In a short space of time the peoples of planet Earth have witnessed bushfires, floods, and catastrophic environmental damage. Good people everywhere ask, “What is the right and proper way to respond?”
I spoke to Olkola/Djabaguy woman Sherry Balcombe about this. “We as Aboriginal people know the Earth is the most sacred of gifts given to us by the Creator Spirit,” she said. “It is what gives us life. It nurtures us, it sustains us and provides all that we need. We must heal country”.
Pope Francis’ 2015 encyclical Laudato Si’ named earth as our common home, crying out for attention. When it is exploited and spoiled, the poorest of earth’s people suffer first, and future generations are robbed of their inheritance.
“When the land cries the people cry, and they hurt too,” Sherry said.
This is a strong call for a change of heart. God creates out of love. Arrogance and greed ruin efforts to care for creation while responding to the needs of the disadvantaged and excluded.
Jesus wept over Jerusalem and drove corrupt moneylenders from the Temple. It was right and just. When the hearts of the powerful harden, the least-favoured confront “the torment of powerlessness”. The First Nations Peoples of Australia, in their Statement from the Heart, named it well.
In this common home of ours we are called to relate justly to all who live at the margins: asylum seekers, homeless people, those who cannot find secure work, vulnerable young and aged people. The list is long.
The Josephite Sisters in their Constitutions have written that commitment to those who are poor is a call “to learn from them, to receive from them, to support them in their struggle for justice and equity”.
A program named the Laudato Si’ Action Platform is a worldwide endeavour to shape a fresh approach in our relationship to all of God’s creation. It was initiated by Pope Francis in 2020 and became a collaboration between many community groups and concerned experts.
The Laudato Si Action Platform will be launched on the feast of St Francis of Assisi this year. It seeks to “redefine and rebuild our relationship with each other and our common home”. This lofty goal sounds like reaching for the stars, and this may be precisely what is needed.
It will offer resources to enrich existing justice groups and to provoke new conversations. Its goal is to work from grassroots across the planet, in culturally appropriate ways, for a co-ordinated movement of transformation.
Already there is a plethora of resources and justice groups in our own country. Young people are increasingly aware of the need to preserve and heal this common home of ours. They are vocal, articulate and passionate. They are future leaders. They surely bring hope for social and cultural rejuvenation.
No matter could be more urgent. It is right and just. We are all interconnected in the web of life.
The Australian Bishops’ Conference Social Justice Statement 2021-22, Cry of the Earth, Cry of the Poor was launched on 5 August 2021.
Joan Healy rsj