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Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People

People on the Move - N° 90,  December 2002, p. 55-66

Synthesis of the work done during the Congress

Rev. Fr. Jacques HAREL

AOS Chaplain, Mauritius

Introduction: “Gather the pieces left over so that nothing will be lost.”

As we near the end of the XXI° World Congress, I have been assigned the task of being the spokesperson for the Synthesis Committee.  What I shall try to do is to highlight the main ideas which have come out of this week’s work and to identify the trends and the direction in which the Congress has been progressing. We have also gathered the main conclusions and recommendations which will be taken into consideration in the final document that we hope will reflect the tremendous and remarkable efforts you have put in to this Congress this last week. 

The Committee has been unanimous in saying that the programme was well adapted and interesting and that the theme addressed the more important issues with which the seafarers, fishers, their families and the Chaplains and Ship Visitors in their ministry, are confronted on the context of globalisation.

What appeared immediately is that for us of  the Apostleship of the Sea (AOS), globalisation is not a theoretical concept but a daily reality.  This debate is timely as it is being held in an international context where tensions are running high and many questions are being asked.  It was therefore urgent that we of the AOS should have this debate and acquire new convictions for a better service to the people of the sea.

Therefore it is now most important that nothing be lost, and that reminds us of Jesus after the miracle of the multiplication of bread who says to his disciples John: 6:12.  "Gather the pieces left over so that nothing will be lost.  So they gathered them all and filled 12 baskets with the pieces left over.”

This report is divided into two parts.  The first part reflects the point that all of us heard from the speakers.  The second part will encompass concerns raised in the workshop.

I. What was said

The first day of the Congress was devoted to the setting of the theme “The Apostleship of the Sea in a new globalised world”.  H.E. Archbishop Hamao reminded us that globalisation is of great concern to the church and to the Pope and asked these questions:

“In the context of globalisation, is the AOS ready and willing to address the pastoral problems facing the people of the sea?”   If so how should we go about it?

a) We tried to answer these questions by listening to what you the participants had to say: first regional co-ordinators and through the interventions of individuals or groups.  Your comments gave a fair idea of how you see and live globalisation and what is its impact and effect in the daily lives of those you minister to:

  • Globalisation is here to stay and it is irreversible.
  • An imposition of western values on the rest of the world: “It is welcomed by the North but feared by the South”.  As the ISF representative puts it, “Free competition, the essence of globalization, is totally favourable to developed countries that have easier access to capital, technology, modern infrastructure, advanced managerial capacity…and the political power that allows them to adopt practical protectionist measures.”
  • Economic treaties and trade agreements and policies are beneficial to the North and detrimental to the South.
  • The gap between rich and poor is widening. As a result there is increased tension between nations, religions and cultures. There is a new frustration and anger among ordinary working people.  Racism and xenophobia are on the rise.  It is now common to hear such remarks as “Foreigners take our jobs”, “I am exploited”, “All white people are racist”,  “All Muslims are dangerous fanatics and cannot be trusted”
  • Globalisation in itself is neither good nor bad. At the moment it is bad because it seems to favour only one side – it will become good if it benefits the weakest and poorest of the world community.

b) What are the fallouts and consequences of globalisation on the shipping and fishing industries, the fishers and maritime and coastal communities?

1)    There are some short-term benefits.

  • More opportunities for Third World seafarers in international shipping.
  • The development of tourism in remote and poor areas.
  • Leasing of traditional fishing grounds for much needed foreign hard currency.
  • New technologies in fishing and shipping and ports more readily available.
  • Development of world trade and international co-operation and aid.
  • More population mobility.
  • Information and communication breaks isolation.
  • World public opinion especially in western countries, through market pressure and more comprehensive legislation can improve a particular situation.

2) Even these benefits and advances are wrought with problems and carry in them “the seeds of discontent”:

Careers in International Shipping: Developing countries have embarked on extensive training programmes.  While there are one million seafarers sailing on ships at any one time, there are perhaps as many more who are jobless or unemployable and looking desperately for a berth.  This is a fertile ground for all manner of corruption and exploitation.

Tourism:  Traditional and coastal fishers are nearly always the great losers of touristic development (sea sports, diving, fishing ....) that threatens their way of life and impinges on their rights.

Cruise Ships:  Is the fastest developing sector of the industry.  It is a labour intensive and seemingly glamorous sector, but it is rife with problems which are basically the same as in international shipping with the addition that it affects a lot more personnel and in a context of luxury and recreation. In the words of Mrs. Zhao, the stress is not only physical but also emotional. 

