Lawyer nuns, priests pledge to work for poor

By Virginia Saldanha

Pune: Responding to the invitation of Streevani and Montfort Social Institute, 33 lawyers who are women and men Religious as well as diocesan priests came together at Jana Deepa Vidyapeet, Pune, from 13 to 15 January, to reflect on a ‘Prophetic Response to the Pursuit of Justice.’

“Adopt a rights based approach as NGO lawyering is a space away from commercial lawyering. The law can be used to bring about social transformation,” said advocate Flavia Agnes, a resource person.

The resource persons encouraged the participants to make faith based responses to the most vulnerable in India.

Pune-based civil society “Streevani,” (the voice of women) and Hyderabad-based Montfort Social Institute organized the event.

Both Fr. M.T. Joseph and Jesuit Fr. P.D. Mathew encouraged the lawyers to use the Constitution to enforce equality and rights.

“The monolithic idea of India siding with the corporates, against the tribals and poor have generated a discourse that silences people in our so called democracy,” said Fr. M.T. Joseph.

“The narratives used are cleverly manipulated to substantiate the discourse on democracy and nationalism. The monopoly of one party supported by business, creates an environment of silence and fear by using intimidating tactics to promote the idea of “Nation”, “nationalism”, and patriotism” he added.

“Fear and silencing is managed by professionals. To counter this we need to build a strong support system to become pressure groups using symbolic power. Power can be broken by resistance. Power thrives when spaces of resistance is reduced. Enlarge spaces of resistance. Support persons who are attacked because of their resistance. Create spaces of resistance within ourselves and in society,” the priest said.

The sharing of stories from the field, by the participants, reinforced the need for building solidarity among lawyers who are nun, brothers and priests. The group felt that they had much to learn and share with each other for solidarity and support.

“We need to conceive Jesus in our hearts and minds and deliver him to the masses,” said Fr. PD Mathew and he encouraged the participants to network with one another, for support and sharing of resources.

In the final session, while reviewing and evaluating the meeting, the participants expressed the need to form an inclusive Forum of Lawyers with men. So far there has been a Forum of Religious Women Lawyers who have had regular meetings over the nine years of their existence.

Now all felt it was time to have a combined Forum of lawyers that would be autonomous. Though the name of the forum was not yet finalized, an adhoc team of four was nominated to organize the next annual meeting.

Regional representatives were chosen for Gujarat, Maharashtra, Karnataka, T.N., Kerala, North East, Odisha, Andhra and Telangana, Delhi, Jammu and Kashmir and Punjab.

An E-newsletter sharing news and information will go out to all members, bishops and superiors. The participants committed to take responsibility to expand the Forum by bringing in new members, and ensure attendance at the Forum meetings.

Streevani offered to continue to assist the Forum in the organization of the meetings and the members guaranteed their commitment to attend the annual meetings.

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7 thoughts on “Lawyer nuns, priests pledge to work for poor

  1. The write up made an interesting reading. Actually, these are the same persons coming together at different places India and discussing the same issues without involving any locals.

    No lay persons in Pune knew that priest and nun advocates gathered together at JDV for “prophetic response to the pursuit of justice.” It is not understood as to why such important events are conducted in secrecy, without any prior public notice in Christian periodicals, not even in the widely circulated Pune based Marathi Catholic magazine “Niropya”.

    One wonders whether the organizers conducted the program only for subsequent media write up for international web readers and for fund raising purpose. It is expected that the local laity would be involved in such programs in future.

  2. The nun and priest lawyers’ meet in Pune from January 13 to 15, 2017 went mostly unnoticed, as these lawyers are far removed from the local masses in their approach and the use of language. Jesuit priest Fr PD Mathew needs to be applauded for saying, “We need to conceive Jesus in our hearts and minds and deliver him to the masses.” However, this is not followed by the priest and nun lawyers. Even the Streevani, which is always boastful of its work, takes advantage of women tilted laws and harasses men and their parents by filing false cases against them in matrimonial matters, even when the bride is declared at fault by the Ecclesiastical Tribunals. So much so for the love of Jesus. The priest and nun lawyers first should decide to follow the path of truth, or else, they will be causing misery and discord in the community.

  3. Good initiatives and the work carried out needs to be spread across all villages and towns in India. Two different approaches needed for the rural and non rural segments. Urban areas suffer from want of place to stay and lack of support system. Rural areas suffer from lack of infrastructure and developmental issues including education. While opportunities open in urban areas, they dont in rural areas. Family concept is a risky in urban areas for want of space and lack of emotional support system and due to massive urban influence of convenience over necessities.

  4. While appreciating the religious women and men as well diocesan priests who also don the advocates’ gown reiterating their pledge to work for the poor, it is obvious that they need massive man/woman power support in this noble aim. There are any number of persons practising law who swear/live by Christian values of justice. a deliberate effort should be made to gather them into this “mahagadhbandhan” or Grand Alliance for Justice & Peace. NGO lawyering can be the Class Action suits as practised in the USA. The Public Interest Litigation (PIL) in India is already highjacked by the powerful. This also would call for a lot of resources, both in money and personnel. Great to know that the religious women had been coordinating their efforts towards this aim for nearly a decade.

  5. Very good initiative. Perhaps the pertinent.question is how to use the Constitution to regain our shrinking space and make our voices heard on behalf of those who live I the periphery

  6. Need of the hour; appreciate the very much the contributions of Streevani, Pune and Montfort Social Institute, Hyderabad. It is on right direction

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