February 02, 2011

Global Action Lived Locally: A Case Study from Cambodia

The Institute of the Sisters of Mercy of Australia are involved throughout Australia, Papua New Guinea and Pakistan. Australian Mercy Sisters can be found also in Cambodia, East Timor, Sudan, Kenya, Ireland, England, Scotland, USA, Aotearoa New Zealand, and Peru.

Australia’s vision for Global Action stems from their Chapter Proclamation of 2010 as follows:


We Sisters of Mercy of Australia and Papua New Guinea find ourselves in a new moment, yearning to relate with a new heart to God, to each other and to all of creation. This directs us to look with new eyes, imagining new possibilities for communion and mission charged with God’s mercy. Our fidelity to this new consciousness demands personal and communal conversion. It impels us to respond with hearts centred in God, as we live the gospel in a world longing for God’s mercy. (Const. 3.32)

The following profile features an example of Sisters of Mercy of Australia embodying their vision in Cambodia.

Sr. Denise Coughlan works with Metta Karuna (meaning Mercy) Reflection Centre in Cambodia. The Centre is a place where foreigners and Cambodians through encountering storytelling, symbols and reflective moments can see the major issues confronting Cambodia through the eyes of the poor. The Centre is a place where Christians, Buddhists, Muslims and people with a desire to seek deeper meaning in their lives may stay and “rest a while”. Visitors are invited to reflect on reconciliation and peace in their own hearts and family, in their country and in the world.

The Centre holds seminar for peacemakers from conflicted countries in Sri Lanka, Burma, Mindanao, Thailand, Nepal India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Indonesia and Cambodia. All reflection takes place within an interfaith perspective.

Denise worked previously with the Jesuit Refugee Service in the Refugee camps, and came to see “even more clearly than previously that hands on action and advocacy need one another”. “To be credible and not seen as armchair theorists our advocacy work needs to be thoroughly informed by action at the grassroots and preferably with personal experience. On the other hand effective action at the community or even individual level needs to be backed up by action that addresses structural and global levels”.

The Centre in Cambodia has worked to forward an anti cluster bomb treaty (which has now become part of international law) and in ensuring plans for survivor assistance get implemented. It is also a place where people evicted from their land feel at home enough and safe enough to prepare for their court cases and compose lyrics that tell their story.

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