New Technologies:  “Men are being replaced by machines”. Crews are getting smaller and smaller, hence adding to pressure, working hours and fatigue. Ports are being more efficient and turnarounds are getting shorter (6 - 8 hours, or 2 hours for car carriers). New ports are being built in remote areas – there is no time to visit Seafarer Centres.

More Population Mobility:  With the result that diseases are spreading faster. The recurrence of malaria and tuberculosis is alarming.  In certain areas the AIDS pandemic is getting out of control.  Seafarers are a population especially at risk.

3) There are also outright negative aspects of globalisation which have been denounced.

Hon Peter Morris’ description of the dark side of shipping is alarming: “it is a substandard sector where many thousands of seafarers are being cheated, abused, exploited and treated like cattle, so becoming the freight fodder of today’s shipping world”. 

Mr Ardill quoted the Romans as saying that fishers were “a poor and deplorable people”; he then commented “a judgement that has not changed much over two thousand years.  Today some fishing vessels have been used as the modern galleys”.

  • National shipping and fishing fleets which cannot survive the competition of the global market are being replaced by international companies where the link between owner and ship is not always apparent or identifiable.
  • In Europe traditional or family shipping companies are being replaced by anonymous financial ventures.
  • The absence of  “identifiable link” between ship, crew and owner, plus the fact that 52.6% of the world ships tonnage fly a Flag of Convenience, and 75% of ships losses by gross tonnage begins to explain why so many crews are being abandoned in foreign ports to be cared for by charities and Seafarer´s Centres.
  • The FoC ships offer no job security or guarantee of continued employment.  Often they do not respond to safety and working hours minimum standards.
  • As demand greatly surpasses supply in the field of employment some manning agencies practise corruption, exploitation, blacklisting and contract substitution. Antonio Fritz of ITF spoke of a network of corruption and exploitation.
  • Often non-western or non-European personnel are offered only the lowliest jobs, although often they are highly qualified or experienced seafarers.  They often suffer bad treatment, discrimination and are treated disrespectfully (refer to the two Sailing Chaplains testimonies).
  • There is a growing poverty and unemployment in the worldwide maritime  community. A way of life is being threatened and for the families, especially young ones, the future is very uncertain.
  • In Cruise-ships: entrepreneurs try to optimise their investments and profit is the only goal at the expense of the crew.  The contrast between the luxury of passenger facilities and the crew’s quarters is striking.  Crew space is over-crowded, with no privacy or possibilities of recreation – there have been instances of sexual harassment etc.
  • Fishing industry: Fr Bruno Ciceri gave us a moving and first hand testimony of the appalling conditions in which fishers work in his region.  He called these fishing vessels “floating coffins” and denounced the unacceptable conditions of these young men.  He made a very strong appeal for more advocacy, lobbying and international pressure to try to change things.
  • In Madagascar, to fish is not considered to be a profession.  Their advice is never sought and their voice is never heard.

I would like to close this chapter on a positive note and remind you of the remarkable success story which is taking place in Brazil.  Thirty years ago, the fishing profession in this part of the Brazil was considered doomed.  Thanks to the works of Fr. Alfredo Schnuetgen - the fishing pastorate and the federation of fishers – young educated people are now becoming fishers and their average annual income has increased while the national average has decreased.

II. Challenges

We have heard the “cries” of the people of the sea confronted with the full impact of globalisation.  During this week we have tried to understand better this phenomenon and the challenges falling to us.  You have heard, I am sure, that in Chinese the same ideogram or word character that means problems and crisis also means challenges and opportunities.  During the homilies, presentations and intervention the Gospel and the teaching of the church were amply quoted and commented on.

1) On the very first day, Fr. Amado warned us that globalization is not easy to understand and to explain, as it is experienced today.  The other challenge is that when we speak of globalization we speak about our own life, our joys and sufferings.  Thus the danger of being prejudiced or being led by ideologies.  He added that, it would be a great sin to use the teaching of the gospel or the church to justify or ratify the negative effects of globalization.

Mr. Jeremy Turner of the FAO stated that the rules for this new global economy and market are only partially written and still being written, and are themselves the subject of considerable dispute.

On the other hand, Fr. Steckel reminded us that when confronting globalisation, we should tread humbly and carefully – in the past, members of the church had made mistakes!  We should not let ourselves be unduly influenced by the powers that be and by our own national, cultural or religious interests.

