LATIN AMERICAVIVAT holds a workshop
VIVAT International is a coalition of religious congregations whose vision statement say, in part: “Sharing a vision of the world and of every human being as created in goodness and dignity, and believing in the equality in rights and in dignity of all individuals, peoples and cultures, we commit ourselves to promote justice, harmony and reconciliation in the world.” The Oblate Congregation, and consequently, every individual Oblate, is an associate member of VIVAT. Fr. Daniel LE BLANC, our Oblate representative in the VIVAT office at the UNO in New York, reports on a workshop he attended recently.
From August 4-8, 2014, ninety-one representatives of the Oblates and other Congregations of VIVAT International met in Pikyry, Paraguay, very near the borders with Argentina and Brazil, for a workshop and planning for the future. Most of the participants were from Paraguay, but there were also four from Chile, three from Argentina, seven from Brazil, one from Mexico, three from the VIVAT office in New York, one from the VIVAT office in Geneva and one from West Papua.
Amongst the Oblates, we had an impressive variety of perspectives, from lay collaborators to Oblate brothers and priests, as well as a permanent deacon and his wife and a deacon soon to be ordained; and not to be forgotten, Father Francisco CARRILLO, provincial of the Paraguayan Province and Fr. Daniel DIAZ from Mexico.
The days were filled with activity, including presentations to reflect the work of VIVAT International at the world level, but also several examples of collaborative efforts between the international and ever growing number of nationally organized VIVAT groups. Important was the very informative early part of the workshop where groups took the time to present themselves and explain the reality in which they live and work. Also explored were procedures, aspects of the work at the United Nations, the focus of VIVAT and some of the areas where VIVAT members at the national level and those at the international level can support each other in their efforts in favor of those living in poverty. And, finally, working at the country level, participants considered the possibilities of networking and supporting each other in their efforts.
The Paraguayan group decided to focus their attention on the right to land of the people they work with, especially the right to land of Indigenous Peoples and small farmers. This is especially important as a great many in the countryside are being expelled from their land by major multinational agricultural concerns with little or no protection on the part of the government.
If I may add a personal note, this workshop also allowed me a few days to visit my Oblate brothers in Paraguay, at the Provincial House, the pre-novitiate, the scholasticate, and in the “Chaco”, the very first mission the Oblates began in South America. They had originally been asked to work in the Chaco, then part of Bolivia, but by the time they arrived from Germany, a war had ensued and part of Bolivia´s territory had been ceded to Paraguay.
All in all, this workshop afforded all of us an excellent opportunity and amazingly, even after only 5 days, it was abundantly clear that everyone found it difficult to leave a good time and return to doing what we all do best – accompanying the people of God, preferentially those living in poverty, in every aspect of their lives there where we are called to be. (JPIC Report, Fall-Winter 2014)