Edmund Rice International Schools’ Partnership Program Official Launch

Edmund Rice International has officially launched its new schools’ partnership program with an online event organised by Br Tino D’abreu, Grace David the advocacy coordinator for Edmund Rice schools in India, and Ann Nichols, the Network Facilitator from Edmund Rice England. Over the past few months, regional advocacy coordinators and ERI animators have been encouraging […]

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ERI Participation in 55th UN Human Rights Council Session

ERI delivered several statements during the recent session of the UN Human Rights Council.The statements made include:- – a joint statement with PRATYeK highlighting the issue of housing in India. The statement was part of the agenda in response to the report of the Special Rapporteur on Adequate Housing – a statement on the human rights situation in Myanmar delivered […]

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CRC Review of South Africa: Concluding Observations Released

During its 96th Session, the Committee on the Rights of the Child reviewed South Africa. As part of this process, Edmund Rice International and the Student Edmund Rice Volunteers (“SERV”) from Christian Brothers’ College, St John’s in Cape Town, had the opportunity to submit a report to the Committee highlighting issues experienced by children in […]

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Review of Human Rights in Nigeria

All of the issues raised in ERI’s joint submission (drafted in partnership with Vivat International, the Daughters of Charity and the Dominicans for Justice and Peace) were the subject of recommendations put forward at the recent UPR Review of Nigeria. The issue of Human Trafficking was especially prominent, where Nigeria was urged to do more to implement […]

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Visit of England Schools Group to Geneva

We feel incredibly privileged to have been given the chance to gain an insight into how the UN and its reviews work, and are ready to advocate for global human rights, ensuring that we do our best to educate those around us on the injustices that are still present in so many aspects of life. […]

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Homeless Awareness Week in Belfast

Panel discussion at St Mary’s Christian Brothers Grammar school in Belfast  during Homeless Awareness week

Following the ERI December Board meeting in Dublin, several ERI Team and Board members joined Cormac McArt (ERI Board member and Director of the Westcourt Centre) to travel to Belfast to attend a number of events scheduled for Homeless Awareness week.
 
The visit enabled connection with our grassroots partners and the opportunity to learn more about the problem of homelessness – an issue that has featured regularly in our advocacy work in Geneva.
 
During the visit the ‘Still Somebody’ photography display organised by the Westcourt Centre was revisited, and the group attended a panel discussion hosted by St Mary’s Christian Brothers Grammar School along with other guests and sixty or more students, including members of the school Social Justice Advocacy group.
 
The group also attended an event marking the 40th anniversary of the founding of Homeless Connect, a partner organisation with the Westcourt Centre, and enjoyed a pizza meal and participation in the regular quiz night at a hostel for homeless men.
 
A highlight of the visit was to attend an assembly at another Edmund Rice school, John Paul II Primary school, where students through song, dance role plays and videos highlighted the issue of homelessness, an issue that directly affected some of them who lived in this one of the more deprived areas of Belfast.  
 
Finally the group returned to St Mary’s Grammar School to enjoy a Christmas lunch hosted by the school for some of the residents from a number of local hostels for the homeless.
 
A most enjoyable and enriching experience.
 

ERI Geneva Training in Human Rights and Advocacy

Participants (l-r) Shawn Viegas cfc (India), Kachi Adindu (VIVAT International), Nablebna Nyagbire (Presentation Brs, (Ghana), Eunan McMullan OFM (FI Geneva), Neha Arora (India), Esther Wangui (Kenya), Tino D’Abreu (ERI), Mardamon Slong (India), Brian Bond (ERI), Millicent Kavenagh (Australia), Terry Dowling (ERI), Namatirayi Ngwasha (Trocaire, Zimbabwe), Sherelle Myburgh (Sth Africa), Joaquin Vilar del Valle Halty (Argentina), Kashokela Cchibanje cfc (Zambia)

In November, 12 participants gathered in Gaillard to begin the Edmund Rice International Human Rights and Advocacy Training Course.

