One hundred and twenty members of VIVAT International from the Missionary Sisters Servants of the Holy Spirit (SSpS), Society of the Divine Word (SVD), Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate (OMI), Sisters Adorers of the Blood of Christ (ASC), Congregation of the Holy Spirit (CSSp), and the Comboni Missionary Sisters (CMS) met at St. Arnold’s Seva Sadan, Indore, India, August 7 -12, 2011 to reflect on our missionary concerns for Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation (JPIC) and the role of VIVAT International in advancing these concerns.
We began our deliberations asking for the guidance of the Spirit as we gathered to receive God’s gift of Word and Eucharist.
Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation (JPIC) Reports
All the Provinces reported on their JPIC activities. Included in their reports were the following topics: HIV /AIDS treatment, prevention and rehabilitation; Street Children; Rights of Indigenous Peoples; Land alienation and tribal lands; Children; Women; Domestic/Migrant Workers; People affected by leprosy; the Physically and mentally challenged individuals; and Rag Pickers. Additional reports were given on initiatives for income generation, vocational training and the conflicts in the Middle East (Palestinian Rights), Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Indonesia. The reports stressed the importance of networking both with non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and the governments for the rights of the people.
Noted experts gave scholarly presentations and reflections on:
1. Justice and Peace in the Bible
2. Social Teachings of the Church
3. Advocacy and Networking
4. Human Rights
VIVAT INTERNATIONAL AND THE UNITED NATIONS
- VIVAT International’s representatives at the UN gave an overview of the nature, scope, and the functioning of the UN. This served as the background for understanding our presence and participation of VIVAT at the UN. The UN is a complex system with various organs and commissions. Civil Society gains access to the system through ECOSOC accreditation.
- VIVAT International began in 2000 with two member congregations and has expanded to include 10 congregations. We now have representatives in UN head quarters New York, Geneva (2009), Vienna (2010). The representatives gave an overview of the achievements realized during its first ten years of participation. This helped engender a sense of ownership, affinity and belonging to VIVAT and an impetus to promote its goals and objectives.
- The members became aware of the role of NGOs and their activities, including how they fit into the overall goals and objectives of the UN. The NGOs act as the link between the UN and members on the ground through a two way communication.
- Participants came to understand some of the workings of the UN system and the Human Rights Council in Geneva. They examined issues from a Human Rights perspective. The Human Rights council in Geneva provides many avenues to defend and promote the ideals of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The Universal Periodic Review (UPR) holds governments accountable for their commitment to Human Rights. Shadow Reports by civil society organizations can point out human rights violations. The Geneva Office can assist VIVAT members in preparing these reports.
“Advocacy is arguing in favor of something, such as a cause, idea, or policy. … (it)
occurs when individuals engage in dialogue about an issue they care about. It can occur in many forms.” California State University, Fullerton
“It is an action that speaks in favor of, recommends, argues for a cause, supports or defends, or pleads on behalf of others.” Alliance for Justice
It is “to take action for another” World Vision
The participants saw the following as areas for further study and advocacy.
- Committee for the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW). Discrimination is any exclusion, restriction or distinction based on gender that denies them their basic human rights. CEDAW provides appropriate measures for women to enjoy their rightful place and dignity in society. Several articles of the Convention can be highlighted and governments can be held accountable for their implementation.
- Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). We can work to enhance our networking and collaborating with the agency through JPIC promoters in Rome.
- Annual Ministerial Review (AMR) and review on progress in achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) of their respective countries.
- The rights of Dalits and domestic workers within the Constitution of India. Study the situation of other marginalized and excluded groups.
- Human Rights education in our schools and other institutions.
- The participants, as members of VIVAT International, prioritized the following areas of JPIC work for advocacy and networking at the national level.
- Human Rights of Domestic and Migrant Workers
- The Rights of the Child
- Food Security
- The Constitutional Rights of Dalits
- Mining and Displacement
- The members from Sri Lanka chose to address issues according to their specific needs and situation.
- The workshop participants recommended the creation of National VIVAT (National JPIC Council) to most effectively implement advocacy on the priority issues at local, national and international level.
The National VIVAT Team works under the guidance and approval of the Board of VIVAT International. It works in collaboration with the VIVAT Executive Team in New York. All other JPIC activities undertaken at the local/national level will continue as it is today.
As disciples of Christ we are engaged in building the kingdom of God through our efforts towards Justice, Peace and the Integrity of Creation. As we journey on our pilgrimage we realize the complex world of today requires appropriate structures and interventions to meet our goals. VIVAT International is one means to meet the present challenges. The Workshop at Indore helped us to realize the importance of networking, advocacy and lobbying at all levels through a coordinated effort by the members of VIVAT International.