Opening of the UN General Assembly 73rd Session September 19, 2018

Officially the United Nations General Assembly opened on September 18th but it was preceded on the evening of the 17th with an annual prayer service at the Church of the Holy Family.  Secretary General,  António Guterres noted that this moment is the bridge between one General Assembly and the next.   While remarking that we live in abysmal times he said that the presence of the Archbishop from Colombia demonstrated that peace is possible.  This instills hope.  We have a great opportunity to translate prayer into actions for peace.

Archbishop Luis Castro Quiroga of Colombia, the former President of the Colombian Bishops Conference and one of the leaders in the Colombian Peace Process, gave a reflection on some very practical way to bring about peace.  Peace comes through dialogue,  accepting difference, listening.  There is a dual aspect to peace – inner peace and exterior peace in all spheres including environmental.  Peace bring joy.  Peace is a reconciliatory process with God and others.  It engages both truth and reparation.  Truth cannot be hidden.  Peace to be a just peace is peace with mercy.  It engages with the full weight of the law and and full weight of mercy.  This is the meaning of transitional justice.  It is not impunity and neither is it penalty.  Peace has an ethical, spiritual and cultural foundation.  It engages a change of perception from seeing the other as different to seeing the other as my sister or brother.

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The President-elect of the 73rd Session of the General Assembly María Fernanda Espinosa Garcés, also participated ‘desiring to drink from the well of wisdom and good will.’  Too many people are living at the edge.  Her Excellency recalled the plight of people on the move and their great desire for peace.  Migrants she noted are not a threat.  People are moving because of hunger and conflict.  Her Excellency expressed a deep desire for multilateralism to work within the General Assembly and her wish to facilitate such a process.  She also looked to the faith communities for support.

Her Excellency María Fernanda Espinosa Garcés is Ecuadorean and only the 4th women to hold the position since the founding of the United Nations some 73 years ago.  Her Excellency dedicated her Presidency to “all the women of the world”, and paid tribute to the legacy of three who held the post before her, namely Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit (India) in 1949, Angie Brooks (Liberia) in 1969, and Haya Rashed Al-Khalifa (Bahrain) in 2006.

PGA 73rd Session

Image – credit to the Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary (IBVM)

There are 7 focus areas – gender equality; migrants and refugees; decent work; people with disabilities; youth, peace and security; environment; and revitalization of the United Nations. Spanish  French  English


President-of-the-general-assembly address in Spanish

Citar:  QuoteText in English

Quote:  “The General Assembly is not just the most democratic and representative forum in the world. It is a space embracing the most diverse cultures of the world. You, dear colleagues, constitute an invaluable center of global thought and vision which has tremendous influence in the world and on our governments and our peoples. Your thinking, wisdom and vision set the standards for our cooperation and development, among our nations and for our people. Each day we must search for solutions to the most difficult problems that face humanity and our planet.”


UN Climate Change Conference Paris 2015 (COP 21)

The UN Climate Change Conference opened in Paris today November 30th and will continue until December 11th, 2015.  Yolanda 3Yolanda Sanchez from GSIJP Office Geneva is representing us all in Paris.  She will attend events organized by NGOs and will share some of her experiences in due course.    Keep updated with the website

I am sure that many of you have seen on Facebook the photographs of 10,000 shoes that have been placed.  One photograph that I have taken from  Alex Andreou is this one entitled the ‘Paris shoe march.’  Shoes

A disturbing report of events on November 29th has been provided by IBON. See IBON report on Climate Justice.  Saturday and Sunday we witnessed marches all around the globe.   An estimated 785,000 people globally gathered for the BIGGEST Climate March in history! I attended the New York march.  Check the photos here for both marches   Some quick glimpses of New York March.

The Global Catholic Climate Movement

NY Climate March

Raging Grannies and their Daughters

Address of Pope Francis to the UN General Assembly

Webcast from the UN or  Watch and Read  CBS News New York

Pope Francis arrives to speak at the UN General Assembly on September 25, 2015 at the United Nations in New York. AFP PHOTO / VINCENZO PINTO (Photo credit should read VINCENZO PINTO/AFP/Getty Images)

Pope Francis arrives to speak at the UN General Assembly on September 25, 2015 at the United Nations in New York. AFP PHOTO / VINCENZO PINTO (Photo credit should read VINCENZO PINTO/AFP/Getty Images)

I want to share a few highlights from the text.  I do this in the light of the issues outlined in  our congregational direction statement.  I quote

“We felt the movement of the Spirit impelling us to respond with even greater urgency to the cry of our wounded world.

As mission partners (lay and sisters), we struggled to find a way to address global issues.  We identified the most pressing needs of today as poverty, human trafficking, forced migration, refugees, gender inequality, violence towards women and children and religious intolerance.  In our dialogue, our charism and internationality united us in a profound way.

