The Religious Sisters of Charity Inter-Congregational Anti-Human Trafficking team met in Sydney, from 15-28 October 2017. The following is a report of the meeting sent by Anne Kelleher, the Communications Person for APT Ireland- Act to Prevent Trafficking.
Representatives from Zambia, Nigeria, the United Kingdom, Ireland and North America gathered at The Centre, Randwick, Sydney on 16th October, 2017. Sr. Suzette respectfully acknowledged the First Peoples, specifically the Gadigal People of the Eora nation and invited Ms. Elsie Heiss, Elder of the First peoples, to address us. Elsie called on us to respect the land we were on and pointed out how we are enriched by our differences.
Sr. Clare Nolan, Congregational Leader welcomed the team, visitors, sisters and colleagues who joined with us for our first day's work. In her opening address she said ‘’As I look around at this gathering this morning, I am reminded of the song “The Spirit is a - moving all over the world…” Mary Aikenhead’s spirit. We are the bearers of her spirit, her vision today, in serving the poor, the needy, the downtrodden, the used and the abused. And doing that with a great heart. Mary Aikenhead was fired by a determination to better the lives of the poor of her day and she relentlessly pursued her dream. She had a fire that burned in her heart and great courage and determination drove her spirit. Confidence in God and courage to dare came from her deep rooted trust in Divine Providence…… We continue to read the signs of the times which is why we are involved in this ministry of anti-human trafficking.’’
The week was filled with laughter, an abundance of sharing and deep reflection. We drew upon an old Chinese proverb which suggests we engage the eyes, ears and heart when communicating.
An abiding memory from the week -in addition to the firm friendships and commitments made- will be Ginn Fourie’s sharing of her personal family tragedy, which led her to be recognised and much sought after as a speaker on ‘’Reconciliation and Forgiveness: From Victim to survivor to wounded healer.’’
Input from Ms. Jennifer Burn, Professor of Law at the University of Technology, Sydney, Director of ‘’Anti-Slavery Australia’’ and member of ACRATH, challenged us to consider all the complexities of Forced Marriage and Human Trafficking. Her primary emphasis is on prevention, which can be achieved through awareness-raising and the engagement of partners to ensure as broad a coverage of people as possible.
As always at such events, gifts are exchanged as expressions of gratitude and respect. On this occasion, the choice of gift was copies of the Vow parchments of four of the first five sisters who came to Australia. The fifth Sister made her First Profession in Sydney.
Enriched by inputs from the guest speakers, we entered into the spirit of engaging with open hearts and open minds, to arrive at an Action Plan. The task was made easier by Jan's skilled facilitation and the collegiality of the team. It was a week of steady, paced hard work, eased with laughter, generous hearts and fellowship.
We left the Centre on Friday 20th looking forward to living up to the commitment expressed by Sr Clare in her welcome address -
‘’The Sisters of Charity are committed to going to the edges where the poor are, to be islands of hope to those who have no hope.’’