In introducing ourselves, we each shared a piece of our culture and of our lives. A beaded bracelet from Kenya, a hand-quilled card of recycled paper from India, a silk scarf depicting Aboriginal Artwork from Australia: each crafted by school students. A painted lamp from India, a headdress crafted from goat hide from Zimbabwe, a South African school motto, a Zambian Flag – celebrations of culture. Maté, an Argentinian herbal drink and coconut biscuits from Goa, India: symbols of hospitality.

Art, celebration, hospitality. Each of these essential to the human experience. So, it is fitting that we spent the next fortnight immersing ourselves into the mechanisms at the United Nations and in Human Rights: rights that are afforded to us simply because we are human. Over the next fortnight, participants grew in community; spending the days observing Universal Periodic Review sessions, Treaty Body sessions, engaging with UN bodies and NGO’s, and by night cooking one another meals from our home countries.

The experience has empowered us in our understanding of international diplomacy, and inspired motivation for change in our local and national contexts. What has left an impact most strongly was the universal desire from all participants to enact change for the better of our communities and for our earth:

“Charity seeks to calm things down, Advocacy seeks to stir things up…” How has your experience in Geneva empowered you to be an advocate in your community?

“The experience helped me gain insight into the workings of the UN and the various treaty bodies. A huge amount of information to process. It is Interesting to see what your own country is up to on the global stage. I enjoyed meeting new people and finding out about their way of life – great camaraderie and friendship among participants.” – Sherelle Myburgh (Pretoria, South Africa)

 “Being in Geneva has broadened my understanding of global issues and the importance of advocacy. The exposure to international discussions on topics like human rights, sustainable development, and social justice has empowered me to advocate for positive change in my community. The emphasis on stirring things up, rather than merely calming them down, encourages proactive engagement and amplification of voices for a more inclusive and equitable society.” – Esther Ndung’u (Nairobi, Kenya)

“It has been eye-opening to witness first-hand the mechanisms for advocacy and social change that exist globally. The fact that there is a space for voices of individuals and groups, for communities and countries is heartening. This knowledge makes me stronger. The politics and the process however needs a lot of patience. I am going back strengthened also with more patience. I hope to be able to be a voice for teachers, for children and for marginalised communities I work with in classrooms, schools and local communities. A voice that can question, that can build awareness and capacity and that can be an ally for those who are raising their own voice.” – Neha Pradhan-Arora (India)

‘”The experience has added more knowledge and skills that would be useful in future ministry. It has widened my understanding of various issues of human rights and has empowered me to think differently in the way we value and treasure life. It has taught me a lesson to love and care for the earth, the great home for everyone. I have been empowered to respond to the crisis of climate issues seriously, and to be the change I want to see in our world.”– Br Moses C Kashokela (Kabwe, Zambia)

We are grateful for the hospitality and guidance of Brs Brian Bond, Tino D’Abreu & Terry Dowling during our time in Geneva.

– Millicent Kavenagh, Edmund Rice Oceania Province Formation Team

ERI Active in 54th Session of UN Human Rights Council

ERI delivered or co-sponsored ten statements during the 54th session of the UN Human Rights Council.
The statements included:-
– a statement on homelessness in India read by Sr Dorothy Fernandes during the discussion of the report of the Special Rapporteur on Slavery.
– a statement on gender-based violence in South Africa read by Paballo Mbedzi during the item 3 General Debate
– a statement on water and sanitation in India delivered by Violet Mary during the discussion of the report of the Special Rapporteur on water and sanitation.
– the situation in Myanmar delivered by Br Brian Bond on behalf of a number of partners who fear reprisals if they are identified in speaking out. The statement was delivered as part of the discussion of the High Commissioners report on on the human rights situation in Myanmar.
– a statement delivered by Br. Tino D’Abreu under item 4 General Debate re the Manipur crisis in India.
– two statements were read during the annual discussion on the rights of indigenous peoples. One was delivered by Jamer Lopez on the rights of Indigenous Peoples in Peru (Spanish version available here). A second statement was delivered by Alopi Latukefu from the Edmund Rice Centre for Justice and Community Education in Sydney on the situation of Indigenous Peoples in Australia

ERI also co-sponsored statements read by our partners.
– A statement delivered during the discussion of the report of the Special Rapporteur on the Right to Development by Mara Mercedes Rossi of APGXXIII.
– a statement delivered on young people’s engagement with climate change during the panel discussion on youth and human rights by Rubina Cantele on behalf of IIMA/VIDES.