However we are not without bearings.  H.E. Archbishop Hamao has reminded us that the Popes have been “indefatigable advocates” of human rights and dignity; they have said again and again that our world and its people, God’s creation, needs and deserves another approach.

As early as in 1963 Pope John XXIII in a prophetic vision, Pacem in Terris, spoke of the need for a NEW WORLD ORDER.  Pope Paul VI in 1971 urged the world to have a sense of responsibility for the common good of mankind (Octogesima Adveniens, No. 46)

In 1991 John Paul II (Centesimus Annus No. 58) speaks of the necessity of giving international agencies more effective power to “oversee and direct” the global economy for the common good, to give support to nations and people who are lost in this new order.

Again in his homily H.E. Mgr Hamao reminded us that Pope John Paul II has urged all Christian people to make a preferential option for the poor.  That we shall be judged not only on the orthodoxy of our teaching but especially on the way we have loved the poor (Novo Millennio Ineunte, No. 49).

Above all human dignity must be the core value that must be respected.  Economy is for the man and not man for economy. 

Rev Sakari Lehmuskallio, ICMA President, stated that “faced with poverty which is the worst form of violation of human dignity, all Christian churches have a duty to witness together our common values, in order to control the excesses of globalisation.  We shall be prophetic if we are humble, truthful, respectful of others and not afraid of self-criticism”.

2) Many among us have tried to put forward some explanations to help us better understand this phenomenon and why it influences so much our daily lives.  These are some of the comments:

  • There is no limit to information and communication.  It accelerates time and brings people and nations nearer and influences them, shaping new ideas and a new way of life.
  • The roots of globalisation are to be found in capitalism and the market economy, which know no frontiers or limits.
  • Directly visible and more evident is financial and economical fallout, but globalisation has a big effect on political, social, religious, family and cultural life:
  1. Globalisation has ´consecrated´ the primacy of economical realities over all other areas.  In comparison national and personal interests have become secondary. Thus political power has weakened and states are losing their economical independence. Political control over the economy is less and less tolerated.
  2. There is an internationalisation of culture, and we witness a resurgence of  exaggerated nationalism and fundamentalism in religion.
  3. Globalisation affects religion: it brings with it a new world vision and new values.  It has given birth to consumerism.  It encourages a “consumer image of God”.  Our prayers must be listened to immediately, magically.  Hence the proliferation of sects, which have become a real problem onboard and on the waterfront.  Also in this new world there is little place for “forgiveness and gratuitousness”.  If one does not participate in the market, he will also be excluded from its benefits.  Often what we call justice may in fact be revenge and punishment.  In this context, there is a real danger that the Christian message be not taken seriously but derided as NAIVE.
  4. Globalization affects the family.  The family fears not only separation but also breakup.  For example, Mrs. Micayabas said, that marrying a seafarer changed her personality – it killed the woman in her because she needs to be a man to be a father figure.

I would like to close this chapter with two quotations:

Fr Steckel - “The church need not be afraid of globalisation as she herself was born of a global mandate from Christ”.

Fr Armado - “The best way to transmit our message is by testimony, to be witnesses of gratuitousness, by volunteer work – to testify that our lives need not be built on profit alone and on accumulation of goods and money”.

III. Recommendations

Several speakers, reminded us that our work in Rio should not remain on paper only but that it has to be turned into a “vital and productive reality”.  In other words, all recommendations and conclusions have to be studied and implemented when feasible.

