Linking Mercy Around the World for Justice
By Mary Purcell, Mercy Global Action
Already, we’ve established a network of social justice coordinators from the nine Mercy congregations, institutes and federations ministering in 44 countries around the world, to foster communications and shared actions. Informal contacts have been made between the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas, based in Silver Spring, MD, and the Sisters of Mercy in Newfoundland on the issue of mining. Links are also being established with the United Kingdom Institute to share experiences of work on the UN Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) process.
At the more formal level, Mercy International Association(MIA) has decided after consultation with its member congregations and institutes to prioritize the issues of Cosmology/Environment and Human Trafficking. A working group has been established for each of these two issues, and the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas have representatives on both. The working groups will gather stories of Mercy work at the grassroots, analyze these experiences from a sociological, political, economic and theological perspective, develop policy based on this vision, and prepare advocacy and lobbying positions for the United Nations, European Union and national governments. The Sisters of Mercy of the Americas will be involved in preparing these policy positions based on the stories from their own ministries and in lobbying the U.S. government on positions developed by the working group.
Specifically, MIA is following two processes to influence policy positions at the UN. Firstly, we are seeking to influence the outcomes of the conference on sustainable development that will occur in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil, in 2014. There are several regional conferences taking place that will prepare the agenda and influence policies to be put to this conference. The first regional meeting will be in Chile in September and the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas are considering sending a representative to this meeting. Secondly, in relation to the issue of human trafficking, the UN has adopted a policy against trafficking, ratified by the U.S. and many other national governments, and Mercy congregations will be lobbying their national governments to ensure that this policy is implemented.
At the educational level, MIA Global Action will work closely with the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas and other Mercy congregations to ensure there are common educational programs developed on the environmental and trafficking themes across the Mercy world. We will be seeking the support of all Mercy members and supporters for educational initiatives and campaigns that will develop.
The guiding principles underlying this work were highlighted by the Mercy congregations, institutes and federations in a feasibility study that I undertook for MIA on Global Action last year.
• MIA Global Action will be based on the Mercy charism and theological reflection for social action. MIA’s Global Action Program will be based on reflection, analysis and praxis and will have a theological underpinning.
• MIA will deliver a clear message in relation to its stand for women, children, people living in poverty and for eco-justice. Mercy charism involves working with poor, marginalized people addressing the underlying causes of poverty. The focus of the work will be on alleviating poverty, working for justice through systemic change and promoting ecological sustainability.
• MIA Global Action will emphasise compassion, respect and hospitality in its relationships. MIA will adopt a people-centered approach bringing human stories into the social analysis and advocacy. MIA Global Action will emphasise interconnectedness and partnership and bringing all aspects of Mercy work together.
• MIA Global Action will support Mercy congregations and institutes to work together to strengthen their common work and to do things together that they cannot do alone. They will work in partnership rather than competition with other like-minded organizations, religious and lay.
To make all this happen, we will be calling on Mercy Sisters, Associates, Companions and co-workers for support. MIA needs to hear what is happening locally, especially on our two priority themes, so that we can link these local stories with policy initiatives taken at the United Nations level. I look forward to hearing from you.