BANGKOK – An assembly of Franciscan leaders, meeting in Bangkok the week of July 10-14, discussed the future direction of the Franciscan commitment to the recognition of human rights in the Asia Pacific region.
The Assembly unanimously agreed to strengthen the work of their NGO – Franciscans International – by opening an office for Franciscans International in Bangkok, regional headquarters of the United Nations in Asia and the Pacific.
Over the last two years, Franciscan sisters and brothers from Asia and the Pacific engaged in consultations with regional Franciscan leadership, conducted exhaustive studies into the needs of grassroots Franciscans in the region, and made an assessment of four cities as possible sites for a regional Franciscans International office.
At a meeting in Singapore, June 2005, a steering committee was established and funded by 12 Franciscan superiors from the region. They called for a feasibility committee to make a study over six months and interview dozens of Franciscans throughout Asia and the Pacific.
Fifty Franciscan sisters and brothers, including 11 superiors, from 35 entities in 12 countries in Asia and the Pacific, called unanimously for the opening of the office and collectively assumed responsibility for the project. The decision is to be implemented in three phases, as follows:
- A skilled and experienced project officer will be sought from within the region to work with Franciscans International in Geneva in order to master human rights mechanisms and coordinate the project’s establishment in Bangkok and will be assisted by an intern from the region;
- The Asia project coordinator will recruit two Franciscans from the region and one local administrative assistant to find an office, housing and establish contacts with Franciscans in Asia and the Pacific; and
- The staff will engage in advocacy at the UN and run training programs in Bangkok and in the field, throughout the region.
Although there is no fixed calendar for implementing the three respective phases, Franciscans International envisions a full Asia Pacific office to be approved by the international board of directors of Franciscans International and functioning within three years.
This decision reflects a major development in the history of Franciscans International, the only common ministry of the whole Franciscan Family, and an important, new inter-Franciscan endeavor at the international level.