August 05, 2014

Compassion and Perseverance in International Politics

A reflection on my year as an intern with the Sisters of Mercy at the United Nations

For the past year, I have had the privilege of interning with the Sisters of Mercy, through Mercy Global Action at the United Nations (UN). I assisted Sister Aine O’Connor, the Sister of Mercy representative at the UN, with a number of tasks including researching, writing, advocating, and collaborating on persisting issues such as human trafficking and mining abuse. Our mission was clear: to ensure that the people’s voices from the forty-four countries where the Sisters of Mercy live and minister are voiced and heard at the UN.

My experience over the past year has re-affirmed my commitment to a life and career dedicated to fighting for social justice and peace. I grew both spiritually and professionally, seeing more clearly my role and commitment to trying to make this world a more just and sustainable place for current and future generations to enjoy. My personal and theoretical scope for understanding complex global systems was broadened as I learned to re-define the meanings of community, strength, and progress as an advocate with the Sisters of Mercy at the UN.

This was my first experience with the Sisters of Mercy and at the United Nations. I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect, but after my first week, I was assured that this was the ideal place to foster my development and commitment to effectively exposing the root causes of our most formidable development challenges. Although I was not previously familiar with the work of the Sisters of Mercy and their office at the UN, I was surprised at how quickly I came to resonate with their mission and vision and cultivate it as my own.

My beliefs, values, and ideals did not per say change as a result of cultivating the Mercy spirit, but rather, I was able to develop a more tangible understanding of my spiritual and professional calling. Spiritually, I came to understand the importance of cultivating compassion throughout the work we set out to do at the UN. Working for a faith-based organization, like the Sisters of Mercy, helps maintain a sense of compassion at the UN and in these international spaces—a component that is far too often lost in the politics at the UN, but critical to bringing about constructive change. With the help of Aine O’Connor rsm, I was able to face each new day with renewed determination and strength to fight for those who have been unjustly marginalized in society.

I learned how to cultivate new meanings to words such as community, strength, and progress. During the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) in March, the Sisters of Mercy brought in a number of women from around the world to share their stories, struggles and visions for making this planet a more just and sustainable place for current and future generations to enjoy. I was particularly touched after hearing stories from Sister Margie Taylor, a Sister of Mercy from Newfoundland, and Simona Broomes, who collaborates with the Sisters of Mercy in Guyana.

While both of these amazing women shared different experiences from different parts of the world, their stories are surprisingly similar—where both have experienced firsthand the numerous social and environmental harms caused by the extractive development model and its link to issues such as human trafficking. Like so many other amazing women I have met during my internship, both of these women are also fighters, dedicating their lives to serving others and the planet in the name of social justice and peace.

By bringing women together at the UN during events such as CSW, the Sisters of Mercy at the UN allows a space for women from around the world to come together and voice shared concerns. In such a space, one’s sense of community is expanded; extending to the global what was previously only realized at the local. By extending our sense of community to the global, the Sisters of Mercy at the UN provides a space for activists to support each other’s endeavors in bringing about awareness, collaboration and change collectively. Being part of this and seeing new relationships blossom was truly an inspiration and gift that I will never forget.

I’ve learned of the vast challenges and obstacles that exist at nearly every level at the UN to bring about change. Maintaining a positive attitude was not always easy during my year at the UN. There were times when I would feel almost defeated after months of advocating on a seemingly indisputable issue, like the right to water, and see no tangible results. Witnessing the Sisters of Mercy’s strength in perseverance, however, inspired me to stay committed. I learned that progress means many things beyond “fixing a problem” and that perseverance, faith and endurance are a part of the journey.

While I learned to see the many facets of progress, the last day of my internship particularly stuck out. On July 19th at 4AM, the ambassador of Palau, with support from six other countries, called for the inclusion of the “human right to water” in the chapeau (introduction) of the Open Working Group on Sustainable Development’s proposed Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The next day, we marked it as a success as it became one of only a few human rights named in proposed SDGs.

I am so grateful to have had this wonderful opportunity. My experience over the last year has given me more hope, insight and the necessary tools for expanding my awareness for bringing about much-needed change for current and future generations of this world. While I am sad that my internship with the Sisters of Mercy has come to a conclusion, I am assured that the spirit of Mercy will always shine bright in me, continuously guiding my spiritual and professional commitment to social justice and peace by exposing and effectively remedying the root causes of our most formidable development challenges.

Gratitude to the Sisters of Mercy with special thanks to Sister Aine O’Connor and Sister Denise Boyle for giving me this life-changing opportunity.

Messages to: Devin Tellatin

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