CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 15 June 2019

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Philanthropy requires more than money


SYDNEY (SE): The man who once fell out with the Vatican for undisclosed reasons after going into an interfaith partnership to combat human trafficking in the world, has donated $400 million Australian ($2.34 billion) to a variety of charities.
Mining magnate, Andrew, better known as Twiggy Forrest, together with his wife, Nicola, has donated amounts ranging from AUD50 million ($293.5 million) to AUD75 million ($440.1 million) to cancer research, community development, higher education and creating better opportunities for children.
In addition, amounts have gone to ending modern slavery and creating a society that gives each member an equal opportunity.
Forrest is a born again philanthropist, with a passionate belief in the value of sharing resources for the betterment of the whole of society.
The Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) reported him as saying, "I have been very fortunate, with my wife, Nicola, to be able to accumulate capital, and then as soon as we can, to commence giving it away."
Forrest added, "We had a slightly unsustainable business model previously, where we would actually borrow money to give it away. Fortunately, we don't have to do that now, thanks to the strength of the iron ore sector."
In thanking Forrest for his generosity, the prime minister, Malcolm Turnbull, noted, "But all of us should seek to do as much as we can with what we have. So, this is real leadership and leading by example."
On 17 March 2014, Archbishop Marcelo Sánchez Sorondo joined senior representatives from Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism and some Christian denominations, including Archbishop Justin Welby, from Canterbury, and the Ecumenical patriarch of Constantinople at the Vatican to sign a joint declaration aimed at ending modern slavery.
The interfaith alliance was formed under the name of the Global Freedom Network to combat human trafficking. It was financed and launched by Forrest.
However, the happy honeymoon lasted only a year or so and on July 30 the following year, the Vatican announced that it had pulled the plug on the agreement some time previously.
While the Vatican never disclosed any reason for pulling out of the deal, the United Nations did.
Its adviser on human trafficking at the time, Anne Gallagher, said that money alone cannot solve this problem, as know how and understanding of the problem is vital as well.
Gallagher told ABC Television's Four Corners current affairs programme at the time that the battle against labour exploitation must go hand in hand with the wage question and the strengthening role that trade unions play in developing countries.
Speaking of Forrest, she said, "We've got someone who's got a lot of money, who's got access to global power and who can actually do things. But while his understanding of the problem is so basic, so unsophisticated, that power and that money is not being used as it should be."
Gallagher continued, "The trouble with the approach of Walk Free and of the Global Slavery Index is that it assumes this problem can be fixed by pushing governments, by getting a lot of young people to sign up to petitions that go to corporations."
The Walk Free website says that the joint declaration by the signatories, one of which is Forrest, "Underscores the searing personal destructiveness of modern slavery and human trafficking, and calls for urgent action by all other Christian Churches and Global Faiths."
Forrest says, "At absolutely no point in time was this a business initiative. Walk Free Foundation provided all the funding to the Global Freedom Network when the two historic initiatives of the December 2 proclamation and of the Islamic Fatwa condemning Slavery was achieved."
He added, "This was over €1 million ($12.34 million at the time) in direct funding in addition to substantial other costs. Walk Free Foundation continues to proudly support the Global Freedom Network."
The goals of the network are to foster awareness among religious communities about modern slavery, in other words prostitution, forced labour and organ trafficking.
Other goals include the promotion of fair trade, boosting care for victims and survivors, exercising pressure on governments and parliaments, promoting social awareness and fundraising.
However, this time Forrest is going through established institutions and universities in Australia in pursuit of his goals.
Apart from the financial, he has also contributed on other levels and was nominated for Australian of the Year this year for his work in raising awareness of the existence of the disparity in life opportunity between the indigenous population and other sectors, as well as the curse of modern slavery.
It is the biggest single donation ever made by a living person in Australia's history, but as the former premier of New South Wales, Kristina Keneally, says it is not all about splashing the cash around.
"Forrest's philanthropy is great. But he could have just paid more tax," she remarked.


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