We explored with fresh enthusiasm spirituality which nourishes our relationship with God and challenges us to:

  • See and hear the good news of Jesus through the eyes and ears of those who are oppressed and calling us to respond in radically new ways;
  • To recognize our inter-connectedness with the whole of creation which obliges us to “protect our common home”. (Laudato Si)”

Pope Francis in his person, his words and actions is responding to the cry of our wounded world.  He is a ‘person centered’ inclusive Pope making contact with people whenever possible, serving lunch to people who are homeless,  visiting in neighborhoods experiencing marginalization and poverty, visiting prisoners and having his car stopped to personally greet, embrace, and pray with persons differently abled.  His actions – carrying his own bag, driving in a small fiat car, getting up from his chair, and going down steps to greet people are all symbolic actions giving witness to his words and the dignity of the person.

His words are strong as to the causes of woundedness in the world – “unrestrained ambition and collective forms of selfishness” that threatens the planet and excludes more and more people.  Pope Francis did recognize the achievements of the United Nations over the past seventy years “as lights which dispel the darkness”.  He called for reform of the Security Council, and the Financial Agencies so that all member states have “a genuine and equitable influence on, decision making processes”.  Pope Francis urged International Financial Agencies to care for the sustainable development of countries and to ensure that countries are not subjected to oppressive lending systems which subject people to greater poverty, exclusion and dependence.  The issues of debt and usury are systemic issues.   Jubliee, USA continually address them.  Read more here

Pope Francis said that a true “right of the environment” exists. Further, misuse and destruction of the environment are accompanied by a relentless process of exclusion. I was reminded of our ministry in Kolwezi, in the DRC.  Pope Francis continued that a selfish and boundless thirst for power and material prosperity leads both to the misuse of available natural resources and to the exclusion of the weak and disadvantaged.   This can happen for a number of reasons

  • because they are differently abled, or
  • because they lack adequate information and technical expertise, or
  • because they are incapable of decisive political action.

Economic and social exclusion is a complete denial of ‘human dignity’ (my words) and an offense against human rights and the environment.  The poorest are those who suffer most from offenses, for three serious reasons:

  • they are cast off by society,
  • forced to live off what is discarded and
  • suffer unjustly from the abuses of the environments.

They are part of today’s widespread and quietly growing “culture of waste”.   This is in stark contrast to our oft quoted phrase “a person is of more value than the world” that informs all our ministry and activism throughout the world.

Pope Francis said that our world demands of all government leaders

  • a will which is effective, practical and constant,
  • concrete steps and immediate measures for preserving and improving the natural environment and
  • and ending as quickly as possible social and economic exclusion, with its consequences;
    • human trafficking,
    • the marketing of human organs and tissues,
    • the sexual exploitation of boys and girls,
    • slave labour, including
    • prostitution,
    • the drug and weapons trade,
    • terrorism and
    • international organized crime.

This list has echoes of the list in the Congregational Direction Statement.  While Pope Francis did not mention gender inequality and violence against women and children it is implied throughout and the specific violence of sexual exploitation of boys and girls, slave labour, prostitution, drugs and weapons trade, terrorism and international organized crime all impact, wound and enslave girls and women.

Pope Francis while often using the words poor or poorest  reiterated at least on two occasions that it must never be forgotten … we are dealing with real men and women who live, struggle and suffer, and are often forced to live in great poverty, deprived of all rights. And for the phrase at the end of the next sentence – this is a gem.  ‘To enable these real men and women to escape from extreme poverty, we must allow them to be dignified agents of their own destiny.’  Imagine girls and women ‘dignified agents of their own destiny’.   I am immediately brought to the words of Philip Pinto and recorded in our direction statement “Transformational leadership is a way of being leaders arising out of the depths of the wisdom within each of us, a wisdom that allows others the space and opportunity to transform their own lives. The only leadership that is worth the name is spiritual leadership”.

I was thrilled when Pope Francis named girls when he referring to the right to education as a way of becoming ‘a dignified agent of one’s own destiny’.  Pope Francis named the absolute minimum needed to live in dignity – lodgings, labour, land and spiritual freedom which includes religious freedom, the right to education and other civil rights.  This absolute minimum has another name Social Protection Floors which Good Shepherds has been promoting over the past few years.  Establishing national floors of social protection ensures a minimum standard of living of all people.

Pope Francis reiterated the minimum standards

  • housing
  • dignified and properly remunerated employment
  • adequate food and drinking water
  • religious freedom – spiritual freedom and education

These pillars of integral human development have a common foundation, which is the right to life!

Pope Francis quoted from Laudato Si in referring to the ecological crisis.   He issued a sort of warning to Member States quoting from the Charter of the United Nation  that the ideal of “saving succeeding generations from the scourge of war” and “promoting social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom” risks becoming an unattainable illusion, or idle chatter which serves as a cover for all kinds of abuse and corruption.

