“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:
It was through my association with the Columban Sisters that I began to learn just how crucial the Subanen culture is as a voice on behalf of a renewable Earth. The Subanens regarded their habitat as a sacred community to be cherished, not as a collection of resources to be exploited.
A new spirituality of creation is emerging, one deeply tied to the fate of the Earth. The stakes – the fate of the Earth and future generations – are high. Indigenous communities and women play a crucial role. The spirituality of creative nonviolence is deeper and more holistic, rooted in the gift of creation.
We are called to listen to the testimony of our sisters and brothers in the Philippines and Fiji by addressing climate change and reducing our contribution to extreme weather events and the rising sea levels which destroy their lives and devastate their island nations.
We have spent the last 200 years or so trying to deny the shadow side of our birth as a nation. Coming to terms with this history is vital for the future not only of indigenous people but of us non-aboriginal people as well.
Columban representatives Scott Wright (left), Peter Hughes (right) and Amy Echeverria (center) at the Pre-Synod Conference on the Amazon at Georgetown University with Archbishop Bernardito Auza and Luis Cardinal Tagle, from Manila.
We all have moments in our lives, like my daughter’s birth, when we feel both the immensity and intimacy of life tightly wound together. The Synod on the Amazon is one of those moments in the life of the Church – a moment when the Church, the people of God, and all of Creation are totally universal and utterly unique at the same time.
Copyright © 2020 Columban Center for Advocacy and Outreach, Washington, D.C.