Thirty years at the United Nations

Francis of Assisi’s transformation from a wealthy merchant’s son, soldier, and prisoner of war into an advocate for human dignity and the preservation of nature closely mirrors the experience of many Franciscans in the 20th century. Their work in communities affected by poverty, conflict, and environmental degradation inspired them to establish Franciscans International 30 years ago, as a Franciscan voice at the United Nations advocating for global change.

“I think we felt an affinity. But not just an affinity – a responsibility. Because if the United Nations is the place where the actors who make decisions that have an impact on every human person and the planet gather, we need to be there: as a presence to build bridges, to bring people together, and to bring our experience from the grassroots, “ said Michael Perry, Minister General of the Order of Friars Minor and President of the Conference of the Franciscan Family.

In that spirit, FI hosted a reception at its Geneva office on 15 March, which brought together many of our NGO partners, diplomats, and Franciscans from all over the world. This was not just a celebration: many of the guests have worked together for years in different human rights forums on issues close to their hearts. Coming together also provided an opportunity to reflect on the past, and explore new strategies going forward.

The reception was followed by a Mass on Saturday 16 March, presided over by Archbishop Ivan Jurkovič, Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations. In his homily, Brother Michael Perry again empathized the strong relation between Franciscans and human rights:

“Love of enemy; prayer for those who persecute you. I believe that these biblical words find an echo in the Founding Charter of the UN. The invitation to all nations and peoples is to pursue a path where enemies are progressively transformed into potential friends – or at least potential allies – in the search to promote conditions for the fulfillment of human life: peace, security, mutual respect, and collaboration in promoting conditions for the integral advancement of all people.”

At the end of the Mass, he also presented FI’s International Board of Directors with a plaque commemorating St. Francis’ encounter with sultan Malek al-Kamil, as a reminder of the importance of continued dialogue and mutual respect.

Throughout 2019, FI is hosting a number of events to celebrate the accomplishments of the past three decades, call attention to the many challenges we still face, and share the roots of our organization.