The third Assembly in the life of RENATE took place in Fatima, Lisbon, Portugal from 13th to 19th November 2022. Sisters Eilis Coe and Rita Wynne attended the Assembly, and both were actively involved.
An important aspect of the Assembly was to secure the profile and future financial viability of RENATE and devise ways of getting the RENATE’S message out to a wider audience.
Attendance at the Assembly was open to members of RENATE with delegates from all 31 European countries in which RENATE has members attending. Ireland was well represented with 17 members and also very active in the Assembly, two of whom, as already stated, were Srs Eilis Coe and Rita Wynne from the RSC Anti-Human Trafficking Committee, Irish Province.
Part of the programme for the Assembly was electing new leadership and formulating a mandate for the future of RENATE. Sr Eilis was a member of the group which formulated the new mandate.
The days of the Assembly were very full, beginning each morning with a short film about survivors of human trafficking and with Morning Prayer. Sr Eilis, as leader of the House of Prayer task group, helped prepare the liturgies and Morning Prayer for each day of the Assembly.
Among the inspiring speakers at the Assembly were: Anna Roper Rowlands of the University of Durham, an expert on Catholic Social Teaching; Helena Maleo Garzon, an intrepid defender of human rights and rescuer of trafficked people, who works in the Mediterranean area; Kevin Hyland, Santa Marta Group and former Head of the Metropolitan Police, London, who has many years of combatting human trafficking and who is a prolific speaker on the subject; Sr Cecilia O’Dwyer IBVM who presented on the Sustainable Development Goals, linking them with Laudato ‘Si.
In her presentation to the group, Sr Rita representing the Development Task Group outlined the following:
• Human Trafficking for most of the public is something that is ‘hidden in plain sight,’ which in turn makes it more difficult to secure funding for the work
• Human Trafficking is the most clandestine, lucrative business in the world
• Technology now plays a huge role in furthering the crime of Human Trafficking;(phone companies would have a role if we could get them on our side)
• How to ‘help corporates to help us’
• How to make corporate sector aware that our work aligns with theirs
• The importance of winning the hearts and minds of people
• The goal of taking the global aspect of RENATE’s work across 31 European countries, approaching different corporates and seeing how we can appeal to them as they (corporates) are concerned with making a global impact
• The strategy to fulfil the corporate’s needs to convey they are making a social impact
• How to ensure that developing countries get as much opportunity as the developed countries
• How to ensure that we highlight our reality which includes concern for diversity and inclusion (D & I)
• The key importance of awareness and how people’s stories are what can be readily identified with
• It was also mentioned that companies like Google offer a service, at a price, where specified words will connect you to a website. RENATE should explore this actively
• Some groups did not want to identity with an organisation that was set up by Religious even though the group helps all faiths and none
Of course, it wasn’t all work at round tables at the Assembly! A field trip was organised and we visited two places – a shelter for trafficked people and the Jesuit Refugee Centre. Staff in both places received us very graciously and they shared their experiences of the good work they are doing.
A cultural evening was also organised and we were entertained at the Dominican School of San Jose. The Sisters welcomed everyone very warmly and the pupils presented a wonderful concert, singing and dancing in their age groups. Some traditional musicians also sang and played. Following the entertainment, a beautiful dinner was enjoyed by all in the school dining hall.
Another very important aspect of our visit that we found very moving was that we had the privilege of praying and celebrating Mass in the Cathedral and the Sanctuario in Fatima.
The work of the Assembly was a great success – the mandate was formulated and a new leadership team was put in place, so hopefully more and more people will support the good work of RENATE in their efforts to eliminate the evil of Human Trafficking.