“St. Francis freely chose to be one with the poor. Today, we need to convince ourselves of this reality: to be with, to see, to experience, so that we may better actualize our commitment as Franciscans.” These words were spoken by Nelson Tapia, SFO (Ecuador) in his reflection on Franciscan Spirituality and Extreme Poverty during FI’s Workshop on the United Nations Human Rights Mechanisms & Extreme Poverty held in July, in Tarata, Bolivia.
Friar Ignacio Harding OFM, Dania Cordero SFO & Peggy Lynch, from the FI –Bolivia office, welcomed over 30 participants representing the Franciscan Family in Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Mexico and Venezuela, as well as FI staff members Sr. Denise Boyle fmdm, Friar Michael Lasky OFM Conv., and Morse Flores. Delegates from Edmund Rice International and ATD Fourth World also attended.
Representatives of the United Nations (UN) Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights spoke during the workshop about the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) and other UN Special Procedures & Treaty Bodies. FI Staff then contextualised the work of FI and how they best utilise these mechanisms at the UN.
Participants worked with their own country’s last UPR Report in order to begin strategically preparing for their nation's next review of its human rights situation. They also worked in small inter-country groups so as to better strategize how Franciscans in the region might better collaborate on common poverty and environmental related issues.
Toward the end of the workshop everyone traveled by bus to Cochabamba for a press conference held by FI. (Read Brazilian newspaper report.) Other highlights during the week-long workshop included daily prayer and Mass prepared by Franciscans from a different country each day. These moments provided the opportunity to reflect and share what was learned and experienced.
“We were left with the challenge of better actualising our commitment as Franciscans by asking the question, “What have we done on behalf of the poor and vulnerable, by engaging the systems that are causing the problems?” The Workshop in Tarata, Bolivia is but a further step in the answer to the question raised,” reports Fr. Mike Lasky, FI Regional Director for the Americas Program.