NEW YORK: Workshop explores the global economy

October 8, 2009

The current global economic crisis presents opportunity for discussion and reflection, and begs questions.

"In the last 10 years, global wealth has doubled, but 60 countries have become poorer," said Sister Marie Elena Dio. "So where is the money coming from and where is the money going?"

That was only one of the challenging questions discussed earlier this week during Global Economics/Local Realities, a three-day workshop co-sponsored by the Partnership for Global Justice (PGJ) and Trinity Wall Street. The workshop featured a range of speakers, including economists, a United Nations representative, and a nun who has, by choice, been homeless in New York City for the past five years. Participants came from as far away as Wisconsin and represented a variety of interests and organizations, from parishes to nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) to religious orders.

The workshop, said PGJ director Luciane Siers, was designed to give participants "confidence in themselves that their concerns about the economic situation are valid. They have an opportunity to critique without being intimidated. We're sinking ourselves into the whole economic system for three days and finding our place in it."

PGJ is a network of religious congregations that advocates for global justice at the United Nations, and provides a variety of educational programs about the U.N. and their areas of advocacy. This is their first workshop held in partnership with Trinity Institute, Trinity Wall Street's national theological conference.

Marci Rossell, who formerly served as chief economist for CNBC, began her "Economics 101" presentation with a drawing of three intersecting spheres representing humanity, ecology and the economy.

"We're trying to live in the integrated space where these things overlap," she said.

Sister Ana Martinez de Luco works with the homeless of New York City and is homeless, herself.

"My decision is to follow the Jesus who chose to be poor," she said.

Not everyone at the workshop agreed with Sister Ana's representation of homeless life, however, with one workshop participant taking exception with her "glamourization" of life on the streets.

"I don't expect other people to live like me," Sister Ana responded later. "I think all of us, within ourselves, have a lot of possibility. I am so convinced that sharing is a very human thing. It gives much more joy and satisfaction than the possession aspect of having everything in my home, the best, the latest fashion."

She sees the global economic crisis as a good thing, because, she said, "it's time for a new economy in the world where humans are the center."

To change the global economy, to eradicate poverty, Sister Marie Elena said that, "we need an educated citizenry."

It's a call to education and action that the workshop participants take seriously.

"I just want to know more and more," said Steven Rufe, a sophomore at Gwynedd-Mercy College and a PGJ intern. "I'm big on educating. If I can't go to Africa and put bread in a child's hand, then I can tell someone [here] about the child who needs bread."

Heather McGinness, who works in fundraising and public relations for the Sisters of Notre Dame, said the workshop will help her explain to donors why the international work her organization does is so important.

"I think people don't realize the connectedness, the interdependency of [the global economy]," she said. "I feel like my job is more important now, because I really have to get this message out."

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