Dear members of the Board of Trustees, members of the Executive Board, VIVAT Office Holders, Contact Persons of the members of Congregations, representatives of national branches and national groups, and invitees.
Welcome to this annual meeting of VIVAT International. This annual meeting is of historical importance as the first meeting after the restructuration of VIVAT International following the thorough external evaluation of 2019. All Superiors General and Congregational Leaders of the founding and members congregations are now members of the Board of Trustees and invited to participate in this annual meeting. Some are with us for these two days, and some have sent excuses because of other commitments. Invited are also the four members of the Executive Board. They will be introduced later.
This is also the first time that we organize the annual meeting for two days. The reason is mainly because of the experience with one full day zoom meeting which is too tiring. In addition, there is also the problem of the time difference between the places where the participants attend this meeting. Therefore, this time slot is considered the most fitting, though some of you have to wake up early, some have to skip their lunch, and some need to stay awake until midnight when we end the meeting.
At this first annual meeting after the introduction of changes based on the evaluation, it is essential to remind ourselves of the original vision of VIVAT international as it is written in the statutes: “Sharing a vision of the world and every human being as created in goodness and dignity, and believing, defending and proactively supporting the equality in rights and the dignity of all individuals, peoples, and cultures, VIVAT’s presence at UN envisages attaining a world of equality, justice, reconciliation, peace, and care of the environment.”
As the name says, VIVAT stands for life at all its stages and for the transformation of the world where Justice, Peace, and Integrity of Creation are respected and promoted. As declared in its mission statement: “VIVAT engages in a two-fold mission of working at the grassroots as well as doing advocacy and lobbying work at the United Nations.” For the fulfillment of its mission, VIVAT depends on its members. They directly assist on the ground and gather information for advocacy in its offices.
For all the member congregations, it is crucial to be aware that our support for VIVAT as an international instrument of Justice, Peace, and Integrity of Creation (JPIC) is based on our understanding that VIVAT could help improve respect, protection, and promotion of dignity, life and human rights of people. It is not exclusively in places where our members are present, but also in other parts of the world.
The experience tells us how vulnerable all these values are. What we believe as the fundamental rights of every human being as the image of God are violated for political ambition or religious fundamentalism. The nature that we consider our only common home is exploited irresponsibly to fulfill the uncontrollable greed of human beings. COVID-19 pandemic only reveals the crisis that has been existing in the world for decades. It demonstrates the brokenness and fragility of the economic, political, and health care systems. It uncovers the ecological crisis and exposes the spiritual erosion of our time.
The same is the lesson from every war, especially this current Russian aggression in Ukraine. The values of JPIC are not to be taken for granted. We have to work hard to promote and safeguard them. Therefore, we need instruments like VIVAT International to do the advocacy work. It is to continuously raise awareness of unjust practices against human beings and nature, which unfortunately started in the hearts and minds of people.
One of the main agenda points of this annual meeting is the discussion of the Strategic Action Plan. Sr. Miriam Altenhofen, the new Congregational Leader of the SSpS Sisters, will facilitate our discussions. I hope that our discussions will help us move forward to realizing the dream of VIVAT: to stand for the promotion of life, dignity, and human rights. I wish all of us a fruitful meeting.
Rome, 20 June 2022
Budi Kleden, SVD