As we begin this novena for Earth Defenders, let’s remember Pope Francis’ challenge, that we keep in mind the needs of vulnerable communities and future generations, and repent for the voracious greed of ever-expanding development that threatens their health, culture, and territories. Indigenous people often take the lead in sounding the alarm, and the tearful words of native activist and environmentalist Casey Camp-Horenek on the impacts of fracking in her community in Oklahoma offer us such a warning.
“To know Creation is to know the Creator.” –St. Columban
For more than 30 years, Columban missionaries have been at the forefront of protecting the environment from destructive practices and addressing the urgency of climate change. Our mission experience of living with the natural world and with communities that have been marginalized and exploited impels us to seek ways to restore right relationships with all of Creation.
We advocate for bold action to address Climate Change.
In particular, human-induced climate change is the most serious and pressing ecological challenge facing the world today. The reality of climate change compels us to both personal and structural changes.
Climate change, largely driven by our reliance on fossil fuels, has led to extreme weather events, rising sea levels, severe droughts, a loss of biodiversity, food insecurity, and higher rates of migration which affect the poor and vulnerable in nations across the world.
Columban Missionaries around the globe stand in solidarity with communities impacted by climate change. In Burma and Peru, missionaries watch as glaciers, a main water and irrigation source, continue to disappear. In the Philippines and Fiji, extreme weather events and rising sea levels threaten coastal communities where agriculture and fishing are a main source of economic stability. Severe droughts cause food and water shortages in Pakistan and the U.S.
We advocate for sustainable development and agricultural systems.
Across the world, in countries that are rich in oil, gas and minerals, extractive industries have inflicted lasting damage to poor and indigenous communities and to Creation. Based on their experience in communities negatively affected by mining and other extractive projects, Columbans challenge this model of development based on the intensive exploitation of natural resources.
Large-scale agribusiness has also been detrimental to the land and people. Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) threaten the integrity of creation and the life God made good, and they have extremely damaging effects on the livelihoods of small-scale farmers and economies throughout the world.
We advocate for the right to water.
According to the Catholic Church, the right to water, as all human rights, finds its basis in human dignity and not in any kind of assessment that considers water merely as an economic good. Water, the basis for all human life, is a sacred source of life we must protect. Without adequate access to clean water, the health, nutrition, and sanitation of poor communities, and especially women and children, suffer. Without water, life is threatened.
Environmental Justice Resources:
- Download our Laudato Si’ Study and Action Guide
- Columban Creation Covenant
- Columban Statement on Climate Change
- Columban Statement on Water
- Columban Statement on Extractive Industries
- Current Statements and Press Releases
At first blush, environmental justice may sound nonessential to a life of faith. Many Catholics aren’t exposed to spiritual reflections on God’s creation or questions of environmental care at mass or during formation programs like confirmation or RCIA. When the conversation does come up, some argue that environmental justice is just not as important as other pressing concerns.
In the months leading up to the Synod of the Amazon, Columbans from across the world will be contributing to a series of articles about the Synod process, the Amazon region, and the work for peace and justice happening there. This page will compile those articles in the order that they are published.
Throughout Lent, we are reminded that the practice of fasting has an ecological face. The Columban Center for Advocacy and Outreach is working with the Inter-religious Working Group on Extractive Industries on a number of resources and reflections that help you examine your relationship with God’s creation and reflect on your choices as a consumer.
The readings from Ash Wednesday invite us into a posture of humility and penance, fostered by prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. It is an ancient practice, but the goal is not only a clean heart, but a call to become people of mercy and compassion towards our common home and those whose lives are at risk.