Douglas B. Stevenson, Director of the Seamen’s Church Insitute’s (SCI) Center for Seafarers’ Rights met recently with the Most Reverend Silvano Tomasi, Apostolic Nuncio, Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations and Specialized Organizations in Geneva and to the World Trade Organization. Stevenson’s meeting was one of several such meetings he has had with Archbishop Tomasi.
Stevenson recently traveled to Geneva, Switzerland to attend two meetings of experts at the International Labour Organization (ILO). While there, he met the Archbishop at his residence on Wednesday, September 24. “Archbishop Tomasi has a keen interest in maritime ministry – both from his own experience with port chaplains and from being the Vatican’s representative to the ILO,” said Stevenson. The Roman Catholic Church manages the Apostleship of the Sea (AOS), a worldwide network of maritime ministries similar in mission to the Seamen’s Church Institute. Archbishop Tomasi headed this ministry at the Vatican earlier in his career. Stevenson notes, “The Archbishop is keenly aware of seafarers’ issues and is a strong advocate for their rights and dignity.”
Unique among all other maritime ministry organizations is SCI’s Center for Seafarers’ Rights. It is the world’s only free legal-aid service devoted exclusively to the needs of merchant mariners. Because of this distinction and the important role SCI plays in developing international policy and recommendations, Archbishop Tomasi asked Stevenson to brief him on the progress of the two meetings at the ILO and inform him of SCI’s maritime ministry initiatives. “The Center for Seafarers’ Rights bears a responsibility of representing not just a select group of constituents,” says Stevenson. “Be they Americans, Filipino, Episcopalian, Roman Catholic, or Hindu, SCI has always been on one side … that of the mariner.”
Both SCI and the Apostleship of the Sea are members of the International Christian Maritime Association, an association of 27 Christian non-profit organizations. Member organizations put a lot focus on protecting the rights of mariners, a population vulnerable to mistreatment. These organizations rely on SCI’s Center for Seafarers’ Rights to provide them support. “Archbishop Tomasi was familiar with our work of providing legal advice and advocacy to AOS chaplains, and he thanked SCI for doing so.”