Leave no one behind: reflections from a Sister at the United Nations

Sr Kathryn, 2nd from left, at media training in February

Sr Kathryn, 2nd from left, at media training in February

Leave no one behind

By Sr Kathryn Keigher IBVM

[Sr Kathryn attended CoR’s media training session in February to prepare for a stint at the United Nations in New York: this is a reflection on her first impressions since arriving there]:

As I approached the bus stop to begin my journey to work I noticed that the ticket machine was out of order so I had to move to the second machine. I vaguely heard a child speaking to me but I was not sure. She was about eight years old and was waiting for the bus with her mother who tried to tell me what she had said but the little girl seemed embarrassed . Eventually her mother said:

‘She wanted to tell you that the machine was out of order because she thought you looked like a stranger and would not understand.’

I had been in New York for two weeks and was definitely a stranger. 

I am spending five months  at the United Nations   under the guidance of Sr Cecilia O’Dwyer IBVM who is the IBVM-Loreto NGO representative at the UN.   I am free to wander around and attend meetings, ask questions, present challenges or simply reflect and wonder where I fit in.

UN chamber; the statue represents a girl with arms upraised reaching towards a bird which hovers with outspread wings. It symbolises Mankind and Hope.

UN chamber; the statue represents a girl with arms upraised reaching towards a bird which hovers with outspread wings. It symbolises Mankind and Hope.

It is an exciting and dramatic place to be because the whole world is here. It may be  visitors coming for the tour, diplomats and their teams coming to work, or NGOs coming to listen, present, and challenge.  The  world, with its infinite variety of cultures, religions, ideas, joys and sufferings, dreams and hopes for the future, presents itself at the door of the United Nations every day.

In the short time I have been here I have witnessed  indigenous  communities pleading for their rights, young people from the developing world pleading to be heard and environmentalists pleading with us to take Climate Change seriously. The message and the mantra in everything  here is: Leave No One Behind.

The little girl at the bus stop has probably never been to the United Nations. She would be very pleased if she knew that down the road, in the enormous buildings with the flags flying outside, people are working very hard, on her behalf, to welcome the stranger and leave no one behind.

Kathryn Keigher IBVM