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.