As you know, FI is the only common ministry project of the Franciscan Family. It was created thirty years ago from the grassroots up, based on the vision of various sisters and brothers who were inspired by a dream of sharing our Franciscan message and values at a global level through the structures of the United Nations (UN). In the last three decades FI has undergone various changes, but it has continued its commitment to serve peace, the poor and the planet.
In the not-too-distant past FI passed through a difficult period and was challenged to undergo a thorough review and renewal. We are happy to report that this process has been completed. Financially, expenses are down and income has been re-directed in such a way that two-thirds of our receipts are now spent on the advocacy program. Our dedicated and competent staff is guided by a four-year Strategic Plan that was adopted two years ago, and which has recently been reviewed and updated for a further two years. The International Board of Directors (IBD) has been streamlined; it now consists of eight members (OFS, IFC-TOR, TOR, Anglican Franciscans, OFM Cap, OFM Conv., OFM, and the Executive Director of FI). The IBD works well with the staff and has a good relationship with the Conference of the Franciscan Family (CFF). You might be interested to know that recently FI received an award from UNICEF, recognizing it for best use of UN structures/processes in its work on “witch children” in Benin.
As we celebrate this 30th Anniversary, we are thankful for the work of so many who have made FI into an organization that is highly respected at the UN: by the UN staff, by country delegations, by other religious groups, and by fellow NGOs and other civil society organizations that work together with us. At the same time, we need to look to the future. While the current situation of FI is “balanced”, finances are still tight and challenging. We do not look to become a huge organization, but we would be able to do our work at the UN more effectively if the staff were not so pressed to find the time to request the resources needed to make our operation run.
In this spirit we ask first of all for your continued prayers for the success of FI. The spirit behind FI is what keeps our work vibrant and effective. At the same time we ask that you consider supporting FI financially. You might want to make a one-time contribution during this 30thanniversary celebration, in addition to a yearly donation to FI’s work. You might also know of others who would be interested in supporting the work that FI is doing at the UN; please approach them and share with them our vision of defending the human rights of our sisters and brothers throughout the world, in the perspectives of our Franciscan values. The staff of FI and the members of the IBD are ready to provide you any information you might need in these considerations.
We thank all who have been contributing generously to FI throughout these 30 years. We appeal to all members of the Franciscan Family to join together in supporting the work of FI, contributing spiritually and financially, thus seeking to promote the Reign of God in our midst today!
Bro. Cielito Almazan, OFM Provincial Province of San Pedro Bautista Manila, Philippines
Rome, May 2, 2019
Dear Bro. Cielito,
May the Lord give you peace!
I am writing to you in order that you might convey to Bro. Edward Jeyapalan, OFM and all our Friars in the Foundation in Sri Lanka our prayers and solidarity at this moment in the history of the country, the Church, and the Order.
Since learning of the terrorist attacks against innocent civilians and Christians, Brothers from around the Order have offered prayers for the people of Sri Lanka, and most especially for the families most directly affected. They also have invited the Christians in the parishes, schools, and social centers where they are present to join this spiritual act of solidarity.
The Christian community of Sri Lanka has demonstrated to the world the power of Christ’s redeeming grace. We have listened to Christian families who, as they mourn their loved one, have offered forgiveness to the perpetrators in place of promoting hatred and revenge. This witness to the message of the Gospel speaks to every human being irrespective of his or her religious affiliation, and also to those who self-identify as non-believers.
To Bro. Edward, the President of the Foundation, and to all of the Brothers of the Franciscan Foundation in Sri Lanka, may God bless you with courage, wisdom, patience, and fortitude as you accompany your people, offering them spiritual consolation in the midst of ongoing, sporadic violence against Christians. Please extend my special greetings to His Eminence Cardinal Malcom Ranjith, and to other members of the hierarchy where the Friars are in service to the local church as they provide spiritual guidance and promote the central values of the Gospel in the midst of suffering and sorrow.
May the efforts of our Friars help promote a deeper spirit of dialogue and peace among all peoples of Sri Lanka, building bridges of understanding and harmony.
Fraternally yours in Christ and St. Francis,
Bro. Michael A. Perry, OFM Minister General and Servant
To our Muslim brothers and sisters throughout the World:
As-salaamu ‘alaykum! Peace be upon you!
On behalf of the Special Commission for Dialogue with Islam of the Order of Friars Minor, it gives me great pleasure once again to extend our greetings to you at the beginning of Ramadan. This is a holy time as you commemorate and celebrate God’s revelation of the Qur’an as a guide to humanity (al-Baqara 2.185). It is a time of great contrasts: the rigorous fasting of the daytime and the generous feast (Iftar) of the evening, when carefully prepared dishes and desserts contrast with the simple sweetness of dates and the purity of water with which you break the fast; when thousands gather together for prayer in mosques, and each individual prays in the quiet of their hearts “that you may be more conscious (taqwā)” of God (al-Baqara 2.183). It is a special time spent with one’s family and friends, and a time when strangers are welcomed to the table; and it is particularly during this quintessential Islamic month of fasting that Muslims welcome people of all faiths to share iftar at the end of the day.
