We the members and associate members of VIVAT International, from 8 religious congregations, namely,
- DIVINE WORD MISSIONARIES (S.V.D)
- SISTER SERVANTS OF THE HOLY SPIRIT (S.Sp.S)
- THE SPIRITANS (C.S.Sp)
- COMBONI MISSIONARIES (M.C.C.J)
- COMBONI MISSIONARY SISTERS (C.M.S)
- SISTERS OF ADORERS OF BLOOD OF CHRIST (A.S.C)
- OBLATES OF MARY IMMACULATE (O.M.I)
- MISSIONARY SISTERS OF THE HOLY ROSARY (M.S.H.R)
Working in Eastern Africa, Egypt and Middle East came together for a workshop at Dimesse Centre, Karen, Nairobi to know and initiate collaboration between the members and Board of Directors and executive teams of VIVAT, based in New York and Geneva.
We were officially welcomed by Fr. Eusebio Manangbao SVD, the congregational leader of the Divine Word Missionaries of Kenya- Tanzania and introduced to the workshop by Sr. Mary John SSpS and Fr. Gervase Taratara CSSp on behalf of the Board of Directors of VIVAT, on 11th January 2010.
The second day, 12th January 2010 was set aside to reflect on different experiences and challenges that we face in respective ministries. We went into different groups based on the countries where we work. The focus of discussions was Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation (JPIC) situation in our respective places and our response to those situations. Each group came out with its report, where various challenges like refugees, illiteracy, health issues, tribalism, economic injustice and disparities, legal issues, HIV/AIDS, environmental issues, women’s issues, etc were highlighted.
Fr. Michael McCabe SMA, a missiologist, spoke on the spirituality of JPIC as found in Caritas in Veritate, the recent document on social teaching by Pope Benedict XVI.
In the afternoon session, Srs. Mary John and Marina Cassarino, the JPIC General Coordinators of the Holy Spirit and Comboni sisters presented the tasks and challenges of the JPIC Coordination ministry. They explained on the importance of networking and collaboration.
In the evening we watched the film, ‘AN INCONVENIENT TRUTH’ a moving documentary film produced by Al Gore, former Vice President of USA, highlighting different causes of Global Warming. The sound message that each one of us got from the film is that we are part of the solution to the problem of Global Warming.
The third day, 13th January 2010 was devoted to a presentation on VIVAT’s history and development by Executive directors, Sr. Zelia Cordeiro SSpS and Fr. Felix Jones SVD. They explained that Vivat comes from Latin word, ‘Vivere’ which means may he/she/it live, i.e. may all live. The presentations enabled us to understand the inner workings of Vivat in relation to advocacy and lobbying at the UN. We realized that the strength and power of VIVAT lies in the members at the grassroots level. This was highlighted through a well illustrated imagery of bow and arrow and networking gains its power / force from the grassroots.
In the evening the youth from Soweto parish, Nairobi, entertained us through a variety of Afro-fusion dances.
On the 4th day, 14th January 2010, the morning sessions focused on the themes of Advocacy and Human Rights, which were well presented by Fr, Gervase Taratara C.S.Sp. He also explained the meaning of the term ‘lobbying’, by which one achieves advocacy. He dwelt in length on the topic of Human rights and the functioning of Human rights council in Geneva, where Fr. Edward Flynn, C.S.Sp represents VIVAT. He gave a few vivid examples of how the NGOs could lobby for actions on certain human rights violations committed in some countries. He further mentioned on the limitations faced by like minded NGOs in bringing certain complaints to the attention of the human rights council at UN. He reminded the participants that our contribution to VIVAT has the power to influence decision making process at our congregational level and so even at UN. We are all part of the solution to the problems around us together with VIVAT and other agencies working for the welfare of the humanity. The presentation was followed by discussion in small groups. We focused our attention on the most burning issues in the countries we work, the steps we take to face these issues in conjunction with VIVAT.
In the afternoon we made a remarkable trip to the UN offices at Nairobi, Kenya where we were received well and taken around the UN complex by an officer attached to the UN information section. We were also shown a documentary on the functioning of the UN at the UN press hall. Every participant appreciated the visit to the UN as it was a unique opportunity to know the UN. On the same evening, the participants gathered together for lively socials and shared lot of fun, snacks and refreshments.
On the fifth and final day, 15th January 2010, the members were presented with a rough draft of statement and resolutions prepared by the special committee and adopted with some corrections and suggestions. Then reports were presented on group discussions held on identifying the most burning issues in our respective countries of work, how we are going to pursue them, what kind of help we expect from VIVAT and what concrete steps we are going to take. Then we went on to identify one major issue that could be taken up at VIVAT for follow up. Women Issue and environmental issue emerged as major issues. Later the members proposed the names of four congregational leaders who were present at the workshop as members of the local forum. Then we did a simple evaluation of the entire workshop. Basically all members expressed positive comments over the workshop.
Every day’s session began with a creative morning prayer. The Holy Eucharist, celebrated in the evening enabled us to celebrate our togetherness.
The workshop was largely characterized by presentations, often with Power Point Presentations and also by lot of group work by way of discussions and reporting back. This enabled us to get to know each other, interact, understand issues at stake and thus focus on a unity of purpose.
- To identify the pressing JPIC issues in our respective areas and to forward them to our local JPIC contact persons.
- We request the Congregational leadership of the 8 member and associate member congregations in the East-African, Egypt and Middle East regions to own up and take active initiatives to ensure collaboration among members and VIVAT and at the same time forward the same issues to JPIC Coordinators at the Generalate level.
- Maintaining regular contact with VIVAT team by submitting reports on our JPIC activities and disseminating information to the members.
- It is indeed a positive milestone of this workshop that a local forum consisting of the local congregational leaders to work hand in hand with VIVAT has been formed although on a temporary basis. And the members of the local forum are Fr. Eusebio Manangbao SVD, Sr. Helen Mwagwu MSHR, Fr. Alfred Grroleau OMI and Sr. Giovanna Squazza CMS. Fr. Eusebio will be the convener of the local forum. VIVAT is still in its initial stage, needs to be known and networking among the members should begin now.
By: Sr. Ruth, Frs. Samy and Mervin