Interview with Fr Thomas Pallithanam, SDB
New York, USA, WORLD, 2 March 2021 -- Fr Thomas (India-Hyderabad province) is the second representative of the Salesian Congregation at the United Nations (ECOSOC) since 2017. Our presence started in 2003 with Fr Thomas Brennan. Through the Salesian Missions USA office (SalesianMissions.org), the Salesians of St. John Bosco hold special Consultative Status to the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), advocating for the poorest of the poor.
The responsibility and the privilege of highlighting our good practices at such an important international fora gives me a lot of joy. Our extensive presence across the globe in 135 countries puts on us the burden and the privilege to be an effective voice of “poor and the abandoned”, particularly of the young. In the past three years I have been able to bring greater visibility to the work that the Salesian Congregation is doing around the globe. I also have the satisfaction of knowing that the Salesian presence at the UN is better known and coordinated now. More and more Salesians and Salesian family members have got involved in our work at the UN since 2017.
As I listen to the many conversations at the UN and participate in discussions and take part in side events that highlight good practices by various organizations, I have come to realize that as a congregation we do so much more. The extent of our work and commitment far outweighs any similar good practice that are show-cased here. We need to highlight more the dedicated service that we render to the youth and to the needy. I also realize that while we are very good at service delivery we do not sufficiently engage ourselves in advocacy on behalf of those we accompany. While service delivery is important and gives us the moral standing to speak for the young and the poor we must realize that advocating for policies that will benefit the needy is a responsibility that we should not shirk. This is one area in which we need to seriously build our capabilities. I also realize that our young people are mostly the beneficiaries of our dedication but probably we have not challenged them sufficiently to become agents of change. I say this because the UN space is teeming with young people who are making significant changes in the lives of people they are associated with. UN puts a premium on the participation of the young in its policy making efforts.
May be this question needs to worded differently. How can the ordinary SDB around the world strengthen the SDB-UN office. I see this as the challenge. It is when the ordinary Salesians and the members of the Salesian family become effective agents of advocacy and change in the countries they live and work, our presence at the UN becomes meaningful and effective. Otherwise it will just be a lot of conversation and high thinking but not making any meaningful impact for the people on the ground. Having said that:
- SDB-UN office can share the different policies that have come out from the UN and these can be used by our Salesians to push their governments to implement such policies in favour of the needy.
- SDB-UN office can highlights the work that the Salesians do by holding Side Events during the several commission meetings that take place at the UN.
- SDB-UN office SMI can take the learnings from our work on the ground and give it visibility by contributing the same to the civil society inputs that go into UN consultations.
- SDB-UN office help build the capacity of Salesians to do advocacy work in their countries on behalf of the young and the needy.
- SDB-UN office SMI can connect Salesians to the larger country civil society networks that are working on their countries for policy changes.
- SDB-UN office Facilitate the participation of Salesians, particularly the young at the UN Conferences both at the headquarters in New York, Geneva, Vienna and the regional headquarters in Santiago, Addis Abbaba, Bangkok and thus build regional teams to be our voice at those centres.
- SDB-UN office has been tasked to bring about a culture of advocacy in the congregation and I see this as one of the urgent changes that we need in the congregation.
- SDB-UN office is unable to facilitate any fund raising in support of our work. The office has been specifically told not to focus on such an endeavor but work incessantly for policy changes, show case our good practices and promote a culture of advocacy in our congregation.
The SDB General council, especially through the Councilors for Youth Ministry, Missions and General Economer positively encourages and supports these efforts. That gives me a sense of purpose, satisfaction and joy.
Making an Oral Statement on behalf of the Salesians at the Inauguration of the FACTI Panel
Salesian delegates at UN Conference on Social Development_present regional Fr Alphonse can be seen_also Fr Sebastian Chirayath
SDB at UN - New Rochelle 2019
Side Event Participation Good Practice from Senegal was presented
With Salesian Youth Panelists at the 2019 HLPF_Provincial of Mumbai and Convenor Don Bosco Green Alliance