Religious congregations, lay people renew commitment to uphold human rights, justice, peace

KIDAPAWAN CITY (MindaNews / 5 Dec) – Forty-four members of religious congregations and their lay partners all over the Philippines renewed their commitment to uphold human rights, seek justice, promote peace, and preserve the integrity of creation through the formation of Vivat International, a non-government organization (NGO) that has a special consultative status at the United Nations.

Vivat International derived its name from the Latin word, “vivere,” which means “live” and expresses the deep wish for all that exists: “That all creation may live.”

On Nov. 30, Vivat International-Philippines was created after a four-day workshop that started on Nov. 26 at the Saint Arnold Janssen Spirituality Center in Quezon City.

Fr. Eduardo Vasquez, assistant program coordinator of the Justice, Peace, and Integrity of Creation (JPIC) of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate (OMI), said the birth of Vivat International in the country signals the beginning of intensified efforts to defend or protect human rights and to give voice to the poor.

Vasquez and Fr. Romy Villanueva, program coordinator of the OMI’s JPIC, were among the participants to the workshop.

The Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate is among the nine religious congregations that joined to be recognized as members of Vivat International, according to Vasquez.

In a statement, the group said they gathered together to learn how advocates of Vivat International carry out the ministry or advocacy on justice, peace, and integrity of creation in their missions.

From these stories, the group identified major issues that confront the country and its people.

One of the issues they identified was the Framework Agreement on Bangsamoro (FAB), a draft agreement signed early October this year by the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). The agreement is a product of years of negotiations between the GPH and the MILF in the hope of resolving the conflict in Mindanao.

The group also identified other issues, which included corruption, mining, and the need for electoral and political reforms.

“Inspired by the inputs and motivated by the vision and mission of Vivat International, we renew our commitment to uphold human rights by working towards the eradication of poverty; restoring the rights of indigenous peoples; preserving creation; promoting sustainable development; and working for structural and political change,” said the group.

Fr. Vasquez said the support of Vivat International team “gave them the courage to stand for the rights and respect the dignity of each person, especially those of women and children at the grassroots level.”

As one of the highlights of the workshop, they planted three seedlings, which symbolize the birth of Vivat International-Philippines.

The three seedlings also represent the islands of Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao, which stand for unity despite the diversity of cultures and history of different peoples.

The parenting of these trees would affirm the integrity of creation.

The Vivat International-Philippines is composed of the Missionary Sisters Servants of the Holy Spirit, Divine Word Missionaries, Missionary Sisters of the Holy Rosary, Comboni Sisters, Congregation of the Holy Spirit, Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate, Comboni Missionaries of the Heart of Jesus.

Vivat International is an NGO that was granted consultative status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) under Article 71 of the Charter of the United Nations and on ECOSOC Resolution 1996/31. (Malu Cadelina Manar / MindaNews)