Representatives from four branches of the Carmelite Family and five different Carmelite provinces participated in the 61st Annual DPI/NGO Conference at UNESCO headquarters in Paris, France, on September 3-5, 2008. The event celebrated the 60th anniversary of the Declaration of Human Rights.
The ten Carmelites participating joined some 1400 members of over 535 NGOs from around the world. It was the first time the conference was not held at the UN headquarters in New York.
Attendees were able to participate in a variety of discussions and presentations centered on how the Declaration of Human Rights is lived out in our world today. Small groups focused on specific situations were facilitated by coalitions of NGOs in those areas.
The highlight of the conference was a teleconference with Ingrid Betancourt from New York. Betancourt is a former Columbian Senator and candidate for the Colombian presidential election. She was kidnapped by the Revolutionary Armed Forces (FARC) and held in captivity for over six years.
Fernando Millán, the Prior General, stopped on his way to visit the French Delegation and spent the afternoon with the Carmelites. It was another opportunity to discuss the services offered to the various ministries and members of the Carmelite Family by the Carmelite NGO.
Annual Meeting of the Carmelite NGO
Following the UN meeting, the Carmelite NGO Leadership Team, held its own three day meeting at the Religieuses de l’Assomption residence in the center of Paris. Reports on each geographical area as well as communications and the spiritual reflection team were discussed. Copies of those reports will be incorporated into the Carmelite NGOs annual report to the United Nations.
For 2008 the Carmelite NGO focused on environmental concerns. The team has selected human trafficking as its focus in 2009. Human trafficking takes place in every country Carmelites are present in, involves men and women as well as children, and is the third largest and fastest growing criminal industry with profits estimated at $9.5 billion.
Mr. Liberato Bautista, a member of the General Board of the United Methodist Church and President of the Conference of Non-Governmental Organizations (CONGO), met with the team for most of Sunday. He encouraged the Leadership Team to continue working to enhance the connection between the UN services offered and the work of the Carmelite affiliated NGOs.
The team decided to promote a “Day of Prayer for the Zimbabwean People” on December 10, 2008, World Human Rights Day. A booklet will be distributed for communities and individuals to participate.
Following the report of Jerry Sabado, a member of the Order’s Justice, Peace, and Integrity of Creation Commission (JPIC), on the group’s 2008-2011 goals, the Carmelite NGO approved collaboration with JPIC on ecological options.
The fledgling communications program of the Carmelite NGO was also reviewed. Usage of the website of the Carmelite NGO (carmelitengo.org) has increased significantly over the last year. The quarterly publication, carmeNGO, has received positive feedback and the mailing list has grown. Because there has been significant reaction to the Carmelite NGOs press releases, more effort will be invested in that area.
A new logo for the Carmelite NGO, reflecting the organization’s focus, was approved.
Perhaps most significant was the announcement that a New York office of the Carmelite NGO would open on September 20. Helen Ojario, a member of the Sisters of Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Louisiana, will be attend the weekly meetings at the UN, develop relationships with appropriate UN agencies and organs, and promote relationship with other NGOs, especially those which are connected to the Carmelite Family.
Website of the Carmelite NGO: carmelitengo.org