Learning God’s work at the United Nations

by Sumana Basumata
Last October, Mennonite World Conference and Mennonite Central Committee sent out a joint news release on the appointment of Sumana Basumata as intern at the MCC United Nations Office in New York City. Sponsored jointly by MWC and MCC’s International Volunteer Exchange program, Sumana is in the second half of her assignment. In the following article she offers a personal reflection on her experience in New York. The article comes courtesy of the Mennonite Weekly Review, which commissioned it for its February 7 issue.
I first heard about Mennonite Central Committee UN Office at the Mennonite World Conference 15th General Assembly in Paraguay in 2009 where I participated as an Asian delegate to the Global Youth Summit and thought what a great place it would be to work there. I learned about the office from the previous interns who worked there, whom I met during the Assembly gathering. Seeing how their lives had changed through the internship was a great encouragement to me.
It felt like a miracle when, upon my return to India from the conference, I had the opportunity to apply for the same internship. It has been almost five months since I stepped into the United States and started the internship in the MCC UN Office. It still feels like being in a dream but I am grateful to God for this wonderful opportunity.
I just leaned on God as I traveled all alone from India to the United States. I was anxious and a little scared and wondered what he has to teach me this coming year. As I stepped into this land I was welcomed by wonderful people of God. The love and the support that they provided helped me to adjust to this new culture. Even adjusting to the big New York City with its crazy subway systems and congestion was not so difficult because of the wonderful people who were always ready to help. I feel like every situation that I step into, God already prepares it for me before I arrive.
The first day I entered the UN building there were images of the Haiti Earthquake everywhere and my heart broke looking at those pictures. I had heard about the earthquake but never saw it close enough to feel for the people there. Getting a chance to work in this office offered me a great opportunity to be in an international setting learning about different cultures and international issues from a peacebuilding perspective. I am learning how to advocate for people living in disaster and other conflict situations, looking through the lens of peacebuilding.
My assignment has opened my eyes to the reality of this world and taught me to advocate for peace because that is what God has taught us to do and it is the only answer for a better world. It is not easy to work for peace and reconciliation at the UN where everything is so intense. However, I am encouraged by people like my boss who works hard for peace-making even though it is difficult in this selfish world.
The MCC UN Office has taught me to be humble and patient when facing challenging situations. It took me a while to figure out how things work in this office. I started by reading a lot of articles about MCC’s work in different countries and attending meetings on different countries and issues. I am thankful to my colleagues who have been patient in teaching me things that I could not learn on my own. I enjoy the friendship and fellowship that we share in this office although we all come from diverse backgrounds.
Currently I am focusing on Israel-Palestine and interfaith bridge building. In our work we try to reflect the perspectives and concerns of our MCC program partners around the world while at times cooperating with other organizations who share our perspectives and commitment to peacebuilding. I am thankful for what I have learned in my few months here, and am hoping to learn even more in the coming days. I believe that God has begun the “good work” of this office, and he will “carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6).
Sumana Basumata is from Alipurduar in India’s West Bengal region, and is a member of the Bharatiya Jukta Christa Prachar Mandali (United Missionary Church of India), one of eight Indian national churches affiliated with MWC.
Mennonite World Conference is a communion (Koinonia) of Anabaptist-related churches linked to one another in a worldwide community of faith for fellowship, worship, service, and witness.