  • It is our urgent task to help control the excesses of globalisation and give a more humane (and Christian) face to globalisation in the maritime world.
  • We must develop our spirituality of service, Diakonia, and a culture of solidarity.
  • There are more deacons involved in the AOS apostolate.  We welcome this new development and realize that this vocation is well adapted to the maritime world. We pray that many others hear this calling.
  • The judicial context of the law on maritime work is often inadequate to face the current consequences of globalisation.  We support any measure that will give the ILO more power and the means to implement its conventions.  These conventions must also apply to the fishing industry.
  • In this context of continued and increased exploitation, AOS must be even more committed to the defence of seafarer’s rights.  Among seafarers, the fishers are the most forgotten ones. We must stand by them and their families in complete solidarity whether they are industrial, artisanal or coastal fishing communities.  The traditional fishing communities must be protected and given a voice in their affairs.  All fishing agreements that favor one group over another must be denounced.
  •  Our pastoral work deserves more recognition by local churches / dioceses and by the bishops, clergy and lay people.  In many parts of the world, AOS is a low priority in terms of personnel, budget etc.
  • It is suggested that “maritime parishes” be encouraged to be more involved and to share in the apostolate of serving seafarers who are their parishioners.
  • It is essential to be ecumenical, to work fraternally and closely with other Christian churches in the Spirit of ICMA.
  • It is also important to have closer relations with Catholic Agencies such as CARITAS, CCFD, CAFOD and with other organizations such as ITF, ISF, SIRC, ICSW, ILO and IMO etc.
  • Seafarers Centres, are being less visited.  It is necessary to adapt to this new situation.  We must not be afraid to be critical of our services and to re-assess them, to conduct an audit with external help. (The England and Wales experience is very illuminating and could serve as a model).  In this context:
  • Ship visiting is becoming even more important.
  • Our ministry must become more mobile, hence the importance of good communications and transport.
  • Information Technology is of paramount importance: E-mail service, websites, help line, networking.  There is still a need for innovation and new initiatives.
  • We welcome the formation of ISAN (International Seafarer Assistance Network). It is designed as the first calling point for seafarers needing assistance or information;
  • Consequently AOS personnel must be better trained in IT and languages (especially English) and in the ministry (in the USA, meeting certain standards to achieve certification as a qualified chaplain).
  • It is of the utmost urgency that we should offer both training and support to young people who are starting a maritime career.
  • There is a need for a greater supply of material for nurturing the daily spiritual life of seafarers on board.  Spiritual books and brochures, hymn and prayer books, daily readings of the mass and daily prayers.  Training of Lay Eucharistic Ministers.
  • Making local newspapers available has proved a success and should be extended.
  • Unfortunately in some ports of the world, many centres have difficulties to make ends meet.  It has been suggested that the ITF Seafarer’s Trust consider changing its policy in circumstances of proven need to finance running costs on current budgets such as salaries. (What is the use of a bus if there is no driver?)
  • Sailing Ministry:  this ministry is timely and adapted and it responds to our needs – It should be extended and become part of our ordinary ministry.
  • There are still too many ports without AOS or any other seafarer’s ministry especially when we consider that all seafarers whatever their race, colour, religion, sex or political opinion, have a right and a need for our care and ministry.  More efforts should be made to develop our apostolate in a structured way, where it does not exist.
  • Wives, women and family associations must be encouraged, supported and developed among seafaring and fishing communities.
  • We must denounce the absence of work contracts, the abuse and exploitation of seafarers on merchant and fishing vessels, the selling of fishing licences (when they are against the interests of local fishers), depletion of stock,  “savage tourism” and pollution of the environment.
  • In the wake of September 11th, while we support all reasonable measures to increase each nation’s security, we recommend that these measures take into account the social needs of seafarers (e.g. shore leaves and ship visiting).   We agree that the adoption of an international ID card for seafarers could replace the need for a visa.
  • There is a resurgence of Malaria, Tuberculosis and Hepatitis.  The AIDS pandemic shows no sign of abating and constitutes a very serious threat and hazard to the health of seafarers and their families.  The Church is not indifferent and consequently we too of the AOS must engage resolutely in the:
  • formation and provision of morally oriented information;
  • care for the infected and the sick;
  • care for the families affected and for the orphans.
  • finally: Port Welfare Committees.  The local AOS should participate and where such committees do not exist, the local AOS should help to set up such committees by bringing together all the organisations concerned in welfare and anyone else who can help.

 Now we have reached the 2nd part of our presentation.  Eight specific topics which are especially relevant to the maritime community have been discussed in the workshops.  Now I shall ask Msgr. Jim Dillenburg and Deacon Albert Dacanay to read those.

IV. Workshops

I.- Stella Maris Centres: present situation and challenges

The role of Stella Maris Centres may be questioned in this age of globalization, and so the ministry as a whole  and the ministry  must be sensitive to and able to adapt to the new needs of seafarers, fishers, and their families. The workshop highlighted the importance of the Pastoral Care role of the Stella Maris Centres, providing the listening ear an open dialogue and a reliable commitment to the people of the sea.

Port Welfare Committees and Pastoral Teams must be established while the local, cultural and parish communities should be the backbone of the ministry. 

There is the urgency for openness to inter-faith communication and cooperation.    

 II.- The fishermen: the forgotten seamen

500 million lives are dependent on the fishing industry.  The constraints are scarcity of stock, conflicts between industrial fishing/factory ships and small scale traditional fishers. 

