Visit to New York a Productive One For Franciscans International Leaders

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Franciscans International made a stop in New York City to meet with the secretary general to the United Nations and to host a luncheon at San Damiano Hall in Manhattan.

Franciscans International, a nonprofit and non-governmental organization (NGO), was established in 1989 by Franciscan friars and sisters to bring a Franciscan voice to the United Nations. Franciscans International gives victims of human rights abuses a voice at the United Nations by serving as a liaison between them and UN human rights officials and agencies.

“It’s great to know that for 30 years Franciscans have spent their time, their experience to do this work,” Father Markus Heinze, O.F.M., executive director of Franciscans International, told CNY. “It’s also we develop in the 30 years much about how the UN works and how it best can interact with the UN with the different instruments it embodies to have a real impact.”

Franciscans International has offices in New York and Geneva, and has regional programs in Africa, the Americas and Asia-Pacific.

“For me, it will be important to make more of the Franciscan family understand how they can use Franciscans International as an instrument for their work in the different countries, and on the other hand also to grow the network at the United Nations with other civil society organization to collaborate together and really have an impact,” said Father Heinze, who is based in Switzerland.

Father Heinze and Father Joseph Rozansky, O.F.M., president of the international board of directors, both addressed the Nov. 8 gathering in the hall next to St. Francis of Assisi Church on West 31st Street. Helena Yánez, ambassador, deputy permanent representative of Ecuador to the United Nations, was the guest speaker.

“Being there 30 years means a lot,” Ms. Yánez told CNY. “You are entitled to attend the meetings and participate with members. It is important because the process to be accepted as an NGO is a long process. There are NGOs which are never approved or have to wait for years.

She said Franciscan friars the world over follow “the philosophies” of St. Francis “that go deeply into human rights and poverty...They are the concerns of the UN and the concerns of everyone in the present moment.”

During their visit to New York City, Father Heinze and Father Rozansky, who is based in Chicago, met Nov. 7 with UN Secretary General António Guterres.

“We appreciate it and we saw it as an appreciation of the work many Franciscans do in the different countries,” Father Heinze said. “Twenty minutes of his time is really a lot and it’s a great gift to us. Of course, 20 minutes is difficult because we cannot strategize with him, but he advised us to contact (someone from his office) if there are any issues we need help with or we would like to work together. He encouraged us to develop this collaboration.”

Father Rozansky said the process has been both challenging and exciting, and he credits Franciscans International for rethinking its presence and approach at the United Nations toward human rights.

Father Heinze and Father Rozansky agree Franciscans International has made a tremendous impact, and believe there is more to be done in the future.

“The issues aren’t going away,” Father Rozansky said. “We need to be persistent in our approach. In some ways, that’s very difficult, not only on a civil level but on a religious level.

“We have a big challenge convincing our people, provincials and leaders in the Church, about how important this is. Sometimes people come and already get it. Sometimes people have no idea and you build up some rapport, and the next time someone else is voted in and you have to start all over again.”

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