How to better help and provide humanitarian assistance to the neediest population – starting from the Ukrainians – and how to improve synergies between the entities that form the Order of Malta – more than 250 – representing at the same time its richness. These are some of the main topics at the heart of the 29th International Hospitaller Conference which took place in London on 25 and 26 March. Some 80 representatives of the Order’s medical, social and humanitarian projects gathered together to discuss the main challenges ahead, in light of the multiple ongoing humanitarian crises, and to define strategies for the next years.
“Since being named, I have been privileged to meet and talk to many politicians, ambassadors and authorities from both Church and States and I am very proud to say that I could not help but notice how each person that I have met, is always so impressed with our commitment and service which is guided by our solidarity, empathy and compassion” stated the Lieutenant of the Grand Master Fra’ John Dunlap, who participated in the meeting. “The true service we provide to the sick and the poor is carried out by our members, volunteers and staff who look at them in the eye with the respect due to our lords the sick and the poor” the Lieutenant added.
In his opening speech, the Grand Hospitaller, Fra’ Alessandro de Franciscis, citing Jesus (Jn 13,1-20) reminded all the hospitallers present at the conference that: “We must dress the apron of service and wash one another’s feet and the feet of the poor and the sick”, also stressing the importance of promoting vocations in order to “broaden the militancy of the Order of Malta in serving the poor”. He then recalled the global and rooted presence of the Order’s relief and volunteer’s corps, associations and embassies in some of the most difficult places in over 120 countries.
The role of the diplomatic network in supporting the medical and social programmes developed was underlined by the Grand Chancellor Riccardo Paternò di Montecupo, who emphasised in particular the added values of faith-based diplomacy “which – he stated – does not have the weapons of traditional diplomacy but is based on the principle that certain higher values can lead to the resolution of conflicts”.
The conference – hosted by the Order of Malta’s British Association – addressed some of best practices but also areas that need strengthening with a particular focus on the relief projects in Ukraine and in the neighboring countries. Representatives of the relief corps and associations in Ukraine and East Europe illustrated their latest activities in support of Ukraine. This complementarity and synergy have led to a significant increase in the efficiency of project implementation and in the number of volunteers who are involved in helping the internally displaced in the distribution of food, generators, and provision of social and medical assistance including a prosthetic clinic in Lviv.
External lectures were organized during the conference on topics relevant to the hospitaller’s work of the Order of Malta. The Covid 19 pandemic and the impact of vaccines was also addressed with Coronavirus still being the first cause of death in the UK.
During the conference specific workshops were organized for the participants addressing some seminal topics such as the priorities of the hospitaller works for the next years and on safeguarding the most vulnerable.
The conference was preceded on Friday March 24 by the General Assembly of the Order of Malta’s international relief corps, Malteser International, and by the Order of Malta relief organizations in Central and Eastern Europe.