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Two Days in Geneva with Fr. Séamus Finn, OMI February 2nd, 2017
My two day visit to Geneva paralleled the two first full days of the Trump administration in Washington. The experience became like a retreat that at once brought me into contact with so many of the people, institutions and ideas that have formed and sustained the international multilateral system against the background of threats to repeal and disrupt many of the agreements and practices that are the threads that have been knit together into the tapestry of international cohesion and cooperation. It is like no other city, I think, in terms of the numbers of people and governments that have gathered here to negotiate peace, to sign agreements and treaties and to repair again the ruptures and wounds that have often divided tribes and counties and regions.
I participated in a multi stakeholder session on improving access to medicines for the treatment of neglected diseases at the Institute of International Development Studies that brought together a very diverse international set of researchers, pharmaceutical companies, governments, development agencies, NGOs and investors. They came together to evaluate the progress that has been made through this collaborative process, to discuss new concepts and initiatives that were being considered and to explore avenues whereby the success of these efforts might be enhanced through this open collaborative platform.
In the evening I gathered with many others at the church of St. Nicolas de Flüe for an interfaith prayer service to mark the World Day of Peace that was sponsored by the Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations in Geneva. This marked the 50th anniversary of the World Day of Peace that was initiated by Pope Paul VI in 1967 and focused this year on the theme of “Non Violence: A style of politics for peace”. One by one the representatives of different faith traditions, Islam, Jewish, Buddhist, Orthodox, Protestant and Catholic, offered their reflection on this year’s message from Pope Francis and prayers were offered in six different languages. Choirs from Africa and the Philippines as well as a Vietnamese style prayer procession added to the offering.
On the second day I made my way to the UN headquarters in Geneva to participate in an event that was sponsored by religious, secular and government organizations to recognize the contributions of a 15th century Dominican friar to the foundation of International Law and to the principles and process that would eventually lead to the establishment of the League of Nations and the United Nations. On the occasion of the conclusion of the celebration of the 800th anniversary of the Dominican friars, the Master general of the congregation as well as a number of UN officials and government representatives joined a large number of invitees in the Council Chamber that is now home to the conference on Disarmament and bear the name of Francisco de Vitoria, OP.
As I left the Council Chamber and headed toward the exit of the UN grounds I walked down the avenue and alongside the rows of country flags that were being occasionally disturbed by a gentle breeze on this chilly night. I found myself pondering both the discussions and yes compromises and the leaders that had contributed to the establishment of the League of Nations and then United Nations and the origins of the numerous international institutions and organizations that exist today. What was their dream, their founding vision and their guiding mission? What issues, problems and challenges were they hoping to address or solve? What inspiration, courage or dedication informed the numerous individuals from all over the world who contributed to this great work. As we surpass a world population of 7.5 billion and wrestle with the care of our fragile and beautiful common home, as Pope Francis reminded us, I wondered where and how we will find the wisdom and the architects to build the institutions and relationships that will be needed to hold our system together.
The inauguration of the Trump administration is offering in many ways a profound challenge to the vision of an international and global system that was rooted in the belief that a spirit of mutual trust and collaboration could be grounded in the principles of international law and governed by institutions that were based on those principles. Taking the country in some ways out of that web of international relationships and reducing one’s trust and commitment in the institutions that exist to promote harmony peacefully, resolve differences and provide a venue for public debate and cooperation appears reckless and lacking in foresight. At a minimum it is a significant divergence in direction and disruptive of the protocols that have been in place for decades.
At a time of significant disruption in our politics in the US and elsewhere we are left to look again to our foundations and to find direction and meaning and life in our vocation. The homilist at the local parish liturgy last Sunday carefully reminded us that in the Beatitudes we can find the Charter for living a Christian life and experience the grace filled presence of the Living God. May it be so!
Fr. Seamus Finn Comments on Wells Fargo’s Business Standards December 12th, 2016
ICCR members continue to press Wells Fargo on addressing ethical dimensions of their vision and values statement and strengthening a culture that prioritizes true customer service and the common good as priorities.
Sr Nora Nash OSF and Fr Séamus Finn OMI speak to Business Ethics on what Wells Fargo needs to do. http://business-ethics.com/2016/12/10/where-wells-fargo-goes-from-here/
Fr. Seamus Finn, OMI Speaks on Faith & Sustainable Development at 2016 World Mining Congress October 25th, 2016
The World Mining Congress is an international event that takes place every three years. It is led by a secretariat and affiliated with the United Nations. This year’s event took place in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil from October 18 – 21. The event aims to promote and support, both technically and scientifically, the cooperation for the national and international development of mineral areas and resources; implement a global information network concerning mineral science, technology, economy, occupational health and safety and environmental protection.
Fr. Seamus Finn, OMI, spoke on the Kellogg Innovation Network (KIN) panel, Why Partnering For Development is the Future of Mining.
