By: Ellen Teague
Destructive mining, fossil-free churches, food diversity, ‘integral ecology’, and supporting refugees were among the diverse themes covered in 15 workshops at last weekend’s annual conference of the National Justice and Peace Network of England and Wales. There was even a workshop: ‘Technocracy and the Future of Humanity’. Wow!
The Justice and Peace movement draws inspiration from the 1971 Synod of Bishops statement on Justice in the World. It speaks of the ‘unjust systems and structures’ that oppress people and hinder their rightful development. To describe injustice as structural is to say that it can be embedded within the frameworks of our cultures and societies. The unjust structures regarding various issues are referred in the documents of Catholic Social Teaching, for example peacemaking in the 1963 encyclical ‘Peace on Earth’.
In this year’s NJPN conference, Laudato Si’ was an inspiration and passionate call to all people of the world to take “swift and unified global action”, particularly in relation to the destruction of the environment. Pope Francis writes that while humanity has made incredible progress in science and technology, this has not been matched with moral, ethical and spiritual growth. This imbalance is causing our relationships with creation and with God to break down and our hearts to become hardened to the cry of the Earth and the cry of the poor.
So, the NJPN workshops looked at the practical implication of the guiding principles of Catholic Social Teaching, and specifically Laudato Si’.
The workshop ‘Mining, London, the churches and Laudato Si’ examined the role of London in financing destructive mining around the world. It looked at the impact on indigenous peoples, small farmers, rivers and forests and our unwilling complicity through our pension funds and bank accounts. The workshop was run by Richard Solly, an ex-seminarian who helped establish the London Mining Network ten years ago, examining how we can be guided by Laudato Si’ and those in mining-affected communities in building solidarity with those suffering because of investment decisions made in the UK. Read more about the London Mining Network: http://londonminingnetwork.org/
‘Fossil-free Churches: Divestment from fossil fuels and investment for a brighter future’ was led by James Buchanan of Operation Noah’s Bright Now Campaign. He examined how churches around the world are supporting the transition to a low carbon economy. Global divestment commitments have passed $5 trillion. Participants learnt how churches and religious communities can divest from fossil fuels and invest in clean alternatives.
The push for greater access to clean renewable energy by the poorest communities in the world was the theme of CAFOD’s ‘Power to be’ workshop, run by Maria Elena Arana. Inspired by Laudato Si’s call to replace fossil fuels, CAFOD is lobbying the UK government and World Bank to devote more funds to this purpose.
Patrick Mulvany of Practical Action and the Food Ethics Council led a workshop on ‘Food diversity, life: rooting our daily bread in a healthy environment’. He argued that small-scale farmers and fisher-folk, using age-old sustainable methods, are vital for food security in the future, rather than food chains dominated by corporations. www.foodethicscouncil.org/about-us/members/patrick-mulvany.html
In an age when more people than ever are on the move because of conflict and severe weather, including climate change, work with migrants and refugees is vital. Faith Anderson of Caritas Social Action introduced the initiative ‘Community Sponsorship of Refugees’ which has been trialed by a parish in Salford Diocese. CSAN is supporting the roll-out of the scheme, particularly welcoming Syrian families, in all Catholic dioceses. www.csan.org.uk/
The annual NJPN conference also aims to nourish the Justice and Peace journey of participants with opportunities for personal prayer in beautifully prepared prayer spaces and the communal liturgies. The following is the ‘Laudato Si’ litany from the final service of the 2017 conference:
Journey with us: a LAUDATO SI’ Litany
If you are asking questions such as: What is the purpose of my life in this world? Why am I here? What is the goal of my work and all my efforts, then journey with us.
If you want to slow down and look at reality in a different way, promote best practice, stimulate creative solutions and encourage group and individual initiatives, then journey with us.
If you think you can replace consumption with sacrifice, greed with generosity and wastefulness with sharing and learn to give, not just to give up, then journey with us.
If you feel that the deepest roots of our present failures are to do with the direction, goals, meaning and social implications of technological and economic growth, then journey with us.
If you long to be liberated from fear, greed and compulsion, to be open to awe and wonder, and to join in building a common home, then journey with us.
If you can allow yourself to hear both the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor so that the suffering of the world becomes your own, then journey with us.
If you think that we were made for love and therefore that gestures of generosity, solidarity and care can well up within us, then journey with us.
Yes, journey with us if you think that all it takes is one good person to restore hope, that we can bring good out of the evil we have done, and that we are all called to live wisely, think deeply, love generously, and sing as we go. Amen.
Read more about the National Justice and Peace Network: www.justice-and-peace.org.uk/