Season of Creation 2023

“Let Justice and Peace Flow” is the theme chosen for Season of Creation 2023 the ecumenical celebration held each year from September 1, World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation, to October 4th, the feast of St. Francis of Assisi.

The prophet Amos cries out, “But let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream!” (Amos 5: 24), and so we are called to join the river of justice and peace, to embrace climate and ecological justice, and to speak out with and for communities that are most impacted by climate injustice and biodiversity loss.

Our prayers must call for justice not only for human beings, but for all creation. In covenant with peace, we are called to repent of our ecological sins and to change our attitudes and actions.

We want to reach out to local leaders and call our communities to actively participate in the Season of Creation by sensitizing them on the theme, and on how to respond to the cry of creation wherever the Lord calls us in our various contexts.

Watch the 2023 theme launch here.

“A mighty river” is the symbol chosen to go with this theme, representing biodiversity at risk. The urgency is growing and we must make peace with the Earth and on the Earth visible, while justice calls us to repentance and a change of attitude and actions. When we join the river of justice and peace with others, it creates hope instead of despair.

We are invited to join the river of justice and peace on behalf of all Creation and to converge our individual identities, of name, family or faith community, in this greater movement for justice, just as tributaries come together to form a mighty river.  

Prophet Isaiah proclaims “Listen carefully, I am about to do a new thing, now it will spring forth; will you not be aware of it? I will even put a road in the wilderness, rivers in the desert.” (Isaiah 43: 19) 

A mighty river can move mountains. Our individual actions during the Season of Creation are important. Celebrating creation, participating in cleanups, planting trees and reducing our carbon footprint are some of the immediate actions we can take. Get ready to organize your events!

ERI Geneva Training

Participants in recent ERI Geneva training.
Back row (l-r) Clalffin Achimba (Kenya), Naazneen Kola (South Africa), Terry Dowling (ERI) Amy Hills,(Australia), Taydren van Vuren (South Africa), Samuel Rivero (Peru), Patrick Perera (FI, Sri Lanka), Brian Bond (ERI), Alsis Goa (FI, Indonesia), Tino D’Abreu (ERI).
Front row (l-r) Joyce Pinto (India), Josefa Roces-Pizon (Philippines), Esther Arthur (Ghana), Nisha Bhusal (India), Pilar Caballero-Alias (USA)

 

Twelve members of the Edmund Rice and Franciscans International networks participated in the June 2023 Geneva Training with the Edmund Rice International (ERI) Team. With participants from Peru, South Africa, India, Australia, Kenya, Ghana, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, the Philippines and USA, ERI team members from India, South Africa, Australia and Cormac McArt from Northern Ireland, the rich diversity of the group made for the profound sharing of stories, cuisines and cultures.
 
Throughout the training, sessions involved the history of human rights, advocacy and the emergence of the rights-based approach, the background and journey of Edmund Rice International, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the mechanisms of the United Nations, Edmund Rice spirituality and the care of our earth, the Sustainable Development Goals, and learning about each other’s work.  
 
All participants thoroughly enjoyed an opportunity to visit the International Labour Office, Red Cross Museum and the United Nations Environment Programme and speak with staff members involved. We also enjoyed guest presenters from the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the Permanent Mission of Australia in Geneva, International Catholic Centre of Geneva and the United Nations Special Procedures team.
 
For many, the highlights of the training were the visits to the United Nations, Palais de Nations, to view the Human Rights Council sessions. It was encouraging to see the commitment and participation of so many countries in the process of realising and working towards fulfilling human rights across the globe.
 
Our time culminated in the development and presentation of our own Rights Based Advocacy Plans to put our newfound knowledge and skills to use in our own local, national and international contexts. The group build such wonderful friendships and connections, which made for a meaningful and emotional final debrief, appropriately reflecting the life-changing experience we had with ERI.

thanks to Amy Hills for this article

ERI Active During 53rd session of UN Human Rights Council

ERI delivered a number of statements and co-sponsored several others during the recently concluded 53rd session of the Human Rights Council.

