenbichler

Religious Socialists in the Dominican Republic

Andrew Hammer

In November I attended the Socialist International Council in Santo Domingo, and in addition to representing the ILRS at the Council, I was also on a mission to meet with a religious socialist group in the Dominican Republic. I had heard of this group a few months earlier during an SI meeting in Buenos Aires, where the representative of the Partido Revoluciónario Dominicano (PRD), Fausto Liz, told me that I had to meet with this group when I came to Santo Domingo.

Fausto had prepared well in advance. Less than 15 minutes after my arrival at the hotel, I was met by Pedro Sánchez, the energetic and charismatic president of the Frente Naciónal de Cultos (FNC) [in English: National Movement of Faiths]. Immediately I learned from Pedro that he had been following the developments of the ILRS with great interest, and that the FNC wanted to become a member organisation. During our meetings over the next three days, Pedro introduced me to other comrades in the FNC as well as PRD leader Hatuey de Camps, and I also had the opportunity to observe a meeting of the PRD youth organisation.

The FNC has the distinction of being established by the late leader of the PRD, José Francisco Peña Gómez, who wanted to create a space where religious believers within the party could express and develop their political concerns. Conceived in 1990 as a project of the party, by 1992 the project had become an official department of the party, and by 1995 it was formally established as the organisation it is today. In 1994 the organisation achieved one of its greatest triumphs in Dominican civil society by issuing a call for a ‘day of speaking for peace’, which was successful in de-escalating a national conflict after that year’s contentious elections.

The mission of the FNC is to ‘unify, integrate, and consolidate the religious and political sentiments of men and women of different denominations with the objective of bringing about a new style of political practice based in the principles of the PRD.’

We welcome a closer relationship with the FNC in future, and look forward to their application to join the ILRS.

Web Update (12 April 2002):
The FNC has formally applied for membership in the ILRS, and has been recommended by the ILRS Executive Committee for full membership at the 2003 Congress.

The Stockholm Process:
A Plan for ‘Smart Sanctions’

In the matter of sanctions against nations whose actions violate international law, there has always been a debate as to whether sanctions achieve their desired result, and if they do, at what cost to innocent people? Recently there has been movement in the international community to develop a method of ‘smart sanctions’ which would allow violating nations to be sanctioned in such a way as to not harm the lives of the innocent citizens of those nations, but instead to punish those in the government who are responsible for committing the offences. Now known as the Stockholm Process, this approach to the use of sanctions holds promise for their use in future. The web link below will take you to a site that explains the entire process in detail.

Read the background document on smart sanctions from the Smart Sanctions web site

Retrospective: Highlights from Past ILRS Congresses

Managua 1986: No Peace Without Justice and Democracy

As we are improving our archive of ILRS documents available online, we decided to feature some highlights from previous ILRS congresses. In this issue, we are featuring a speech from our 1986 Managua Congress, which focused on the injustices visited upon the Third World, particularly in the context of US intervention in Central America. The Managua Congress was the first ILRS congress held outside of Western Europe.

The following speech is from Dr. Christian Åhlund, a Swedish solicitor and an expert on international law, who ironically, in the context of present-day events, mentions the US role in Afghanistan, among other acts of intervention.

Dr. Christian Åhlund
go to the article

from the ACUS Congress

Alois Reisenbichler

Reported by Alois Reisenbichler
Translated and redacted by Andrew Hammer

2001 ACUS Federal Congress: Christianity and Social Democracy: Together for the Weak

1. Initialization:
The chairman of the SPÖ Vorarlberg NR Manfred Lackner opened the Federal Congress of Arbeitsgemeinschaft Christentum und Sozialdemokratie (ACUS), which took place in Batschuns from 26 to 28 October 2001, on the evening of the Austrian national holiday.

The Vorarlberger Social Democrat decidedly spoke out against all denials of asylum to asylum-seekers inside and outside of Austria: ‘There we as Social Democrats are enjoined for the weak; we must plainly defend the right to asylum against the reactionary attacks from Kärnten.’ On the comments of Federal Chancellor Schüssel against the neutrality of Austria, Lackner said: ‘Having Schüssel as Federal Chancellor is what is superfluous, not our eternal neutrality.’

2. Keynote Address from Bishop Bernhard Heitz:
Old Catholic bishop Bernhard Heitz delivered the keynote address on 27 October. Bishop Heitz spoke out with an "indignant speech", which could have induced the powerful to take another response than force after the terrorist attacks of 11 September: "It is valid to build a world, in which the weak are not held under poverty, and in which the cycle of the use of force is broken through by the experience of world-wide justice." It is the only response against poverty and hopelessness. It requires a fair international economic system and a better development policy.

