In continuing to promote the vision of Catherine McAuley, the Sisters of Mercy established Mercy Global Concern (MGC) in 1998, in order to bring the Mercy spirit to the United Nations (UN), the one forum in the world where all nations have the potential to meet as equals. Our Mercy presence at the UN is the mechanism by which those associated with the Sisters of Mercy can advocate on behalf of the world’s poorest peoples and make explicit preferential options within a huge network of international bodies.
Many of you have probably wondered why the Sisters of Mercy are at the UN at this particular time. I have often reflected on this question too and find some of the answer in Cain’s question: “Am I my brother’s keeper?” I believe that this question has global implications and has a special challenge for our time, touching not just one brother but all our brothers and sisters.
• Are we responsible for the fate of the world’s poor?
• Do we have duties to suffering people in far-off places?
• Must we respond to the immigrants and refugees on our doorsteps?
• Are we the keepers of the unfolding creation for future generations?
For followers of Jesus and Catherine, the answer is YES!
We who live today, live in a world of many contradictions. More than 1.2 billion people – that is one in every five - exists on less than one US dollar per day.
Women and children make up 70% of the world’s poorest people. Fourteen million (14) children under the age of fifteen have lost one or both parents to HIV/AIDS.
Srs. Philomena Bowers, Deirdre Mullan (Director MCG) and Mary Waskowiak at the UN
The Mercy office at the United Nations looks across to the UN, with its landmark Secretariat tower and domed General Assembly building. It is here that the General Assembly and Security Council meet to address urgent crises of peace, human security and development affecting the lives of millions of peoples around the globe. The Security Council and the General Assembly do not have windows, so we, Non- Governmental Organizations (NGOs) provide governments with a window on the world. The international Sisters of Mercy have membership in some hard places in forty four countries worldwide and we can and have given diplomats and UN staff the word from the ground. We work in advocacy groups campaigning on issues pertaining to Mercy issues around the world. The nuts and bolts of being a representative at the UN mean submitting briefing papers to UN committees, attending meetings, meeting with UN staff and country representatives. The key to success here is working in partnerships across the spectrum.
Governments and international institutions have not always recognized the vital role faith-based organizations have played in delivering humanitarian assistance and promoting human development. For example, at a recent meeting held at the UK Mission to the UN, the current development minister, when speaking about the Millennium Development Goals, was reminded by some of the Sisters who attended the luncheon that we, (Sisters of Mercy) had been doing the Millennium Development Goals long before their launch in September 2000 and would be delivering these whether countries delivered on promises made to the world’s poorest long after the 2015 deadline!
Srs. Annette, Colleen and Angela at the UN
Why do we do this work?
As the BBC Correspondent Fergal Keane reminds us:
Extreme Poverty is a human rights abuse. “After the Iraq war and with the terrible abandonment of Darfur, it is easy to think that international law is bunkum. The powerful or the most ruthless decide how things will work. I disagree. The infrastructure of international justice is small; the pressure not to investigate or call to account is great. But there is a community of conscience – organized, passionate but also practical which will not go away.
In matters of human rights abuse, the destruction of the planet or world hunger there is not the option for despair. You recognize the contradictions, the hypocrisies, the defeats, but you go on. There is no other civilized choice.”
We Sisters of Mercy are an educated, empowered global organization - Our Mercy history provides abundant evidence that we can rise to the challenge. And so I dare to ask:
Are we providing each other with the challenge to live a more authentic Mercy Life by reading the Signs of our Times?
From where I stand, I believe that the new emerging consciousness of our togetherness, is an invitation to work in a collaborative way to respond and do again what Mercy historically does best -seeking to identify and serve where there is acute need, marginalization and disempowered by the forces of oppression.
With utter defiance we cannot capitulate to such an erosion of hope.
We need therefore to be very vigilant about the quality of our thinking, even in small things and we need to ensure that we regularly feed the mind with constructive and creative ideas.
We know that action follows thought and that if enough people begin to think differently, and imagine more laterally, in time, we will create the conditions that augment transformative change.
Deirdre Mullan RSM
Mercy Global Concern
Representing the Sisters of Mercy at the UN