2/09/05 VMM Strategic Framework Launch

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Speaking Notes of
Most Rev. Diarmuid Martin
Archbishop of Dublin, Primate of Ireland
All Hallows College, 2nd September 2005
These are very interesting and important times in the world of international development.  In the coming months, important decisions will be taken which will affect the relationships between the richer and the poorer sectors of our world for decades to come.  In a few days, the General Assembly of the United Nations will review progress on the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals.  Later in the year the World Trade Organization will attempt to see how it can re-navigate itself back on to the tracks of the Doha Development Agenda which provided a framework for rules-based multilateral trade agreements focussed especially on the needs of developing countries.
At home, discussion will continue on the development of a robust national programme for international development and on the need to maintain the commitments given our government to rapidly raise Irish government development aid to the internationally agreed levels.
Thank God that development issues are still issues that arouse passion within our own society.  It is good that development agencies, missionary societies, church leaders, intellectuals, entertainers, the media and many others keep alive the debate in the political arena and in public opinion.
For many years such debate was my own daily bread and butter, in my role as Secretary of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace and later as the Vatican’s representative at the International Organizations in Geneva.   But I was always a little uncomfortable in those positions.  Yes I was committed and – even if I say it myself – I worked hard and I am told, on good authority, that I was respected as a player in the debates.
But I kept asking myself, what is the real role of the Church in this area?  Is it enough that I be an effective lobbyist and advocate around international issues?  I appreciate the work of diplomats in the multilateral sphere and international civil servants and I will defend them anywhere.   I was astounded by the quality of the work done by aid agencies, not just on the ground, but in their capacity for analysis and advocacy which had clear impact on the shaping of effective international programmes.
But I always felt that the Church – while establishing alliances with a wide range of partners – should be careful to avoid falling into the trap of joining, as a fully paid-up member, a new business of armchair analysis of the North-South rift in our world.  I always felt that the Church’s primary involvement in development was in direct contact with the realities of those in our world that are unable to realise their potential.  The Church’s credibility in fact did not come from the analysis which a Pontifical Council or an international agency could put together – no matter how important that is – but from the lives its people of individual Christians who were inspired by and a witnessed to message and the love of Jesus Christ.   The Christians who inspired even the most cynical international official were the ones who stayed in place when a humanitarians crisis exploded and other vanished, who gave their entire life to the service of an adopted community, the one’s who shared not just ideas  but their own lives.
Mission and international service in the long term are about working together, as your strategic framework points out.  They are about working together as partners with others, ensuring that through partnership the other acquires a new capacity, not just a technical capacity to do things, but something which can only come from the heart of the volunteer: a sharing of mutual esteem, which in turn inspires self esteem and hope on the part of the other.
Development means getting hands and shoes dirty, through experiencing and sharing the conditions of others.  Development means identifying with people, looking on them not as clients but as brothers and sisters, with the same dignity as ourselves.
Debt relief, fairer trade, increased development assistance are important challenges, but none of them is an end in itself and none of them will work unless they become part of a new focusing attention on people, on building up the personal and social capacity of people to become the owners of their own future.  People are not faces on the cover of a brochure or a plan.  They are men women and children full of hope and human aspiration, who want to see a better today for themselves and a better tomorrow for the families.  Partnership is about harnessing that human energy and empowering it.   Development requires good policy, but good policy can only produce fruit if it enables human capacity to flourish.
Jesus Christ, the model of missionary activity, journeyed day by day into new towns, into new contexts, preaching the message of the Kingdom, a message which in our time also brings newness in whatever situation it finds itself.  Jesus healed the sick and returned them to normal life.  He rebuked the demons which possessed people and deprived them of the full human liberty.  He led people to the Father, to the realization that the world and all that is in it is “creation”, not something we own ourselves and can use just as we wish, but gift from God to be used in the way God wishes it to be, to serve all humankind in the integrity of the entire creation.
I wish VMM success in applying its strategic plan. Success means not just ensuring that projects are delivered and deadlines respected. It means day by day being vigilant to ensure that the good of the other is being enhanced, his or her aspirations responded to and his or her hopes realised.  May your work be inspired and strengthened by your witness to the love of God, revealed in Jesus Christ.