This year, in the months preceding Ramadan, Muslims have shown extraordinary hospitality and generosity to His Holiness, Pope Francis, during his visits to the United Arab Emirates in February, and to the Kingdom of Morocco in March, as in his previous visits to the Holy Land, Turkey, the Central African Republic and Egypt among other countries. In these visits, Pope Francis has often spoken of his desire to follow the example of St. Francis of Assisi who, bearing a “message of peace and fraternity” traveled to Egypt in 1219 where he was warmly received by the Sultan al-Malik al-Kamil. As was the case for St. Francis and the Sultan, these visits have provided Pope Francis and Muslim leaders with opportunities to likewise demonstrate the fraternity that God desires for Christians and Muslims as “descendants of the same father, Abraham.” (General audience, April 3, 2019)
Indeed, as His Majesty Muhammad VI, King of Morocco, reminded us during the Pope’s recent visit, the fraternity shared by Christians and Muslims dates back to the early Islamic era. Several years before the Hijra, when Muslims were experiencing persecution in Mecca, the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) sent them to seek refuge with the Negus, the Christian king of Abyssinia who gave them his protection.
Tragically, in today’s world, both Muslims and Christians are still forced to flee from their homes due to persecution, war, and injustice. Even those who have fled the arenas of war are not entirely safe as seen so tragically in the recent events in Christchurch, New Zealand and Sri Lanka. In his recent visits to the Emirates and Morocco, Pope Francis has continued to speak on behalf of migrants and the world’s vulnerable. In Morocco he exhorted the Christian community to: “continue to be neighbors to those who are often left behind, the little ones and the poor, prisoners and migrants,” citing works of charity as “a path of dialogue and cooperation with our Muslim brothers and sisters, and with all men and women of good will” (Rabat, March 31, 2019). The concern for the poor, the needy and the migrant are, of course, foundational to Islam, as expressed so emphatically in the Qur’an:
It is not righteous that you turn your faces to the East or West; but it is righteousness to believe in God, the Last Day, the Book, and the Messengers; to spend of your substance out of love for Him, for your kin, for the orphans, for the needy, for the wayfarer, for those who ask, and for the ransom of slaves…(al-Baqara 2.177)
We see the values that Muslims and Christians share, as well as their common concerns, in the remarkable document signed by the Grand Imam of al-Azhar, Ahmad al-Tayyeb and Pope Francis in Abu Dhabi in February. In this historic text titled A Document on Human Fraternity for World Peace and Living Together, the faithful – both Muslims and Christians – are addressed as “believers,” and are exhorted equally to protect the creation and support all people, especially the poor, the destitute, the marginalized, and those most in need, including orphans, widows, refugees, exiles, and the victims of wars and torture, without distinction. While acknowledging the issues and challenges Muslims and Christians together face in the world – political, economic, technological and environmental – this document, the result of Muslim-Christian fraternity, can help to significantly advance dialogue “among believers and non-believers, and among all people of good will.”
One of the most enduring images I have of Ramadan is the iftar, the much-anticipated meal at the end of a day of fasting. I fondly recall invitations to break the fast – not only from friends – but from complete strangers, policeman on duty and shopkeepers in Cairo among them. Around the world, Franciscan friars, sisters and lay people of all faiths are fed generously at the table in mosques and Muslim households. The iftar table thus becomes a symbol of the gathering of “believers.”
The city of Jerusalem also serves as a place where believers gather, the children of Abraham – Muslims, Christians and Jews – each with equal devotion and fervency. To this end, while in Morocco, Pope Francis signed an appeal with His Majesty Muhammad VI to protect and promote Jerusalem (al-Quds) as:
the common patrimony of humanity and especially the followers of the three monotheistic religions as a place of encounter and as a symbol of peaceful coexistence, where mutual respect and dialogue cam be cultivated. (Rabat, March 30, 2019)
The encounters between different representatives of Muslim communities and countries with Pope Francis exemplify the deeply-felt fraternity that Muslims and Christians can experience in spite of the differences that have defined us for too long. During this Ramadan, we pray for the safety and security of your communities, and that this time may offer a most blessed encounter with God (swt) and a peaceful encounter with all who may benefit from your faith and fraternity. As the Holy Qur’an reminds us:
Everyone has a direction to which he turns. So vie with one another in good deeds. Wherever you are, God will bring you together. Truly God is Powerful over all things. (al-Baqara 2.148)
We wish you a most blessed Ramadan.Ramadan Mubarak! Ramadan Kareem!