The panel explored the social, economic and environmental dimensions that are so vital for a vibrant mining industry and a future that provides for an equitable distribution of benefits to all stakeholders.
Fr. Seamus Finn, OMI: Comments at World Mining Congress Rio, October 20th 2016
The church’s engagement with the mining sector and specifically with the Development Partner Initiative was initiated and motivated by three different factors.
- We have been blessed with a charismatic and disruptive pope who is responsible for the preparation of the encyclical Laudato Sí where we are presented with an inspiring vision of the interdependence and inter-relatedness that exists between all living beings and our common home, planet earth that builds on the teaching of his predecessors and of Catholic Social Teaching (CST). We are also called to task by Pope Francis for the ways in which we have failed to care for, cultivate and appreciate the gift of the natural world and instead mistreated the planet and failed as a consequence in our inter-generational responsibility to our children’s children.
- There are chapels and churches and houses of worship scattered across the world and especially in the remote regions where many of the mines and other desirable natural resources like oil, gas and timber are located. Faith leaders at different levels have for years been hearing from many of the people that live in these regions and many of the stories that they tell about their experiences of mining are not very positive. Many of the contributions that the industry has made to progress and development have been lost.
- The churches own and manage assets to support their various initiatives and they are shareholders in many companies that are active in the mining sector. They want to make those investments in industries and companies that are responsible and make a constructive contribution to the communities and societies where they operate. They also want to avoid investing in corporations that have a poor record on protecting the environment, in respecting and promoting human rights and in fulfilling their social license to operate.
Three themes that are central to the mission of the church and of most faith traditions where the mission of the faith traditions and the mining industry intersect are promoting sustainable development, caring for our common home and protecting human rights.
- Promoting development has been on the agenda of the church for centuries and has been specifically highlighted by global institutions like the United Nations from the beginning. In recent decades the much debated adjective “sustainable” has been added to the conversation as the accomplishments and the failures of various development projects and programs have been critiqued and evaluated. A significant intervention into the development debate was made by Pope Paul VI in 1967 the encyclical Populorum Progressio when he called for the promotion of “integral human development” and sought to include much more than having more or simply measuring development in purely economic terms. The mining industry has often been a part of many development initiatives through their contributions to local communities especially in regions surrounding their operating sites and in communities that are impacted by the operations of their supply chain.
- In his encyclical Laudato Sí, Pope Francis has called all of us to care for our common home, Mother Earth that he points out has been critically damaged by much of human activity especially in the industrial age. He is quick to point out that there is no quick solution to the ecological crisis that we face but that each of us individuals and communities, institutions and organizations, the public and the private sector have a responsibility and a role to play in reversing these trends.
- The protection and promotion of human rights and human dignity are at the center of the church’s mission and enshrined in international law. They are more and more being encoded in legislation and being voluntarily embraced by different actors in the business community and particularly by stakeholders and shareholders in publicly traded corporations. Faith institutions and socially responsible institutions and individual investors that are working diligently to align the ways in which they manage these assets with their faith traditions and with their values are using this same lens to choose the companies and the industry sectors that they want to invest in.
In the Days of Reflection that were convened at the Vatican and at Lambeth palace, in the Days of Courageous conversation that were convened in Cape town and in the other convenings that have brought together faith and industry leaders, civil society and representatives of local communities, we have a model that can help to address some of the challenges that are faced by local communities, industry and those who want to support sustainable development. The commitment to care for and cultivate and protect our common home must be our number one priority. We cannot rest until we have found the avenues and the technology to do this and at the same time use the multiple and rich resources that are before us to support human habitation on the planet.
Nearly a year after the release of Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato Si’, Devin Watkins of Vatican Radio spoke to Fr. Séamus Finn about how the Holy Father’s challenges to the global economy have been put into practice.
As Chair of the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility and Chief of Faith Consistent Investment at the Missionary Oblates, Fr. Seamus assists corporations and religious institutions in investing and operating in a faith-conscious manner. He said there are several projects, which aim at putting Pope Francis’ teachings into practice.
Fr. Seamus Finn, OMI, Moderates Sustainable Banking Rountable at Oblate School of Theology April 7th, 2016
On April 6 the OIP Trust www.oiptrust.org joined with the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility www.ICCR.org , the Socially Responsible Investing Coalition of San Antonio www.SRIC-south.org and the Global Alliance for Banking on Values www.gabv.org to sponsor a roundtable on Sustainable Banking. The event was moderated by Rev. Seamus Finn, OMI, and took place at the Whitley Theological Center at Oblate School of Theology in San Antonio, TX.
The roundtable brought together local bankers, faith consistent investors, academics and asset managers. The panelists helped to identify and demonstrate models of sustainable banking that are consistent with the kinds of banks that Pope Francis continues to call for as he calls the global community to the creation of a Capitalism 2.0 that offers needed services to all especially the poor and marginalized and places a much higher priority on “care for our common home”.