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Anti-whalers stumped – by the 'Word of God'

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Contact: Earl Bousquet

Basseterre, Saint Kitts, June 18, 2006:-- Anti-whaling campaigners were stumped on the opening day of the 58th annual conference of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) – by the word of God.


For the second time in its history, the IWC meeting is taking place in the Caribbean, which has a deeply Christian religious background.


In this Caribbean region where most invoke spiritual guidance to help solve controversial matters, meetings usually begin with prayers. Thus, a priest was called upon to pray at the opening session of the IWC Conference, which started on the island of Saint Kitts on the morning of June 16.


Reverend Fr Isaiah Phillip, an Anglican cleric, quoted “sacred Christian writings” to call on God to guide the deliberations in a way that will allow participants to understand why regions like the Caribbean insist on their right to sustainable use of their coastal resources.


Noting that “in our region much of what we do in life is under-girded by a very strong Christian influence,” Rev Fr Phillip quoted Genesis 1:27-28, which he said was “part of the Christian understanding of the very nature of the world and human beings’ place within it.”


He said that passage “teaches us that God created the whole universe and has enlisted us human beings as part of that creation to assist him in the management of the world’s resources.”


“An important aspect of that management on behalf of our God who owns it all, is for us to use the resources of our world in such a manner that we sustain and support life, while at the same time preserve the integrity of the universe,” said the Christian cleric, to the nodding acknowledgement of the sustainable use group, which includes Caribbean delegates.


“This is an awesome task and it has to be approached with the greatest clarity of mind and depth of understanding,” said the Kittitian priest.


He noted that “for us Caribbean peoples, the seas that literally surround our lives are part and parcel of God’s blessings to us.”


Fr Phillip therefore urged the participants to “be sensitive to the real situations of peoples like us, who depend on harvesting the resources of the seas for our livelihood.”


He urged participants “not to get bogged down in and by the vociferous and well-publicized views that are bent on outlawing the harvesting of marine resources.”


“That,” he warned, “could be disastrous to the very existence of some small island communities, where people depend heavily on the fishing industry.”


Fr Phillip urged the participants to “consider the issues on the basis of the empirical findings of the scientists” and to “come up with final decisions that allow everyone to use the marine resources of our world in a way that sustain and support all life, while preserving and protecting the environment.”


He urged “the Lord” to “gracefully direct their final decisions that they may help to preserve, support and give encouragement to the deepest aspirations and rights all peoples everywhere, who desire to uphold and participate in the sustainable use of the marine resources of the world.”


Rev Phillip also invited “the Lord” to “fill every delegation with sensitivity to the needs and concerns of others,” but, above all, “to make everyone responsive and thankful to your call and challenge to use the resources of the world to sustain and support all life and in preservation of the environment.”


The Christian cleric's message was warmly received by the sustainable use lobby.


However, his invocation was largely ignored by the anti-whaling campaigners, who, as in the past, continued to advocate that developing countries should cease whaling and embrace whale watching.


The anti-whaling lobby – led by the USA, UK, Australia, New Zealand and Brazil -- on the first two days of the conference, voted against every proposal by Japan and the sustainable use lobby.


As the IWC meeting entered its third day on Sunday, there was no indication that the anti-whaling campaigners had paid any heed to the priest's urgings. They vowed to oppose Japan and the sustainable use countries on every motion and have so far been keeping their word.


“Clearly,” said one Caribbean delegate, “the big countries think and act like they're bigger than God. They think their word is bigger than that of God.”


“But,” he concluded, “the Lord has a way of showing His power, by visiting them with catastrophes that they are unable to either predict or avoid.”


For the first time in many years, the IWC's annual conference continued on a Sunday -- which is the Sabbath for most Caribbean people, who prefer to go to church and pay their respects to their God.


Sunday was also Fathers Day. But as the meeting continued, it was quite clear that those opposed to whaling didn't care that it was a Holy Day.


As they plodded ahead with their agenda, it was also clear that they were not about to pay any attention whatsoever to either what the Reverend Father said on the opening day, or what the day means to most Caribbean fathers – or even the Holy Father.

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