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Monday, September 26, 2016
Church urged to support environment justice
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¬†Environmental justice should be a core Catholic activity, eco-theologian Sean McDonagh told two packed conferences in the diocese last week. The Irish Columban missionary priest, who first became involved in tackling global poverty and environmental degradation during a 20-year stint in the Philippines, urged the church to take up Pope John Paul II's 2001 call to undergo an "ecological conversion". He pointed out that the Philippines was 84 percent forested 100 years ago, but today it is around seven percent "and disasters such as the landslip of a deforested hillside which entombed a village full of people on the island of Leyte will become even more commonplace in the future". Around 250 people ≠ many of them members of religious orders ≠ attended events in Central London and at the Missionary Institute at Mill Hill organised by the Conference of Religious Social Justice Desk, Columban Faith and Justice and the Institute. One of them was Fr Joe Ryan, the Coordinator of the Westminster Justice and Peace Commission. "Many of us older people were brought up to beware of the world, the flesh and the devil, to the extent that damage to the natural world was not seen as mattering" he said afterwards. "For many of us, Fr Sean's approach, which focuses on the world as an integral and valued part of God's creation, has been an eye-opener and it challenges the theology we have been brought up on". He has invited Fr Sean back to address the annual Westminster Justice and Peace Day in October. Now based at the main Columban house in Ireland, Fr Sean writes and lectures on the relationship between faith, justice and ecology. He has been involved in environmental initiatives of Catholic Bishops' Conferences in the Philippines and Australia. He feels that Global Warming is "the biggest issue facing agriculture over the next 50 years" and sees it as "a moral and religious issue because not taking action on it will mean suffering and death for tens of millions of people". He is currently writing a book about this issue. Other areas covered in previous books have included species extinction, fresh water depletion and the patenting of life forms by the corporate world.
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