Pope Francis continued to make connections between people and planet saying “war is the negation of all rights and a dramatic assault on the environment”.  He called member states to uphold the rule of law and to have recourse to tireless negotiation, mediation and arbitration.  This is a call to us Good Shepherds to engage in advocacy at national level, seeking implementation of international standards and reporting where we can e.g. Committee on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), Universal Periodic Review (UPR), Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC) and, other human right mechanism on implementation or lack thereof.

Pope Francis confronted directly the proliferation of arms, especially weapons of mass destruction as opposed to the Charter of the United Nations which desires peace, seeks solutions to disputes and the development of friendly relations between nations.  Pope Francis called for the full application of the non-proliferation Treaty, in letter and spirit, with the goal of a complete prohibition of these weapons.

Pope Francis addressed the situation in the Middle East and North Africa noting “the negative effects of military and political interventions which are not coordinated between members of the international community”.  Pope Francis mentioned specifically Christians, “together with other cultural and ethnic groups and even members of the majority religion who have no desire to be caught up in  hatred and folly, and have been forced to witness the destruction of their places of worship, their cultural and religious heritage, their houses and property, and have faced the alternative either of fleeing or of paying for their adhesion to good and peace by their own lives, or enslavement.”

Again for the third time Pope Francis uses the word ‘real’ when he says that real human being take precedence over partisan interests. In wars and conflicts it is individual persons, our brothers and sisters, men and women, young and old, boys and girls, who weep, suffer and die.

At our Congregational Chapter we made a declaration in solidarity with our Sisters and Mission Partners in Lebanon and Syria which calls on our respective Governments (74 countries) is to:

  • Stop selling arms to warring faction
  • Let go of self interest in the Middle East
  • Stop the terrorists groups from entering Syria through the Turkey/Jordan/Iraq borders
  • Enter into peaceful dialogue for resolution

The words of Pope Francis’s address to the United Nations are embedded in our simple yet direct demands to our respective Governments.  Pope Francis ended his address saying that the United Nations can be a pledge of a secure and happy future for future generations if the representatives of the States can set aside partisan and ideological interests and sincerely strive to serve the common good.






Orange YOUR Neighbourhood – End Violence Against Women

Orange your neighbourhood

To mark the International Day to Eliminate Violence against Women and the 16 Days of Activism against Gender Violence, the United Nations Secretary- General’s Campaign UNiTE to End Violence against Women invites you to    “Orange your Neighbourhood”

Orange the World in 16 days

From 25 November, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, to 10 December, Human Rights Day, the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence Campaign is a time to galvanize action to end violence against women and girls around the world.

This year, the United Nations Secretary-General’s Campaign UNiTE to End Violence against Women invites you to “Orange YOUR Neighbourhood.” Take the UNiTE campaign to local streets, shops and businesses, and organize “Orange Events” in your own neighbourhoods between 25 November and 10 December 2014.

69th Session of the General Assembly of the United Nations

The 69th session of the General Assembly of the United Nations will commence today.  The President Elect is His Excellency Mr. Sam Kutesa, from Uganda.  The new President was elected on June 11.  Secretary General Ban Ki Moon made some remarks following the election acknowledging the experiences that the new president bring to the position, outlining the skills required of a President of the General Assembly, noting some of the momentous agenda items for this session which will have great consequences for the well being of all people and the planet. The Secretary General concluded with the desire that all member states seek to work together to end extreme poverty and set the world on a path to peace, justice and sustainability through dialogue, decision and actions, to bring about the world we want and a life of dignity for all!    Click here

Secretary-Generalmeeting with H.E. Mr. Sam K. Kutesa, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Uganda.


New President Elect of the UN General Assembly

Sam K. Kutesa, Uganda’s minister for foreign affairs was unanimously elected by acclamation as President of the 69th Session of the United Nations General Assembly.

Sam Kutesa 1As president, he will preside over the General Assembly for a one-year period, starting 16th September, 2014 for which he has chosen the theme: “Delivering on and Implementing a Transformative Post-2015 Development Agenda”.

Ambassador Samantha Power, U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations, on the Election of Sam Kutesa made the following statement which echoes our priorities and the sort of transformative agenda we wish to see for girls and women.  I quote “The UN Charter places respect for human rights and dignity at its core, and it is the job of the General Assembly — and its President — to uphold these principles. At a time when girls are attacked by radical extremists for asserting their right to an education; representatives of civil society are harassed and even imprisoned for their work; and lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people are endangered for who they are, including by discriminatory laws, the work of the United Nations to advance equality, justice, and dignity for all could not be more urgent. In the face of these challenges, all of us working in and at the United Nations should recommit to vigorously defending these core principles.”  Full statement available here


Embrace the World

Read the latest edition of Embrace_the_World_October_2012  from the desk of Yolanda Sanchez.   Congratulations Yolanda! French and Spanish are available …

Embrasser le Monde Entier octobre 2012

Abrazo al Mundo octubre 2012