Lack of access to capital, but above all man-made constraints in the form of governance and policy issues.

The workshop recommended that there should be active lobbying and a campaign of information so that fishers be recognized as seafarers and thus benefiting from the ILO conventions and that new laws for their protection be introduced. The AOS should set up a “Fishing Commission” constituted of AOS members working with the fishers. 

“Fishing Chaplaincies” should be supported by networking.

III.- The ITF-Seafarers Trust and ICSW: new projects

ITF and ICSW realize the new challenges in the globalized and changing shipping industry. 

Quick turn-around times demand welfare service providers to explore new working methods to meet the needs of the seafarers and fishers. There is a growing concern about non-availability of phone line services on the ships. 

The group recommended the imperative need for local Catholic dioceses to   provide financial and manpower resources to train and develop chaplains, their staffs and volunteers, in order to improve and continue the AOS ministry to seafarers and fishers where it does not exist.

IV.- “Extended ship visiting” or the ICMA/SIRC so called “Sailing Chaplains”

Maritime ministry personnel have traditionally been able to rely on the flexibility of ship’s working routine to visit seafarers’ centers and avail themselves of their facilities, etc.

Now there are new conditions that does not allow this traditional approach.  In these circumstance, outreach schemes such as sailing chaplains and ship visiting have become once again highly relevant.

Research, seafarers themselves and shipping companies have made it clear that all

sailing chaplains and similar schemes provide services of quality to seafarers, which could not be delivered otherwise. We therefore recommend that AOS engages resolutely in the development of this program.

V.- Making the most of cyber-communication through the Stella Maris website and others

The AOS website is scheduled to be updated soon, making for easier access to data facilities for seafarers, chaplains and volunteers.  It will be most effective when everyone provides short news stories to seafarers in their various languages. Since at present the official AOS website seems to be generally unknown, it is recommended that it be regularly advertised in a prominent place in the AM Bulletin, with invitations to participate.

VI.- Role of women and families in the AOS and in the maritime community

Catholic women port communities are encouraged to find their worth not only in baking cookies and knitting caps, but also in contributing their expertise to social and religious questions being faced in seafaring families.  They are further encouraged to take initiatives that will bring port communities together to support and offer spiritual and practical guidance in the embrace of local AOS chaplaincies.

VII.- Prayer in an ecumenical or interfaith environment, the formation of  lay ministers

It was agreed that interfaith and ecumenical prayer and dialogue continue.  “Failures” are often the result of misunderstanding of basic tenets of other faiths.  A good way past this problem is to ask people directly about their religious celebrations.

The faith of all seafarers can best be respected by avoiding putting any pressure on anyone to participate in religious celebrations or prayer.  Instead, seafarers should be advised that time and space is available for them to pray.  Such respect will be furthered by providing religious objects sacred to other religions, e.g. Hindu oil lamp, Muslim carpet and scarves.

VIII.- Knowing and using the ILO and IMO instruments for the wellbeing of Seafarers and Fishers (onboard and ashore)

The FAO, ILO and IMO are presently collaborating to revise the Code of Safety for seafarers, fishers and even fishing vessels.  They are likewise in the process of defining international work standards for all. 

There is a strong concern in the USA about seafarers not allowed to go ashore in     the wake of the September 11th tragedy. There are comments that many countries have not ratified the ILO maritime conventions, and if it is ratified, they have not been implemented. We recommend that the ILO be given, like the IMO, the power to enforce its convention.

The group recommended that AOS should urge ILO and IMO to develop guidelines on provision of financial security  in case of abandonment of seafarers as well as ship owners responsibility to respect contractual claims.  AOS should urge all countries and all authorities to maximize shore leave opportunities and that welfare agencies should be allowed to visit ships.

V. Conclusion

This synthesis, we hope, will give a reflection of the proceeding of this Congress…which will remain memorable for the hospitality of the Brazilian people and the conviviality of the participants.

As a conclusion, we would like to share with you three (3) main ideas that we think have come out very strongly from the Congress:

  1. “We must globalize solidarity.”
  2. “Let us give a human face to globalization.”
  3. “The rules of globalization are still being written – let us invent a new world order that will take into account the values of the gospel and the social  teaching of the Church.”

As we hear this call for a new departure, let us remember the words of our Lord who tells us  Do not be afraid…I shall be with you always.”

Thank you.