Sister Justine G. Senapati, an Indian member of Sisters of St. Joseph of Annecy congregation, is a social worker and human rights activist who has worked with the United Nations as Non-Governmental Organization representative. She talks about her experience.
I have served 15 years in India and five years with the Global Mission of St. Joseph at United Nations, New York. My role in the United Nations has been as a connector which was very important and fundamental between the UN processes and the global family of Joseph.
As the representative of the global body of the Sisters of St. Joseph, I was consulted on policy and program matters. My role at UN activities included information dissemination, awareness raising, development education, policy advocacy, joint operational projects, and collaborating with UN agencies, programs and funds. Our work is undertaken in a formal and informal ways at local, regional, national and international levels, as well as at the UN itself.
This was a great opportunity for me to serve the global family of the Congregations of St. Joseph at United Nations Organizations (CSJ UN NGO) as a chief administrative officer and main NGO (Non-Governmental Organization) representative. Our NGO has been constantly participating and engaging through the important UN conferences and discussions related to the social, economical, cultural and environmental issues at New York and few times at Geneva.
Through our lobbying and advocacy, we have able to make 15 important UN statements both written and oral namely on migration, women, boat people (huge death in Mediterranean), freedom of religion and belief, Dalit, minority and indigenous issues of India; a Letter on “Genocide” to the UN Secretary General, a joint letter to Pope Francis regarding the human rights to water and sanitation and another joint letter to the President of the United States of America on US travel ban.
Collaboration with other few New York based Religious NGOs, we have co-organized three important Regional Conferences: one in Rome (Europe) on “Religious & Migration” in 2016 and the second one in Nairobi (Africa) on “Women and Migration” in 2017 and third one in Delhi (Asia) on “Migrant Workers” in 2018.
The Conferences also created new networks initiatives with Delegations from the European Union, and Holy See, with Head of the Roman City, International Union of Superiors General, (UISG), United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Kenyan government Department of Immigration Service, Kenyan Conference of Catholic Bishops, Jesuit Refugee Services (JRS), a Kenyan-based organization working on awareness against human trafficking (HAART), Amnesty International, Pan African Network in Defense of Migrants’ Rights (PANiDMR).
There are nearly 100 religious congregations (men and women) based in New York. As Religious at UN to share and exchange our ideas and plans for greater collaborations on critical issues in Church and in the world. Each represent their organization either single or with coalition. Our NGO shares the membership with different NGO Committees at New York, particularly on Social development, Financing for Development, Mining Working group, Indigenous Peoples Issues & on Freedom of Religion and Belief. We engaged particularly with the issues of Eradicating Poverty, Social Protection Floor, Migration/Refugees, Trafficking, Women, Girls, Children, War, Terrorism, Xenophobia, Mining, land grabbing, Ecology, Water, Sanitation, Land, Food Security and many other issues. We contributed effectively to the committees for the UN’s policy change initiatives; especially I was being an executive member for the NGO Committee on Migration, New York and being selected as one of the Civil Society delegates to participate for three important Global Forum for Migration and Development (GFMD) in Dhaka, Bangladesh (2016), Berlin, Germany (2017) & Global Compact for Migration (GCM) in Marrakesh, Morocco (2018).
My associations with the United Nations and its objectives have opened up my mind with a broader perspectives and realities about the different ethnicity, culture, language and belief. Human Dignity and Respect for every person remains central to my understanding. The UN’s clarion call for “Leaving No One Behind” in implementing the Global Agenda of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals by 2030, challenges me as a religious woman to accept and respect ALL because everyone matters in this world.
The concept of “Great Love and Communion” and “Loving God and Neighbor without distinction” was deeply understood by me after living the community life in New York with my American Sisters, where I felt the belongingness and ownership. The place and people I called my home, my sisters and my family. Therefore the true love is not just an abstract but it is to be felt with total acceptance and trust. (Santosh Digal)