Vincentian Family event at the UN to celebrate the 400th anniversary of our Charism
Triad of Grassroots Engagement, Systemic change and Advocacy in the Eradication of poverty
On February 1, 2017 during the 55th commission on social development, with the theme being “eradicating poverty to achieve sustainable development for all,” the members of the Vincentian Family at the UN organized a side event, in collaboration with the permanent mission of Ireland, to celebrate 400 years anniversary of our charism. The theme of our event was the “the triad of grassroots engagement, systemic change and advocacy in the eradication of poverty.” A very good number of representatives of the civil society and some member states attended the event.strategies for
This was a very good opportunity to share our collective efforts not just here at the UN, but in the grassroots involvement. Our NGOs engage in advocacy at the local, national, and international level in an attempt to reduce the constraints imposed on our grassroots efforts by global economics, isolation, lack of resources, and other elements that directly affect our efforts to transform, empower, and organize the people and communities we are accompanying. Our aim is to make all our efforts sustainable and systemic.
The panel presiding over the event, moderated by Teresa Kotturan of the Sisters of Charity Federation, included Tim Mawe, Deputy Permanent Representative of Ireland to the UN, Dr. Linda Sama, founder and director of GLOBE program at St. John’s University, Dylan Corbett, executive director of the Hope Border Institute, Joseph Cornelious Donnelly, of Caritas International, and myself. Using experiences, knowledge, and vision of these speakers we were able to reflect together on the unique challenges our Charism is facing in these new times. These are some of the ideas that were evoked out of our discussion:
We believe, as Gustavo Gutierrez has said, that “poverty is not a result of fate or laziness, but it is due to structural injustices that privilege some while marginalizing others. We believe that poverty is not inevitable; we have seen how collectively people living in poverty can organize and facilitate social change.” The efforts of the grassroots work can provoke systemic structural change when coordinated, intentional, visionary and supported by the right social policy. Advocacy is always necessary.
To eradicate poverty we need to see and understand the systemic relationship among all faces of poverty. In grassroots work this systemic relationship is very evident. Poverty is a systemic reality and can only be eradicated through the change of systems that are producing it. Poverty is a multidimensional phenomenon that encompasses a lack of income and the basic capabilities to live dignity, to protect basic human rights, or to avoid exclusion in all its forms. “Our dream is a world without poverty” (Stiglitz).
We are very aware that the eradication of poverty has been a permanent UN commitment. Since its founding, “the member states of the United Nations have again and again, often with great flourish, declared their commitment to the eradication of global poverty.” All member states from different political platforms appear united in a commitment to eradicate the massive avoidable suffering currently constraining countless human beings. According to many experts the inability of governments to eradicate poverty is not economic but rather political, the inability of state to eradicate poverty is due to the lack of political vision and political will, and it is the inability to embrace the agenda of the common good.
In our event we remember what Pope Francis has said, “Just as the commandment ‘Thou shalt not kill’ sets a clear limit in order to safeguard the value of human life today we also have to say, ‘thou shalt not’ to an economy of exclusion and inequality. Eradication of poverty means eradication of discrimination, exclusion, injustice, and eradication of all kinds of bans.”
St. Vincent could not ever imagine the scope and reach of the original intuition that the spirit of God put in his Heart on January 25, 1617. He was trying to serve the best way he knew possible, through working with the poor family that he found in his journey. But the Spirit of God was acting in every instance of his life to create something bigger, beyond his whole life, or the life of Louise De Marillac, Frederic Ozanam, Elizabeth Ann Seton, or the many other amazing figures of our family.
We are responsible for this gift today, it is in our hands. Our Charism is continually inviting us to places we naturally would not go as it did with St. Vincent over 400 years ago. Today we are invited to welcome the stranger in our homes… this is more than a slogan, it is a moral imperative for a family like ours, dedicated to serve people excluded and marginalized.
Our charism is what makes us be who we are. Our charism is inviting us and forcing us to collaborate creatively, to move beyond our own boundaries, to reach out with compassion and solidarity. In all layers of society the eradication of all the destructive dimensions of poverty is probably not possible, but, nonetheless, this continue to be our passion, our commitment, our direction, our reason for being and acting. Our work can only be accomplished through combining grassroots work and advocacy to provoke systemic, sustainable change… “Our dream is a world without poverty!”
Guillermo Campuzano, CM is the Congregation of the Mission UN representative