By Cynthia Anna Mathew CJ
“We the Peoples… Together Finding Global Solutions for Global Problems.” This was the theme for the 67th United Nations DPI NGO Conference held on August 22-23 at the UN Headquarters, New York.
Each day at the United Nations,member States affirm that it is only by respecting and accepting the differences and diversities that we prosper together in a better, more peaceful world.
As I was part of the team to draft the Outcome Document for the conference I realized that there is no better example than the spirit of “We the Peoples” seen during and after the recent devastating flood that hit the southern Indian state of Kerala. The relief and rescue operations in Kerala have been exemplary wherein the people irrespective of age, class, religion, or caste came out to give a helping hand to one another.
“We the Peoples” power and robustness were seen when a fisherman who got on all fours and made himself a step for women to clamber onto a boat; when almost 3,000 fishermen brought their boats to save 70,000 people while those fishermen’s children might be starving; when the prisoners prepared thousands of chapatis for homeless victims; when churches, temples, mosques, schools, and convents opened to shelter thousands who became homeless; when the religious sisters, priests, and many Church-related organizations came to the forefront to reach out to the needy; when the young and old, Hindu, Muslim, Sikh, Christian and Jain, rich and poor, employed and unemployed, friends and strangers held hands to rescue the affected; when the school children broke open their piggy banks to buy supply for the relief camps.
Though the water has receded and many have gone back to their houses, many still depend on the help of others to rebuild their lives.
Till date, 417 people have died, 38 are missing and 133 have been hospitalized. 21,000 houses have been damaged; 46,016 cattle and 200,000 poultry perished, and 40,000 hectares of crops have been destroyed. Total loss to agriculture has been estimated at 15 billion rupees. Around 1.3 million were sheltered in thousands of relief camps.
People across the world have opened their hearts and wallets to rebuild flood-hit Kerala. This is the strength of “We the Peoples”. What more can we learn from this? “We the Peoples” teaches us the unfathomable and untapped POWER of solidarity, empathy, resilience, faith in humanity, unity in diversity and so on. Let this experience take us to higher levels of unleashing the power within each one of us and among us as a community.
(Cynthia Mathew CJ is a sister in the Congregation of Jesus. A social activist and lawyer, she worked in India with the Dalit women, youth, and children and practiced law in Patna High Court and the District court of Buxar. She has represented herself on behalf of juvenile delinquents, prisoners who languish in the jails, victims of rape and domestic violence and the bonded laborers, in the court of law and fought to get justice for them. She is now a nongovernmental organization representative to the United Nations for her congregation.)