Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato Si’ is widely recognised as addressing the environmental crisis, but it is more than that, containing a critique of an economic model which means that people, communities and nature are valued according to their economic potential rather than their intrinsic value as God’s creation. He proposes an ‘integral ecology’ involving care for creation, justice for the poor, commitment to community and inner peace.
The Annual Justice & Peace Conference, ‘A Sabbath for the Earth and the Poor: The Challenge of Pope Francis’ seeks to explore this through the prism of the Sabbath which invites us to have time for rest, to accept the giftedness of creation, of each other and of ourselves. As well as inputs from the speakers this will be done through a range of workshops.
These will address our responsibility to care for creation; mining in the Amazon, its effects on indigenous people and the environment and how the Church is working with them to defend rights; and our complicity through investments in pension funds and banking.
Operation Noah’s campaign for divestment from fossil fuels and investment in clean alternatives, as well as CAFOD’s campaign to give access to renewable energy to the world’s poorest communities, focus on the need to transition to a low carbon economy to tackle climate change.
We are called to be an inclusive community. Church Action on Poverty invites us to learn how deep listening to those on the margins can be transformational and build new relationships; Housing Justice calls on us to journey with people experiencing homelessness and offers ideas on how your parish can help; Caritas Social Action Network (CSAN) will introduce the Community Sponsorship Scheme whereby parishes and local communities can welcome Syrian refugees.
In Laudato Si’ Pope Francis talks of the ‘technocratic paradigm’ warning against relying on technology to fix our ecological problems because technology is not neutral. This will be explored in two workshops: one in relation to food diversity, challenging the claims and practices of ‘Big Ag’ and the Biosciences versus many localised small scale solutions to feeding the world; while another examines the ‘politics of technology’ and how the design of technology can be brought under democratic control to serve real human needs rather than those of the powerful.
Reflecting on the nature of the work from which we rest, workshops will look at: the most exploitative form of work, trafficking into sex work; the role of workplace chaplains in helping people to connect their working lives with their faith; and the place of voluntary work.
A critical Bible study aims to help rediscover the radical Jesus to empower our work for justice; while the life of Blessed Oscar Romero, voice of the poor and an inspiration for many working for justice and peace, will be explored in this centenary year of his birth.
But the Sabbath reminds us that we also need to take time out to care for ourselves, to appreciate nature, spend time with others and do things simply for enjoyment. So there will be a space in the programme to relax, reflect in quiet spaces or sample activities such as art, gardening, walking, an ‘eco-walk’, movement, sharing food and discussion, Tai Chi and more.
The conference takes place at The Hayes Conference Centre, Derbyshire from 21-23 July. Keynote speakers are Ruth Valerio, Fr Peter Hughes (missionary in Peru) and Kathy Galloway.
This article first appeared in the Catholic Universe 16.6.17