In defence of Human Rights

In defence of Human Rights

We report the following testimony of Francesca Napoli, who recounts her experience at the Office of Human Rights in Geneva .

«When I got the opportunity of spending some time at the IIMA Office of Human Rights, I immediately felt that it was something I was ready for. I had been in New York for some months, collaborating with the Italian Embassy to the United Nations, and I often felt frustrated in dealing with issues every day that had little to do with human rights.

Reading the plans for the period I would spend in Geneva , I immediately became enthusiastic, because I really looked forward to the chance of contributing actively to the protection and promotion of the right of the child to education.

In all honesty, I did not know a whole lot about the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians and I was not sure what to expect from this experience that promised to be so different from anything I had previously known. However, something inside me was telling me to go and so at the beginning of February I found myself knocking at the door of La Salesienne .

From the start, I was surprised by the atmosphere of familiarity that reigned in the office and the warm welcome that my colleagues offered me. I soon was able to appreciate the affection and genuine hospitality of the Sisters who, with a smile, a kind word, a chocolate, soon managed to make me feel really at home in their house. In time, I became fascinated by the untiring commitment and contagious enthusiasm that Sr. Mariagrazia brought to all the new projects that start and that, day by day, make the mission of the office ever more important.

I learned many things during these months. I had the opportunity of running the meetings of the Council for Human Rights and of writing the reports on what had happened. I took part in a formation course that the office had organised for Sisters from French-speaking Africa and in two parallel events that took place at the United Nations, on the theme of reinserting children from situations of risk into society and the family. Together with my colleague and friend me Valentina I wrote a statement on the situation of the children of Honduras , which we presented on the occasion of the Periodic, Universal Revision of that country. This gave us an opportunity to study in depth the problems of the country and of entering into contact with the Sisters of the place in order to get information.

I gradually got to know the mission of the FMA and to under stand the complex and very efficient structure which our office belongs to. I had the pleasure of meeting missionary Sisters from Africa who, with great simplicity, shared with us the little miracles they work every day in their countries. I had the joy of being welcomed with open arms into a mission in the heart of Lebanon and of passing a few days with the community, which made us feel, at all times, as if we were in our own home. The Lebanese Sisters offered us important data on the situation of the children to put into the report that we then presented to the UN. They helped us to understand the complexity of their country by bringing us to a refugee camp for Palestinians.

I who for years had not attended church, today feel proud to represent the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians, who are committed every day to guaranteeing the rights of children in 93 countries round the world.

I am happy to have collaborated with the IIMA office because, probably without this experience, I would never have had the opportunity of knowing and appreciating the value of the Salesian spirit, which really makes these Sisters and their mission special. And now that I am facing a new adventure in far away in Colombia I draw great comfort and happiness from the thought that, by a strange coincidence, which maybe is not a coincidence at all, in the same city where I will live for the next few months there is an FMA mission.

My Geneva experience was, over all, very significant. From a professional point of view, it gave me an opportunity of coming into contact with a unique reality. In fact, this city forms the nerve centre of the system of human rights and it is here that the majority of the non-government organisations have their seat, as well as the largest humanitarian organisations belonging to the UN.

At the same time, the months spent at La Salesienne have enriched me at a human level because I have met exceptional people who walked a small part of my journey by my side and have given me so much».

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