Published: November 24th 2008November 24th 2008
Franciscans International is a non-governmental organisation (NGO) founded nearly 25 years ago. It is the first common Franciscan ministry, representing approximately one million Franciscan sisters and brothers in over 160 countries. Franciscan International strives to help those most in need, particularly in the areas of justice, peace, the care of creation and the promotion of human rights. Franciscans International has General Consultative Status at the United Nations with offices in Geneva, New York and Bangkok.
The Marist Brothers are involved through the presence of Br Cesar Henriquez as are other Congregations including four Christian Brothers under the banner of Edmund Rice International, including Donal Leader and Brian Bond and the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary, including Denise Boyle as Executive Director. President of the International Board of Directors of Franciscans International is John Celichowski OFM Cap.
Cesar began in Geneva in 2005. He completes his three year term on Friday 28th November, 2008. Cesar reminded us that the United Nations Charter was adopted in 1945 at the close of World War II. 192 of the 240 countries in the world are members of the United Nations. The Vatican and Palestine have observer status only. The Security Council has 15 members.
Offices of Franciscans International
The offices are open, with a lot of glass and plenty of work stations. There are six glassed offices and two glassed meeting rooms.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights was approved in 1948.
Cesar spoke about two aspects of Champagnat’s life 1. his experience of violence on his first day at school and 2. the lack of education available to young people in France during Champagnat’s time. Cesar linked this philosophically to his work as a Marist Brother with the United Nations now. He stressed the need for us today to not only continue with our current work, but to add advocacy for the rights of children and the provision of education to all. These are contributions to structural change. The message of our last GGeneral Chapter asked that we promote the right of education for all (No 33). The Marist International Assembly in Mendes asked that we strive for inclusive education without discrimination. Relevant passages in the ‘In the Footsteps of Marcellin Champagnat’ document are 1. What Education is for us (No 137), 2. Advocacy (No 204) and 3. No corporal Punishment (No 142). Cesar works through Dominick Pujia at our International Marist Solidarity Bureau. Next year he is moving to work for young people in the Bishop’s Office in El Salvador.
The Marist Brothers have just established a Non
Jean Claude Christie
Swiss Brother and Leader of the Marist Community in Geneva welcomed us with a song.
Government Organisation called FMS International. It is registered in Italy as ‘Marist Formation for International Solidarity’ (FMSONLUS).
Donal Leader CFC addressed us about Edmund Rice International’s involvement with Franciscans International and the United Nations. He recalled the symposium he organised in 2007 at the John Knox Centre in Geneva for Edmund Rice people working in Higher Education. The Conference had as its theme ‘Losing the head, finding the heart.’ It focused on 1. An Edmund Rice Vision for Higher Education and Human Rights, 2. the right to education for all and 3. developing links and enhancing capacity. He noted that in order to meet the United Nation’s Millennium Development goal of all children having access to primary education, Africa needs 1 million teachers over the next 10 years. In Africa, the top 5% are educated. Children with no education are mopped up by rebel groups. One author, Donal claims, says that all you need is US$10,000 and a satellite phone to buy sufficient children to form a rebel group and this is happening now. Donal believes the process we need today involves 1. naming the issues 2. observing grassroots action 3. developing an advocacy position, 4. gathering research data
and obtaining peer reviews and 5. preparing the necessary submissions and undertaking follow up. Donal reports that in Uganda, three visionaries founded ‘University Martyrs University’ in the bush. It now has 12,000 students. In this context an appropriate curriculum is 1. Development 2. Human rights and ethics and 3. Education. Today we need to make our focus sharp. We need platforms, nodes (or regions) and focal points. Diamonds provide a focus which beams light.
Donal went on to emphasise that if we speak the truth, grounded in data, people will listen. Higher educaiton provides an opportunbity for research and peer review. Authors Lave and Wagner propose developing knowledge networks and communities of practice. The theme 'Losing the head, finding the heart' invites us to form our hearts by 1. being there 2. understanding and 3 participating. Gustavo Guiterrez reminds us 'It is not enough to be with the poor unless we are against 'poverty'. In other words, it is not enough to be present! We can become focal points. Social change occurs when knowledge and actions are linked.
This year the world moved beyond the point where 50% of the world's population live in urban areas.
Onandia, Coordinator of the Advocacy Department for Franciscans International spoke with us about his role. The Franciscans International organisation began in 1982 to provide input to the United Nations. In 1989 it was offricially recognised by the United Nations Department of Public Information and approved for Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) Consultative Status in 1995. Three years later, the Conference of the Franciscan Family in Rome approved the Franciscans International Charter and assumed the role of Sponsor. An office was opened in New York in 1990, in Geneva in 1997 and in Bangkok in 2008.
Gotzon reminded us that in 1914 there were 1000 NGOs. In 2008 there are 40,000.
Recently the United Nations set up a Universal Pedagogic Review (UPR), the leaders of which are currently seeking data. A recent review of education in Venuata was assisted by Marists in Venuata through Franciscans International Marists are seen to have an extensive knowledge about education which would be invaluable to the United Nations and its work.
On the evening of Tuesday 25th NOvember, we visited te Marist Brothers' Community in Meryin City, 10km from the centre of Geneva city. This community is part of the L'Hermitage Province.
Raclettes enaled us to cook our meats and warm our cheeses with ease.
It is led by Swiss Br Jean Claude Christe. Also in the community are Spaniard Manel Mandoza and Cesar Henriguez. Jean Claude is the President of an NGO which helps people from Madagascar and Manel works in linguistic communities.