February 01, 2012

Reflection on MIA Representation at the UN

The growing inequality and abject global poverty of our world, the commodification and annihilation of peoples and our planet caused by human made structures and systems – all of these convince me that it is both necessary and critical that the Sisters of Mercy be a presence at the United Nations.

“To hear God’s word, listen to the world.” William Reiser, S.J.

Our mission, as well as our membership from forty seven countries worldwide, places us in a unique position. As a non-governmental organization (NGO) with special consultative status with the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) of the UN, we hold both the competence and authority to bring our gospel values, our grassroots experience, and our social, political, and economic analytic strengths to bear on the global mission and mandate of the United Nations.

Since assuming the role of interim coordinator in June 2011 and being immersed in this global arena, three aspects of this ministry have energized me in acting for the Sisters of Mercy:

  1. working as part of the Mercy Global Action team and with our Sisters at the grassroots level to realize MIA’s vision of using our resources to address global poverty;
  2. joining NGO subcommittees at the UN to develop common advocacy strategies and lobby governments to further our two major concerns of opposing human trafficking and addressing cosmology and eco-justice which, in UN parlance, translates as work on sustainable development, poverty eradication, climate change and harmony with nature;
  3. seeing the possibilities for addressing the systemic causes of global poverty and forging with the community of life an alternative way of living and sharing in the common good.

At the same time, I am both challenged and energized by:

  1. learning to negotiate the massive UN system; and,
  2. grappling with the global scale of suffering caused by human made systems that destroy whole populations and threaten the future sustainability of the planet.

And so I am striving to hear God’s word by listening carefully to this world in which I am now ministering.

“The alternative to poverty is not wealth, it is justice.” Leonardo Boff

When asked by the MIA Board to consider this full-time appointment, I said yes for the following reasons:

  • First and foremost, the realities of impoverished and vulnerable peoples worldwide drive me to seek justice and convince me of the need to be at the table of the UN.
  • Second, I believe wholeheartedly in MIA’s vision to address global poverty, and I welcome the opportunity to work with our dedicated Mercy Global Action team.
  • Finally, God’s grace has showered me and I am responding with an abiding trust in God’s providence and promise that the reign of justice will prevail.

“Hope is to be lived… Hope means to engage hour by hour with life in such a way that one’s deeds express that which one hopes for.” Denise Ackermann

In the coming months Mercy Global Action at the UN will act to:

  1. strategize and forge the connections between our national and international lobbying efforts;
  2. trace the complex paths of injustice and build the capacity and structures so that the wisdom and experience of our members at the grassroots can impact global policy decision-making;
  3. explore creative spaces where people and Earth have a voice at the global decision making tables;
  4. build on work already done to educate and create Mercy forums for dialogue on the systemic and root causes of global poverty and increase the capacity of our members to address human and Earth’s concerns at the local, national and international levels;
  5. utilize the UN Human Rights System to document human rights abuses and draw upon best practices for change.

The future sustainability of our planet, the issues of poverty, food sovereignty, access to land, water and sanitation, the right to live an unexploited life, and the right to sustainable development and livelihoods are central aspects of MIA’s two major concerns. As Sisters of Mercy worldwide we understand the systemic and interrelated causes of these concerns and we can, in solidarity with Earth and its impoverished peoples, embody the hope to promote an alternative vision and actions.

“Let the World pray through our efforts.” William Reiser, S.J.


Finally, let us be mindful that the Mercy Global Action Coordinator at the UN is a representative. This means that everyone's contribution is important if it is to be represented.

I invite you to engage the work that is facilitated by the MGA working group members at local levels and MGA Network Coordinators at each national level, by assistant director for Mercy Global Action Mary Purcell and the MGA team in Dublin, and by me at the UN. Your involvement, participation and collaboration with Mercy Global Action, particularly in our national and international advocacy work, will empower MIA to realize the vision and to do the critical global justice work of our day.


...Woman of Mercy,
who knew within your womb
the first lingering of the one who is mercy...
teach and lead and free
and find with us and for us
the place where sits the ones
who weep and starve
and ail and mourn
and do not own more than an inkling of the future...
let us be with them and for them,
a word, a way and a flashpoint of that mercy.
O great woman,
O mother,
Our sister in Jesus,
This, today
for this time
We pray.

from Prayer for a Mercy Day
by Mary Wickham, rsm



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