Bishop Heitz then entered into the area of local politics by suggesting that all economic decisions undergo a ‘social compatibility check’ and pleaded beyond that for a world-wide, inter-cultural and inter-religious dialogue. It must be locally based, but globally minded. Also all political decisions would have to be subjected to a check for ethical compatibility and sustainability. For all church and religious actions the bishop called for examinations of compatibility with the Gospel and ecumenical concerns. Here the churches would have to be much more courageous. Lastly, Bishop Heitz reported the contents of the Oekumeni social report of all Christian churches in Austria and gave some examples from that report which could have a quite explosive yield for our society and for the churches.

3. Address from Rudolf Kaske:
The leader of the Hotel, Guest Trade, and Personal Service Workers’ trade union, Rudolf Kaske, noted in his speech ‘that it is important to raise our voice not for those in the light, but those in the shadows.’ ‘We should give thought to the idea’, said Kaske, ‘that we all cannot have an equally large piece of cake. Poverty is not fate, however, but it can, through direct social politics be avoided and pushed back.’ Finally Kaske the words of the late Social Minister and trade unionist Alfred Dallinger: ‘It has become more colder in this country.’ ‘This saying is valid’ under the current government more than ever, ended Kaske.

4. International
The dialogue between Christianity and social democracy and the discussion between religions and the feminist workers’ movement is an international movement. The Vice-President of the ILRS, Dr. Irene Häberle, stressed that the theme ‘“together for the weak ones” is altogether too little; we must say “together with the weak ones”, e.g. with the disadvantaged who live on the edge, pushing on the implementation of the realm of God where all people have a place.’ The ILRS is an associate member of the Socialist International and offers an international platform for the dialogue between religions and socialist politics.

5. Panel Discussion
The congress continued on Sunday, 28 October 2001 with a panel discussion on the conference theme ‘Together for the weak’: SPÖ Vorarlberg NR Chair Manfred Lackner said: ‘It is time to think about whether welfare cuts and exclusion are still current today, where on one side abundance and large prosperity prevail. Social democracy must strongly take up these topics and together with the citizenry mediate another economic, financial and social politics.’ The Caritas Seelsorger minister Elmar Simma said: ‘We Christians should make the “gospel compatibility check” with the effort around social justice and ask the question: Does this correspond to the Law and Justice to which God calls us?’

Pfarrerin Maga. Fridrun Weinmann (Evangelical Church) stressed: "in present and future it will become ever more necessary to follow the words of the Prophets and to be concerned with justice. Only that can be the root of peace. We must ensure a share for all people of this world." Otto Kazil determined: ‘The economy has the function to create the increase in value and the policy the job to distribute this increase in value socially." Maga. Renata Schmidtkunz placed the referendum welfare state Austria, which is supported of the SPÖ and the ACUS, forwards: ‘the welfare state has secured social peace in Austria. The anchoring of “social nationhood” in the Austrian condition is to come in the future.’

6. Ecumenical Service
The congress was closed with an ecumenical service. Minister Elmar Simma referred with the greetings on a well-known church song: ‘God loves this world. Help, Lord, my life, that I am not here on Earth in vain.’ Pfarrerin Maga. Sabine Neumann quoted Jesus: ‘Let you in My grace be sufficient, because My strength is powerful in the weak.’ Old Catholic bishop Bernhard Heitz stressed: ‘Who wants to live, like God in this world, must live for others.’

7. Demands
ACUS Chairman Richard Schadauer presented the resolutions of the congress:

The ACUS demands a clear rejection of every form of neoliberalism by social democracy as well as the churches. ‘This means a “conversion” of all people, including some in the social-democratic movement, away from the location and cost thinking for the social justice necessary’, said Schadauer.

The ACUS stands against welfare cuts and privatisation: ‘important things such as post office, course, health service and education do not belong in the hands of profit-greedy entrepreneurs.’ A concrete concept for the introduction of a basic income, which enables all people a decent life in Austria, is to be compiled in the context of the ACUS and the SPÖ.

The ACUS demands the swift implementation of the demands of the women’s referendum and supports the welfare state referendum, which was presented at the congress. ‘Peace and justice belong together’, as it is written in the Psalms. The ACUS expresses itself with clarity against terror as well as against the US war against civilians in Afghanistan. ‘Our neutrality is a opportunity, to not make war our means of struggle. Neutral Austria can, through an active peace policy, make a contribution to the removal of world-wide social injustice, for disarmament (above all of nuclear weapons), and to the solution of the regional conflicts.’, Schadauer said.

Alois Reisenbichler is a longtime SPÖ activist and former assistant to SPÖ leader Alfred Gusenbauer. He is a member of the Executive Committee of the ILRS.

This site was created and designed by Andrew Hammer
©2001 ILRS