UN Advocacy Experience 2013
On the evening of the 12th of May, a group of women, Sisters of Mercy and Partners in Mission, gathered together in anticipation of the experience ahead of us. We knew we were going to the UN to listen and to discern what the listening would be about. What we did not expect is the emotions and reactions that such an experience might have on us.
On the Monday; two decisions were in front of us. A high level UN meeting on human trafficking with the endorsement of the Global Action Plan; the other, a plenary discussion of the Economic and Social and Sustainable Development Group (ECOSOC). Although it is an inspiring sight to see every nation represented at the table, it was the ripples of emotion in response to the stories I was hearing that affected me most. The main emotion was grief – grief that humanity in their capacity to do great things can also harm in a most profound way other people and the environment, all for the dream of making a profit. These emotions and experiences were called upon and tapped by the theological processing we then went into on Tuesday and for the rest of the experience.
The timing of our experience was significant. We were gathering in the week leading up to Pentecost. We gathered as a group in an upper room (10th floor of the Church Centre), where Sisters Pat Fox and Sheila O’Dea led us and drew from us emotions very similar to the followers of Jesus who also gathered. Pat and Sheila helped us gather these up and integrate them into our own stories of our own experiences. As Sisters of Mercy and Partners in the Mercy story and tradition, we heard from people on the ground in Peru who cared about their struggles to have a voice. Through the marvels of the internet we talked to those struggling to make a difference in their corner of the world and watched the short video prepared for us, which told us of their story and their struggle. We heard from other passionate workers in advocacy about their stories and the strategies that they have learnt along the way in being effective advocates.
The final days of the experience, within the quite peaceful atmosphere of Mercy Centre in Madison, Connecticut, were the balm after the hustle and bustle of New York and the UN. Using these emotions and experience we then turned to scripture focusing on Lament and on the urge to make something happen – the Syrophoenician Woman who persisted in getting Jesus to help save her daughter. With such richness in scripture we then turned to articulating what such emotion and action could look like in our own countries. To help us clarify further, an informal discussion with Sister theologians Mary Daly, Janet Ruffing, Margaret Farley and Julie Upton helped us discern more deeply and come out with a more authentic purpose about why we were going into specific advocacy action.
The last day and a half was used to focus on formulating our action plans beginning with an overarching goal, moving through to objectives and then to timed activities to help us reach these objectives. This was a beneficial time, where Sisters and Mercy Women from around the globe helped each other to clarify direction and create plans that will help move things forward in our own country as well as support others in the wider global sense.
I would like to thank the team of Mercy Global Action for the effort and energy that has gone into this experience to make it successful. We have come away with something concrete to take back to our own countries.
I would like to end with a Maori whakatauki (proverb) that expresses the work we have done that week as well as the work that we as Mercy do together in Advocacy:
Naku te rourou nau te rourou ka ora ai te iwi
With your basket and my basket the people will live.
This proverb is about co-operation and collaboration and the combination of resources to move forward. It expresses the passion and the drive that makes us who we are as Mercy Women following in the footsteps of Catherine McAuley, to walk and stand with those who are voiceless against poverty and injustice that is present here on Earth.
Bridget Crisp rsm.