Two statements were delivered in response to the report of the Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights, the first by Fabian Adindu, from ERI partner VIVAT international, and the second by Taydren van Vuren, a participant in the ERI training course.

A statement in response to the report of the Secretary General on the adverse impact of climate change on the full realization of the right to food was delivered by ERI course participant Joyce Pinto.

Brian Bond again delivered a statement on the human rights situation in Myanmar on behalf of partners who feared reprisals if they spoke publicly.

Statements were also delivered by ERI course participants on the outcomes of the recent UPR reviews of Argentina, read by Amy Hills, Ghana, read by Esther Arthur, Peru, read by Pilar Caballero Alias and Zambia read by Clalffin Achimba.

ERI also co-sponsored statements delivered by the International Office of Catholic Education (OIEC) and the lstituto lnternazionale Maria Ausiliatrice or Salesian Sisters of Don Bosco (IIMA) in response to the report of the Special Rapporteur on the Right to Education.

Promoting Social Justice and Advocacy in Edmund Rice Indian Schools

The Social Justice and Advocacy programme in the schools in the Indian Province was initiated almost a decade ago. While many of the animators have been working for over 5 years, there are also some who have recently joined. The group has a broad understanding of justice but a need was felt to develop the skills for advocacy while also embedding justice into our lives and schools. It was with this purpose that 29 Social Justice Animators from 13 schools of the Edmund Rice network in India, met for their Annual Residential Training Programme in New Delhi, between the 21st and 23rd of April, 2023, since the pandemic. The specific objectives of the training were –

  • To strengthen the perspective and mindset of justice in the animators 
  • To equip animators with the skills needed for advocacy 
  • To plan the year ahead with elements of awareness, action and advocacy 
  • To strengthen the group with renewed commitment and energy

While meditative practices and sharing circles helped us start and end our days, we also had some experiential tools on the first two days, for deeper learning. These are outlined below –

  • Walking meditation – Walking mindfully, slowly, gently and respectfully while connecting with the earth and feeling grounded.
  • Tai Chi – An ancient Chinese practice that involves a series of slow gentle movements, physical postures and controlled breathing.
  • Culture Coffee – Snacks brought by the animators from their own region or community and shared during the tea and coffee breaks. Significance and stories shared led to many conversations while also making us aware of the diversity in our own group and in our nation. The cultural evening also helped strengthen our collective identity and bond.
  • Power Walk – Exploring positions of individuals from marginalized communities, broader social patterns of intersectionality through an experiential activity, dialogue and research.
  • Immersive Walk to Connaught Place (a market place in Central Delhi) – Walking, observing and assessing public places from the lens and principles of justice using guiding questions followed by a reflective discussion in a park.
  • Research project – Choose an aspect of climate justice to study within your own school community, design a short survey form, collect, collate and analyse the data to make some recommendations.
  • Meeting with Child Advocates from Pratyek – After a short Circus Arts performance used by the young advocates to interact with different stakeholders, we interacted with 5 young advocates who shared their journey, its challenges and their own convictions.

The last day focussed on reviewing and strengthening the action plan for each school. New elements of the programme strengthening awareness, action and advocacy work in the schools were specifically looked at. These included the Laudato Si, the Edmund Rice Ambassador programme and the Annual Edmund Rice Justice Meet – which is aiming to take the students’ voices to the G20 thematic engagement groups.

After three packed, intense and high-energy days, everyone returned to their schools inspired, emotionally strengthened and better equipped with understanding and skills to drive the work of embedding justice into our curriculum so that every member of our school communities is able to identify injustice when they see it, question it, try to understand it better and advocate for change.

Voices of the Animators

“The three days went off in a blink and left us asking for more. I must appreciate the way it was conducted so smoothly. From food to talks to walks, every moment was filled with a lot of learning.”

“I’m more focused, more aligned with what is expected of me and how to work in collaboration and togetherness to bring about some change where I go and with the ones I’m associated with, right from my family, school, society I live in.”

