As part of the Vincentian Family at the UN, we were recently challenged to reflect on “Why are Vincentians a presence and actively involved at the United Nations?” Each member of the family is an accredited non-governmental organization (NGO) by the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). How does this activity further the reign of God? The following are seven thoughts, my personal reflection, about how our work is doing good and avoiding evil.
- Because everyone who considers him or herself a follower of St. Vincent is driven to alleviate poverty and promote basic human rights by every means available to him or her.
- Because St. Vincent taught that charity embraces justice. He strongly believed that persons living in poverty should not receive in charity what was due them in justice. Vincent saw Christ in the people who are poor or sick and insisted that care must be dignified, empowering and organized. He was concerned about the organization of the society of his time. Vincent found God in serving poor people and at the nexus of charity and justice.
- Because Vincentian programs and projects around the world are examples of best practices that place the human person at the center, enable their participation in solutions and promote systemic change. The United Nations welcomes organizations like ours to share our knowledge of poverty and effective means of promoting a more just society. We are given a “seat at the table” because of our effective and affective love of persons who suffer poverty. We are committed to sharing this table with people who suffer poverty enabling them to tell their story to leaders of governments and to be collaborators in changing the systems that create and trap them in poverty.
- Because the United Nations is a global policy-making body with membership of most of the countries of the world where dialogue, not violence is the means to the end. The UN Charter and Declaration of Human Rights has strong roots in and is consonant with Abrahamic religions and other faiths. As we walk through the headquarters of the UN in New York, we are reminded of this by the compelling mosaic of Norman Rockwell titled “The Golden Rule.”
- Because our presence and activities challenge ideas and programs that do not respect the dignity of the human person, promote the common good and protect our earth environment. While many people note the United Nations’ lack of capacity to maintain peace in our world and its lack of effectiveness to prevent terrible situations, such as human trafficking, we can also point to great strides in protecting the environment; elevating the rights of women, people with disabilities and indigenous persons; and creating dialogue around the signs and issues of our times calling member states to action. We are at the table with many others who strongly advocate for the dignity and sanctity of life and the eradication of poverty. These principles are integrated in all we do.
- Because our presence at the UN attracts others who share our values and can collaborate to effect positive change in our world. The Vincentian Family at the UN has shared in this column many times our effort calling attention to the issue of street homelessness within the context of Agenda 2030. This is an example of how organizing around an issue and working with others can produce results that are more than “the sum of its parts”.
- Because failure to do so would be a grave sin of omission in our efforts to establish the reign of God. Vincent asked us to love God by loving and serving people who are poor. His successor Very Rev. Gregory Gay, CM in 2005 reaffirmed that “We are called upon to start actions, especially political actions, to eradicate the causes of poverty and unite in solidarity for justice in favor of the poor, because unjust systems created by selfish hearts have caused social, political and economic poverty.” We agree that “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good persons to do nothing,” (Edmond Burke). So, for one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, it is a sin. (James 4:17).
We welcome additional thoughts to this reflection.
By Mary Ann Dantuono, Esq.
AIC NGO representative to the UN.