Sitting in a crowded room filled with activists from all over the world in the basement of a building off a side street of the city I was brought back to the days of sitting in the basement of the Kay Spiritual Life Center at the American University for a variety of grassroots planning and United Methodist and CASJ meetings focused on the call to justice and action.
Although this room was filled with United Methodists, much like the days at the university, the colored faces of those around me told of much longer, much harder and much more diverse stories than the faces of my university colleagues. Already in my participation in the United Methodist delegation to the People’s Global Action during the past three days, I have been inspired by the stories that have been shared and anticipate that many more such stories will be shared over the course of the coming days during my time here in Geneva.
This week I am here in Geneva taking part in the United Methodist delegation to the People’s Global Action on Migration, Development and Human Rights. The People’s Global Action (PGA) is a low-level, self-organized collective of activists, NGOs, and religious organizations working on issues of migrants’ rights and recognition. The meeting of the PGA is being held concurrently with the Civil Society Days, a gathering for NGOs and academics working on issues of migration, as well as the private sector. Both of these more grassroots level meetings have taken place on an annual basis since 2006 in response to the meeting of the Global Forum on Migration and Development (GFMD), which will once again meet later on this week here in Geneva. The GFMD is the only inter-governmental forum on migration and serves as a private process, which is completely independent from the United Nations (UN). Unlike the security focus of the GFMD, the Civil Society Days and the PGA seek to bring a focus on human rights and human dignity into the center of the discussion and dialogue on migration.
During my first day here at the forum, I remained uncertain of my role here as one member of the United Methodist delegation thrown into the meeting of an organization and a movement to which I previously had neither ties nor active experience. I couldn’t seem to shake the doubt in my mind and the lingering request for honesty and reality – will the conversations we have, the emotions that are exposed, the things we learn, the people who we meet, and the stories we share actually make a difference?
By flying people from around the world to Geneva and putting us up in hotels and feeding us overpriced Swiss food change the lives of a single child with migrant parents? Or prevent the deportment of an undocumented person?
During the past two days I have, however, grasped a thread of hope that the networks which are being built, the discussions being held, and the presence of each individual and delegation here does in fact present the possibility to change the reality of migration in today’s global world. Since 2006 the People’s Global Action and Civil Society Days has, in fact, already helped to bring human rights more into the focus of the Global Forum on Migration and Development; this grassroots level meeting has worked to influence policy, including the Domestic Worker’s Convention passed in June of this year. Inshallah, our presence here might also have such outcomes – not only at the international level, but also for the average migrant, the mother working to earn a living for her family, the father awaiting deportment in a detention center, and the child seeking justice, recognition, and simply love as a child in a strange land.
Michelle Dromgold is a Mission Intern of the General Board of Global Ministries of the United Methodist Church. She is currently serving at the Kindertreff Delbrücke at the Salem Gemeinde in Berlin, Germany. There, she works as a social worker with an emphasis on intercultural and interreligious dialogue amongst the children and youth at the after-school program and with local United Methodist Congregations.