“These past few days have helped me to see and understand things that I wasn’t aware of personally and around me. We are taking our first step, it’s scary and may be difficult too but the first step indicates and signifies change. Change towards a better world!”

ERI’s Further Activity During the 52nd Session of the UN Human Rights Council

ERI has delivered a further eight statements at the recently concluded Human Rights Council session. (The eight statements previously made were reported on in the March newsletter).

Again, due to the competition for the limited number of speaking slots available, some statements were delivered in time slots obtained by our partners. To view the recording of the statements, click on the name of the person delivering the statement below:-

Two statements were made as part of the discussion of the report of the Special Representative of the Secretary General on Violence against Children (SRSG). Statements were delivered by Rutendo Mugwara (South Africa Justice Desk) and Fabian Adindu. (The joint statement was drafted as part of the ‘Mission Frere’ program in the USA and read by the representative of Vivat International).

A statement on the situation of migrants at the US/Mexican border from the ‘Mission Frere’ program was read by Br Terry Dowling

An additional statement was delivered by Br Brian Bond on the human rights situation in Myanmar as part of the discussion of the report of the Special Rapporteur on Myanmar. Again the statement was read on behalf of partners who feared reprisals if identified.

A statement relating to political protests in Peru was read by Elmer Hurtado as part of the General Debate..

A statement on the UPR outcome of the United Kingdom was read by Christopher McCreery. A statement on the UPR outcome of tthe Philippines was read by Br Phil Ryan. Statements on the UPR outcome of India were read by Br Tino D’Abreu and Violet Mary and a statement on the UPR outcome of South Africa was read by Br Terry Dowling.

Here are some comments from those given the opportunity to speak at the UN via the recorded video message during the session:-

‘It felt empowering as a young person to be given a platform to be heard and have the issues I fight for and care about be addressed and heard’ – Rutendo Mugwara

‘It was a positive experience for me to be able to be part of this discussion and to advocate for change’ – Ed Havlin

 ‘I am really pleased for the chance to be able to present to the UN. Especially on an issue that is so personal and close to my heart. Hopefully I can help make a difference in some way’ – Chris McCreery

ERI Active During the 52nd Session of the UN Human Rights Council

ERI has delivered a number of statements during the current session of the UN Human Rights Council, and co-sponsored other statements delivered by our partners. Due to the competition for the limited number of speaking slots available, some statements were delivered in time slots obtained by our partners.

To view the recording of the statements, click on the name of the person delivering the statement below:-

Eddie Havlin, a homeless man from Belfast, spoke as part of the discussion of the report of the Special Rapporteur on the Right to Adequate Housing in a timeslot allocated to our partner Vivat International. In an encouraging development that demonstrate the potential impact of the statement, the Special Rapporteur made specific reference to the statement in his concluding remarks.

Brian Bond spoke on the human rights situation in Myanmar. Again the statement was delivered on behalf of partners who feared reprisals if they were identified.

Both Kevin Cawley and Terry Dowling delivered statements as part of the discussion of the report of the Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and the Environment

Kevin Mullan and Fabian Adindu delivered statements
as part of the discussion of the report of the Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

Further statements are planned for later in the Council session which concludes on 4th April, and will be reported on in the April newsletter

‘Our Common Home’ – Vatican Book Launch

At a recent meeting of Catholic-inspired NGOs in Geneva with Cardinal Czerny who heads the Vatican Dicastery for the Promotion of Integral Human Development, copies of the about too be released booklet Our Common Home – A guide to caring for our living planet’ were distributed

The booklet, a joint initiative of the Vatican with the Stockholm Environment Institiute connects climate change, biodiversity and sustainable resource use with the messages of Pope Francis’ 2015 encyclical ‘Laudato Si’ .

The booklet which explains how individuals and communities can take action to address the crisis we face can be downloaded here.

The Laudato Si Action Platform is another initiative of the Dicastery for the Promotion of Integral Human Development which is open to all people of good will and suggests practical actions that can be taken by individuals, families, communities and institutions to join together to act to care for our common home and each other.