1 December 2011
Wellington Peacemakers concerned about the growing gap between rich and poor, visited the ‘Occupy Wellington’ movement last month.
With 151 New Zealanders having increased their wealth by $7 billion and foreign-owned banks posting billion dollar profits while 200,000 children live in poverty, this country is the third least equal society in the OECD.
These concerns expressed in the ‘Occupy Wellington’ vision statement would find many supporters among Catholics who are concerned about the increasing disparities in wealth in this country and the growing numbers of families which lack adequate food and the ability to participate fully in our communities.
Much of Occupy Wellington’s vision statement would be found in various encyclicals – concerns about peace, justice, equality, freedom, solidarity, sustainability and democracy. The vision that the earth’s resources be treated ‘as the common heritage of all the earth’s inhabitants’ can be found in the book of Genesis.
Wellington Catholic Peacemakers invited representatives of parish social justice groups to visit the Occupy Wellington site, marked by a group of tents off Civic Square, to meet some of those who are camping on the small lawn.
The main purpose of the visit was to better understand the concerns and aspirations of the ‘occupiers’.
The Occupy movement here follows its Wall Street counterpart which grew from what the occupiers saw as the greed and corruption of the banks, their role in the current financial crisis and the bail out of the banks using US taxpayers’ money when they got into financial difficulties. Instead of refunding the bail out money when the banks regained stability, the bankers paid themselves huge bonuses.
More than 2,000 cities have groups of occupiers, including at least three cities in Aotearoa New Zealand.
Regular ‘general assemblies’ at Occupy Wellington include anyone who wishes to attend, join the discussion on common concerns about building a better world and make suggestions. Two matters raised by the Catholic Peacemakers for the occupiers to consider were well received – that the Treaty of Waitangi be included in the vision statement, along with the power and threat of militarism.
During a tour of the site with Ruby from Occupy Wellington the group saw one of the regular workshops being held in an open-sided tent, the tents for those staying on site (including a well stocked food tent) and a wind generator for charging batteries.
Catholics who visit the Occupy Wellington site will find they have much in common with the committed and enthusiastic people there.