Laudato si and the safeguard of our Common Home
Amplifying Pope Francis’s message to be heard by young people and the Poor.
1. Young people and the poor are often excluded from environment issues
I took part in the 4th United Nations Environment Assembly held in Nairobi, Kenya from March 4 to 15, 2019. In my opinion, Young people and the poor were the least represented in the forum where we paradoxically spoke about them. May be there were good reasons why they never participated in the forum.
My experience in DR Congo has taught me to look at how young people and the poor are often marginalized when it comes to issues of deliberating on environmental crisis. This does not mean that young people are disinterested in ecology and climate change. They lack knowledge on environment issues.
2. Laudato si a place of ecological awareness for young and poor.
How can the young and the poor own Pope’s message on safeguarding our common home? How can they, in turn, make known this message of Pope to be known in the world? How can they transform the pope’s message into simple and concrete actions to save our humanity from the climate disaster it is facing?
The objective of this reflection is to precisely, help us make Laudato si a message of creating awareness for the young and the poor to develop ecological conscience. Echoing the words of introduction, of a very beautiful and famous Song of the Creatures of St. Francis of Assisi: “Laudato si ‘, mi’ SIGNORE” – “Praise be, my Lord,” the Pope invites us to simply join in the fight of protecting our common home. It makes us realize that immersing ourselves to the scriptures and interlinking Christian experience with actions that makes creation a source of inspiration and a place of fraternity.
Indeed, from the first pages of his first social encyclical, Pope Francis writes that with these words, “Laudato si ‘, mi’ Signore”, Saint Francis of Assisi reminds us that “our common house is like a sister with whom we share our life and as a mother, beautiful, who welcomes us with open arms “(N ° 1). Our relationship with God’s creation becomes prayer and praise. The following verses of the Canticle of Francis of Assisi deserve to be quoted: “Praised are you, my Lord, for sister our mother the earth, who supports us and governs us, and produces various fruits with the colorful flowers and the grass “.
The Holy Father’s concern is clear: “This sister cries because of the damage we do to her through the irresponsible use and abuse of the goods God has put in her. We grew up thinking that we were its owners and rulers, allowed to exploit it “(n ° 2).
Therefore, Pope Francis invites us to be aware of the danger of climate change. Indeed, today we are witnessing climatic catastrophes on social life: floods, erosions, droughts, soil poverty, disappearance of forests and other plant and animal species, consequence of the irresponsible action of men and women on the creation.
If men’s negative action on creation continues, we are all likely to suffer dramatic consequences. It is therefore, important to raise urgent awareness on the protection of the ecosystem so that future generations can inherit clean environment as God wants. We need to raise awareness among our young people. Engaging youth in environmental protection not only creates direct impact on changing youth behaviors and attitudes, but possibly influence their parents, relatives and families.
Experience manifests that poor families and children are the first victims’ of adverse effects of climate change. The poor families lose their land to multinationals companies whose end goal is to grow rich rapidly. We face a real problem of social justice that threatens peace and harmony among peoples. As such the lives of future generations are threatened.
Indeed, “the degradation of the environment and society affects the most vulnerable people on the planet” (n ° 48). The Holy Father gives some concrete examples: “The depletion of fishing reserves is particularly harmful to small fishing communities without the means to replace them; water pollution particularly affects poor people who cannot buy bottled water; and sea-level rise mainly affects impoverished coastal populations that have nowhere to go. The impact of current imbalances is also reflected in the early death of many poor people, in resource-limited conflicts and in many other problems not sufficiently represented in global programs (No. 48).
It is therefore, interesting to note the mention of Congo Basin by the Pope Francis in the encyclical. The Pope writes that the Congo Basin and the Amazon are “lungs rich in biodiversity of our planet”. Indeed, “We know how important they are for the whole earth and for the future of humanity. Tropical forest ecosystems have extremely complex biodiversity that is almost impossible to fully appreciate, but when these forests are burned or leveled for cultivation, in the space of a few years countless species are lost and the land becomes frequently arid “(no. 38).
While recognizing the great responsibility of the rich nations on the environment, it is necessary at the same time to invite the poor nations to realize that they too have a responsibility to create awareness of climate change. This thus calls on everyone both rich and poor to engage in the fight against global warming.
3. How to concretely sensitize people on laudato si?
Sensitization should be done through parishes, schools, universities and ecological agriculture center. Awareness must lead to simple and concrete actions at the level of parishes, schools, universities and, above all families. It’s these kinds of experiences that I’m creating as a teacher and coach for young people and farmers in business creation.
In my course on sociology and initiation to scientific research, I invite young people to open their eyes to insalubrity and to research the causes. Formerly called “Kinshasa-la-belle”, the capital of the DR Congo is also described as “Kinshasa-la-poubelle.” Opening the eyes of young people to this reality is important and arouses indignation and shame, but above all, a deep reflection. Assisted by Laudato si, young people realize that fighting against insalubrities as their work. It is up to them to challenge adults, especially politicians who have a crucial role in this area.
Since 2016, the Center for Research and Communication in Sustainable Development (CERED) was established. One of the important aspects of the center is the promotion of agricultural entrepreneurship and ecological awareness. By welcoming young people and farmers to our ecological farm, we strive to teach them that our future depends on our responsibility for the rigorous management of food resources.
Whether young students, and farmers, Laudato si speak to them in the following ecological aspects:
1. Never waste water, electricity and food;
2. Learn to see the relationship between the different elements of creation;
3. Fight against the use of plastics and against insalubrity;
4. Practice of sustainable agriculture by students and farmers;
These are the themes of ecological awareness that can be addressed in the light of Laudato si. This is the work that awaits us at CERED especially during holidays. May the Lord, creator of heaven and earth, help us .
Ghislain TSHIKENDWA MATADI, SJ
Director of CERED