Poverty ‘a cause of terrorism’, Carr tells Iraq appeal launch
By Marilyn Rodrigues
Poverty is a cause of terrorism, which in turn is a cause of the global refugee crisis, says NSW Premier Bob Carr.
One answer to poverty would be the removal of trade barriers by richer countries to imports from poorer countries.
Mr Carr offered this option at a function at Parliament House to launch Caritas Australia’s NSW Iraq Appeal.
“A major cause of the world refugee crisis is, in fact, terrorism and a major cause of terrorism is poverty,” he said.
The Al-Qaeda leader, Osama Bin Laden, and others like him get their support because “they call on people who are living in poverty in the Gaza strip and elsewhere”, he said, “people who have no future and live in despair”.
Quoting former US President Bill Clinton, the Premier said: “The wealthy countries of the world can do one powerful thing above all to assist those living in poverty … and that is to buy their produce”.
For example, he said, garments and textiles from poor countries attract high import taxes when they seek entry to wealthy countries.
“Bangladesh, one of the poorest countries in the world, pays America $314 million a year in import taxes, about the same that France pays,” he said.
He paid tribute to Sydney’s Catholic community for the support they give to Caritas Australia, and to Caritas for its decision to help the people of Iraq.
The Iraq appeal is “an expression of the Church’s mission of pastoral care and service”, he said.
Jack de Groot, national director of Caritas, said Caritas has encountered some scepticism in making its case for the appeal.
It is not always easy to gain support for Iraq because many Australians were opposed to the war there and marched against it, he said.
“It is hard to suddenly change from a non-interventionist argument to an interventionist one,” he said.
“But that psychological shift of 180 degrees is now required.
“It is a shift that many people are making as they look at the suffering and violence in Iraq today.
“As Christians, it is our imperative to respond to this suffering.”
Mr de Groot said that living standards in Iraq have dropped by 90 per cent since 1979 because of the Iraq regime’s war with Iran, and then Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait and the resulting Gulf War.
“However, Iraq has a substantial, educated middle class … capable of quickly reforming the country,” he said.
“This makes the investment in helping them now, before their circumstances deteriorate too profoundly, a sound one.”
Mr de Groot said contributions to the appeal would be sent to Caritas Iraq to assist with people’s medical and housing needs and to repair vital infrastructure such as water and ewerage plants.
There is also a food program for vulnerable groups such as the elderly, the disabled, and orphaned children, and a supplementary food program for malnourished children and lactating and pregnant women.
Almost eight per cent of children in Iraq are now “acutely malnourished and wasting away”, Mr de Groot said.
Tasks ahead for Caritas in Iraq include establishing a rural development program; eliminating unexploded weapons; assisting with peaceful resolutions of disputed land claims; easing unemployment and supporting democratic public debate.
But in the short term, the people of Iraq need “intense support”, he said.
The Archbishop of Sydney, Archbishop George Pell, thanked Caritas for the work it is doing on behalf of the Australian Catholic Church.
He said he found it “a little bit difficult to understand the logic of any Christian who would oppose the Iraq appeal” when our faith is based on premises that include an attitude of neighbourly concern for the foreigner and for the poor and suffering.