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Tenth Anniversary of Domincans at the UN in Geneva
Dominican and Franciscan Alliance Creates a Voice for Human Rights

GENEVA — September 25, 2007-- Ten years ago, with meager funding yet mammoth faith, two religious communities – the Franciscans and the Dominicans – embarked upon a mission. Their goal was to create a partnership as they already shared complementary passions – to serve the poor, and to serve truth and justice. Fired by these mutual goals, the Franciscans and Dominicans wanted to advocate on behalf of the poor and vulnerable at the United Nations in Geneva. To fulfill this task, they relied upon three representatives - Fr. John Quigley OFM, Fr. Philippe Leblanc, OP, Permanent Delegate to the United Nations, and Ms. Alessandra Aula, Franciscans International’s advocacy coordinator.

Fr. John Quigley, now Franciscans International’s Executive Director, reflects: “We shared a commitment to honesty and truth, both of which are tremendous tools for speaking on behalf of the poor at an international arena like the UN.” Thus, on May 1 1997, the Franciscans International/Dominican OP office was opened in Geneva.

To call it an “office” is perhaps an overstatement. So limited were their resources, that during the first few years, FIOP headquarters were in Ms. Aula’s studio. Unable to afford additional staff, Ms. Aula, the Advocacy Officer; Fr. Quigley, and Fr. LeBlanc worked tirelessly to gain their NGO footing at the UN.

“We had embarked upon a crazy, Don Quixote-like journey, where often, we also had to fight windmills”, chuckles Fr. Leblanc. He fondly reminisces back to the day when, in order to supplement the only computer in their ‘office’, Fr. Quigley decided to go out and buy another. “I told him not to do it’, recalls Fr. LeBlanc. “We don’t have the money, John’, I said. What if this does not work out for us? John turned to me then, and he said, ‘If God wills it, it will work’.”

A decade later, on September 24th 2007, as Fr. LeBlanc told this story at the tenth anniversary celebration of the Franciscan-Dominican partnership, it seems that God willed plenty for FIOP. The organization’s relentless advocacy for the victims of human rights abuses in Pakistan, Brazil, the Philippines, Mexico, West Papua and Puerto Rico quickly brought it acclaim in the international community. The two religious families raised issues of poverty, human trafficking, development, and the rights of children and women to Special Rapporteurs. Over the years, Franciscans International turned into an NGO with general consultative status at the United Nations.

From Ms. Aula’s house, the Franciscan and Dominican partnership moved to a bona fide office at Rue de Vermont in Geneva, making it the second office to be opened after the establishment of Franciscans International in New York in 1982. In January 2008, Franciscans International will also set up an Asia-Pacific office in Bangkok.

Today, the Franciscans and Dominicans, along with recently made partners, the Marist, Christian and Presentation Brothers continue to advocate on behalf of the poor, both at the United Nations and at the grassroots. “It is wonderful that we can now not only celebrate ten years, but also that we have the same energy as the beginning”, said Fr. Quigley at the tenth anniversary ceremony, held at the Geneva office.

To felicitate the remarkable partnership, several distinguished guests attended the event. Fr. Christophe Holzer, General Secretary of the Dominican Order, heartily thanked the partnership, particularly, Fr. Quigley, who will end his term as Executive Director of FI in October.

In a compelling speech, Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations, evoked an image originally penned by Indian poet, Rabindranath Tagore. “Tagore described Christianity as the River Ganges”, said the Archbishop, “with debris on either side, but in the center there always flows a clean stream of water. We must ensure that this clean stream can quench the thirst of the human family. Our common objective is that the human person is protected, sustained and respected everywhere.”

The common objective Archbishop Tomasi described is one that members of FIOP know well – they have spent the past ten years working on the behalf of the human person. Looking back upon the decade, Fr. LeBlanc reflects, “I think the Franciscan-Dominican partnership has succeeded because we have a shared respect for justice, gospel values, and for everyone’s charism”. “Above all though”, he concludes, “what makes our organization work so well is that we all share a firm belief that one day justice will prevail.”

by Neha Sud

This news artcile was sent from the web interface Franciscans International

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