The International Justice and Peace Commission of the Congregations of St. Joseph began its week-long meeting on Sunday, April 27, 2014 in Brentwood, New York. With Sister Gloria Philip of Argentina guiding the process, the group began by touching into the differences of language and culture that are part of every international gathering. With sisters having come from 12 different countries (Algeria, Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, England, Haiti, India, Italy, Madagascar. Mexico, USA), speaking four different languages, making connections at the beginning was important. On the first night, Gloria led the group through moving to music and simple exercises to connect heart to heart.
Monday began with Patty Johnson, member of the Global Coordinating Group, giving some background on the beginning of the JPIC group and the more recent work that led to the present meeting. The morning was dedicated to this topic and gave rise to a valuable discussion of what happened in the past as well as hopes for the future of this group.
In the afternoon, Margaret Mayce, OP, an NGO at the UN gave an excellent presentation of the role of NGO’s at the UN. Having noted how the values espoused by the UN Charter are truly gospel values, she emphasized the importance of the presence of religious congregations among the NGO’s at the UN. She showed how the changes in the world since the beginning of the UN in 1945 have led to different emphases in the UN focus, with the idea of development now embracing not only human subjects but also the planet earth. This is important to keep in mind since the degradation of our planet and climate change is linked to poverty, affects food production and leads to increased migration, among other things. She stressed the important role of civil society (non-governmental organizations) in keeping the voice of grassroots groups alive and calling the member states to accountability, to bring to life the words they have written concerning human rights. While the Millennium Development Goals will not be achieved by the 2015 deadline, she noted that there is an increasing accent on sustainability and Sustainable Development Goals which embrace and move beyond the MDG’s. Discussion of the social protection floor, as important to development, was an idea that will certainly be part of the ongoing discussion this week.