Saturday, May 2, 2009

Franciscans International

I spent this past week in Geneva, Switzerland. I had a terrific train and bus trip through the Alps and arrived in the early evening on Monday. I went to Geneva to meet with Franciscans International, the Franciscan NGO at the United Nations (pictured above). I have worked with them in the past through their New York and Bangkok offices. This was my first time to visit the Geneva office.

Everything about my time in Geneva was excellent. I was met at the station by Sr. Denise Boyle, the Executive Director. She took me to my accommodations (a room at the John Knox Center that was a dead ringer for my 70's era fraternity house in college), and then we went to dinner with some of the staff members of Franciscans International. The next two days were full of meetings; the visit culminated in a bowling trip with the staff. They were saying good-by to a colleague/intern, and I got to go along for the fun.

The purpose of my visit was to learn more about how Franciscans International works and to introduce myself to the staff and to develop a closer working relationship between SSF and Franciscans International. Over the two days it became clear to me that we have much to offer each other, and that in fact the brothers and sisters in the Anglican Franciscan family will be a great resource to FI. I was very excited to learn about the Universal Periodic Review documents done in conjunction with the Human Rights Council. Through Franciscans International we can make direct input into these reports. Our daily experience in every country where we live and work could be a rich contribution: caring for the environment, participating in work with people living with HIV AIDS, immigration issues, domestic abuse; the list of things the brothers and sisters care about goes on and on and these are precisely the sorts of testimony FI needs to feed into the system. Specific stories of real people and situations carry tremendous weight. Even if information is not included in the official Human Rights Council Periodic Review, it gets fed into the UN system in other ways.

The other exciting possibility with Franciscans International is their training sessions on human rights and other topics. They train Franciscans to be effective advocates in their countries.

For my part I gave them a thumb nail sketch of our Anglican Franciscan family, and shared some of the realities of life in the Anglican Communion.

Bowling! I'd forgotten how much fun it is! I bowled a couple of strikes even. The electronic monitor/scoring device gave lots of encouragement, flashing: "Way to go dude!"

In Geneva, no less.

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