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Brisbane Catholic Ora Duffley takes on role at United Nations to help ‘the poor and the war-weary’

Tough goodbyes: Catholic missionary worker Ora Duffley being farewelled after her time in Djibouti.

FROM the slums of Djibouti to the bright lights of the Big Apple, former Brisbane Catholic teacher Ora Duffley has found her place in the Holy See delegation to the United Nations in New York, representing the Church to the world.

Miss Duffley said her previous mission work was the driving force behind her work in New York.

“Africa was tough but amazing,” she said.

“I miss it. My heart is really with the poor. 

“It’s why coming here to the Holy See Mission and UN is important to me. 

“This is the place where decisions about the poor and the war-weary are made.”

Miss Duffley’s list of accomplishments reflected an expertise for compassion.

She joined the French Catholic mission SOS Chrétiens d’Orient to work in Iraq in 2017 following more than a decade in education after migrating to Australia from Ireland.

Miss Duffley worked in Syria and Djibouti, in Africa, working in the slums and in war-torn places.

“Djibouti was tough; it is a very hot country,” she said.

“The Catholic Church is small in number, but since the 1860s has been providing education for the local population and we have schools in all the big towns in Djibouti that are staffed by (religious) sisters who give their lives to service of the poorest of the poor, refugees and migrants.

“Djibouti is a small country, a former French colony, with a huge amount of migrants from countries like Ethiopia and Somalia, and there is a lot of poverty.

“I worked in a school with refugees and migrants from Yemen, Somalia, Ethiopia; it was the first English medium school in Djibouti.”

Miss Duffley said the plight of children in Djibouti was difficult to see. 

“The children have often come to Djibouti by themselves and live on the streets,” she said.

“You will see them together lying on the streets at night. The only source of safety for them is Caritas Djibouti that provides them breakfast and lunch every day and a place to shower, with a place to rest safely, with some lessons and a place to be treated for any illnesses they might have. 

“The Missionaries of Charity are amazing; they take care of the young girls. For migrant girls in Djibouti it is particularly difficult; they live very hard lives.” 

Miss Duffley said her time in Syria was challenging.

“The situation for people there is really difficult,” she said. “They are incredible people; their spirit is amazing despite everything they have been though. Their faith is so strong, but life is so hard.

“They are living on nothing. Life is very hard there and we need to pray for the sanctions to be lifted and for peace to return to Syria.” 

Miss Duffley said at the end of that time in Djibouti she was thinking what she would do next, instead of going back to teaching.

“As a Catholic working in the humanitarian world it changes your mindset. I wanted to try something different,” she said.

“When I saw this position I was very interested and I thought it would be perfect because the UN is a place where decisions are made about those who are suffering in war and those who are poor, the Third World, the Middle East. 

“The UN is the place where leaders meet and discuss the needs of the people and I thought the Holy See’s mission at the UN, as the voice of Catholic social teaching, justice and charity, is important and I wanted to play a role in this mission.

“Now I’m in New York working for the Holy See Mission as an attaché. I don’t work at the UN all the time.

“My job is in the background, as an assistant for Communications, Special Projects and Events. I support the work of the Holy See negotiators and diplomats who go to the UN every day to present the Church’s teachings on the issues that are discussed at the Security Council and the General Assembly. I’m learning a lot.”

Ms Duffley said she had been blessed to have these opportunities.

“I’m so grateful to God,” she said.

“I’m thankful also, for all the support I’ve received from my friends in Australia and the Church there.”

– Matt Emerick and Joe Higgins

Catholic Church Insurance

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