Br. Michael D. Calabria, OFM, Special Assistant for Dialog with Islam
Members of the Commission for Dialog with Islam:
Br. Manuel Corullón, OFM Br. Ferdinand Mercado, OFM Br. Jamil Albert, OFM
Walking with the young people: a vital challenge for OFS
The year of 2018 saw the Universal Church living a Synod of Bishops dedicated to the theme “Young People, Faith, and vocational Discernment”, held in Rome from 3 to 28 October. The main purpose of the Synod was, as seen in the Instrumentum laboris (Art.1), to reemphasize the fact that,
Taking care of young people is not an optional task for the Church, but an integral part of her mission in history. In just a few words, this is the specific scope of the upcoming Synod: just as our Lord Jesus Christ walked alongside the disciples of Emmaus (cf. Lk 24: 13-35), the Church is also urged to accompany all young people, without exception, towards the joy of love.
In the Final Document of the Synod it is clearly stated that the synodal process is not yet completed, and the implementation phase is yet to come (Art. 3). This is an open invitation for everyone to participate in creating new atmospheres for the young people:
Community experience highlights the qualities and the limits of every person and helps us to recognize humbly that unless we share the gifts we have received for the common good, it is not possible to follow the Lord. This practice continues in the Church today, as the young join groups, movements and associations of various kinds where they experience a warm and welcoming environment and the intensity of relationships that they desire. Joining organizations of this kind is particularly important once the journey of Christian initiation has been completed, because it offers the young an opportunity to bring their Christian vocation to maturity.
Almost an year before the Synod, the XV General Chapter of OFS that took place in the Collegium Seraphicum in Rome on November 4-11, 2017, in its conclusive document, had stated that, “Secular Franciscan fraternities, at all levels, are to seek the most suitable means to foster the vitality and growth of Franciscan Youth within their particular realities, accompanying and animating YouFra with all that is necessary to ensure young people are supported along their human and spiritual journey”.
In the light of all these events the Conference of the Spiritual Assistants (CAS) decided that the Koinonia of the year 2019 be dedicated to the theme “Walking with the young people: a vital challenge for OFS”.
Koinonia 2019-1: “St. Francis and the youth of today”– Fr. Alfred Parambakathu OFMConv
 All the documents of the Synod on the Youth that we have used in this article are taken from the website www.synod2018.va. This is an invitation for all the readers to go through these documents and make their own assessments and studies.
 Final Document of the Synod 2018, 96.
 For all the references to this General Chapter, whose acts are yet to be published, the readers are recommended to refer to the official Webpage, www.ciofs.org.
From 7th to 11th April 2019, Br. Michael Anthony Perry visited the Province of St Francis of Quito accompanied by Br Valmir Ramos, Area Definitor. The visit began in Quito, where the Minister General was received by the brothers of the Province and met with them in the St Francis Friary.
On Sunday, the 7th Minister General presided at Mass in the Basilica of St Francis where the local community filled the Church with great devotion. In the morning, Br. Michael met the Archbishop of Guayaquil, Bishop Luis Cabrera Herrera.
Monday was a day of celebration for the Provincial Fraternity with the solemn profession of 4 brothers. Br Michael presided over the ceremony and received their vows. In the morning he met with the Provincial Definitory listening and discussing the Order’s outlook with its challenges for the future. The Minister then met the brothers of the North, of the Centre and the Ecuadorian Coast. In the afternoon, still in Quito, he met with the Franciscan Family in the Church of St Francis. Br. Michael also discussed and listened to the concerns of the brothers and sisters who want to grow in the Franciscan spirit. The same day, the Archbishop of Quito, Fausto Gabriel Trávez Trávez, OFM, attended the luncheon.
On the 9th Br. Michael met the brothers of the South-East zone and Coast in Azogues, in the friary of Our Lady of the Cloud. Arriving very early, he was received by the students of the Franciscan College and by the faithful of the local Church. In the afternoon he met the Poor Clares Sisters and Conceptionist Sisters from the area, in the Monastery of St Clare, and he shared the joys and challenges of the Order in the world with them.
The last stage of the visit was to the Vicariate of Galápagos, in Santa Cruz Island, in the house of the missionaries of the Province. The Bishop, Patricio Bonilla, OFM, also participated and celebrated with representatives of the various parish groups.
On the evening of the 11th, in Quito, there was an opportunity for a brief meeting with the Apostolic Nuncio, Archbishop Andrés Carrascosa Coso, who spoke about his esteem for the Franciscan Order and its concerns.