Our fantastic fall interns, Susan and Amila, had some final words before they return to Australia and Sri Lanka. Here are their reports on their time in New York.
FROM AMILA: My experience with UNANIMA International has given me life and hope, and helped me to feel closer to millions of people who struggle to live a dignified life, preserving its sacredness in spite of all violence, war, and destructive forces that surround them. I am proud that my religious congregation is a member of UNANIMA. As an intern, I had access to important UN bodies like the Security Council, the General Assembly, the UN Committee sessions and many NGO meetings. I met many dedicated people who selflessly serve the most needy and vulnerable. I have learned more about human rights, people living in poverty, violence against children and women, women and environment, climate change, human trafficking, migrants and refugees, people with disabilities, indigenous issues, peace, security, drinking water / sanitation, and other issues in social development. Participating in the UN Third Committee, I have experienced in depth the reality of our world–its brokenness and its hopes.
If the whole world can come together, we can stop the violence and abuses. If we accept and respect all people as they are, we can make the world a place where even the most vulnerable find a home. ‘’Leaving no one behind…’’ Those words have touched my heart because I know that there are many who have been left behind; who do not have their rights. As I go back to my life and work in Sri Lanka, I will live and work with many victims of the last Tsunami. They have been given houses, but the houses do not belong to them. Having homes, they feel homeless because they do not have the property rights to them. Uprooted from their lands, unemployed, they live in extreme material, psychological, and spiritual poverty. Disintegration and hopelessness is their reality. They feel “left behind.” I believe that there is hope even in the most hopeless place and I will do all that I can to make the saying “we leave no one behind” come true in the reality of my people.
Years ago, Dag Hammarskjold (as UN Secretary General) said, “The UN was not created to take mankind to heaven, but to save humanity from hell…” He was right, and that is the UN’s mission. It is our mission, too: we are all responsible and co-responsible for our future, for sustainable development, work for human rights, global awareness, education, and the interrelationship of all nations. We are all challenged to empower the powerless, to be voice for the voiceless, and to be hope for the hopeless.
–S. Amila Rodrigo SDS
FROM SUSAN: For three months I have had the opportunity to explore the United Nations and see the inner workings of the General Assembly, the Security Council, various UN Committees and to attend “side events.” I have also participated in many NGO meetings that UNANIMA is part of–that contribute information to the many stakeholders working to make this a better world.
2015 has been an important year. The UN celebrated seventy years and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were announced and supported by all countries and organizations. In addition to this, Pope Francis spoke at the UN, and his call for unity, understanding, peace and compassion influenced policy making.
For me there have been many stand-out issues featured in the dialogue of many discussions that have occurred. There is, of course, the tragic plight of the 60 million internally displaced people (a large majority of whom are women and children) seeking shelter and a place to live. This migration of refugees is now larger than those displaced in WWII. There are also the problems of poverty, violence against women, human trafficking, the fight for gender equity, the human right to water and sanitation, food security, education, indigenous issues, the needs of the disabled, the individual right to self-determination, freedom of religious belief, racial discrimination, our need to work as stewards of the earth to alleviate the many negative effects of climate change and to work towards influencing social responsibility among trans-national corporations. There are so many important issues that impact on us as individuals and as a global community that one can be overwhelmed.
The important thing, it seems to me, is to live in the process with a goal in mind. Pema Chodron, a Buddhist nun, writes that “this very moment is the perfect teacher, and lucky for us it’s with us wherever we are.” So what then can I do with all the knowledge and information that the internship has given me? The answer for me is to take back this vital knowledge to Catholic Education in South Australia and dialogue with leadership, teachers and religious. Provide them with information about the UN and UNANIMA and their vision and mission, and start working on resources, education and curriculum that encompass human rights. This falls under the umbrella of catholic social teaching informed by the dignity of the human person and reinforces the UN message of “leaving no one behind.” The UN mandate is to create a safe, peaceful, happy and just world, and we can all be part of this vision. With a restorative justice approach there is hope that this can be achieved. My stay has been one filled with learning, new friends, joy, pleasure, and has enriched my faith journey along the way.