“The urgent challenge to protect our common home includes a concern to bring the whole human family together to seek a sustainable and integral development, for we know that things can change.” (LS13).
Living Laudato Si’ Philippines, in collaboration with the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Manila’s Ecology Ministry, celebrated the Holy Mass at the Manila Cathedral. The online Mass was the culminating part of an all-day hybrid event involving the suffragan dioceses to showcase their responsiveness to the cries of the poor.
Following the mass, the induction of the Empowering ECO-mmunity program took place at the Plaza Roma grounds. The invited communities were able to showcase their activities or programs to respond to the cry of the poor and integral ecology, either by an exhibit or a testimonial. Sectors represented by the community corresponded to the seven sectors of the Laudato Si’ Action Platform.
“Today…we have to realize that a true ecological approach always becomes a social approach; it must integrate questions of justice in debates on the environment, so as to hear both the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor” (LS 49).
Did you miss this event? Watch it here:
Speakers’ main reflections:
Yeb Saño, Vice Chairperson of Laudato Si’ Movement spoke of the importance of ensuring that we’re hearing the cry of the poor, in the context of Laudato Si’ and our collective journey of ecological conversion. He mentioned how the spiritual aspect of this planetary crisis has been brought forward, and the relevance of collaborative work to the endeavor of the international climate process. He highlighted the importance of bringing these interfaith communities together, having embraced the call for climate action and climate justice. “The ecological crisis is a spiritual crisis. We need to look into our hearts to really understand what’s happening to our common home.” He went on to highlight the impacts of climate change on the most vulnerable, as Pope Francis’ states in Laudato Si’: “Strategies for a solution demand an integrated approach to combating poverty, restoring dignity to the excluded, and at the same time protecting nature” (LS 139).
To that end, Yeb mentioned that “we have in our hands a ground-up approach rooted in the strengths and realities of communities empowering all to take decisive action, here and now, towards a better future together” and highlighted the 7 Laudato Si’ Goals highlighted in the Laudato Si’ Action Platform. His inspiring words remind us that “the strength of our interfaith network cannot be overemphasized. There is so much that we can do together.”
Marylou Verano, environmental and human rights advocate, represented the voices of the most vulnerable communities, illustrating how the Open Pit Mining Operation in Aroroy, Masbate, is destroying the environment and much more. She has been fighting for decades to improve the plight of the people, seeking to increase public access to information and participation in policy-making. Marylou described some of the human rights violations, explaining that, “as a native resident of Aroroy, this leads me to continue to intervene and take action to help the mining-affected communities find solutions like alternative sources of livelihood and save the environment of my hometown from further destruction.”
An anonymous letter was written by a concerned citizen, who was among the 700 displaced by San Miguel Corporation for an airport project. It began: “To all our brothers, our livelihood has been adversely affected since we were displaced from our coastal communities…my husband, who used to be a fisherman, has now become a construction worker. They told us we’d have a better life, but it’s not true.”
Krishna Ariola, a grassroots organizer representing the youth movement, talked about the small victories that the movement has gained since she became involved in the fight against coal in 2018. Ironically, her city was internationally recognized as a “green” city, despite the fact that 70% of its energy comes from coal. “We know that, if we unite and work together, with our motivation to protect our communities, we have an enormous power.” TShe ended by urging us to come together and stand in solidarity to combat the climate crisis. As Pope Francis said, “The youth are not the future, they are our present.”
Josh Paragas, Plastic Bank Manager, shared the story of how the social enterprise came about in 2013, to its thriving present success. So far, Plastic Bank has collected 20million tons of plastic, claiming that, “we turn garbage into something that benefits the most disadvantaged of our communities.” They are now trying to engage the faith communities, and planning on launching a new app that will make households the ‘heroes of the Earth.’ “We plan to go where there is plastic, and where the poor are in need.”
FO Guang Shan Venerable zhi yi represented our Buddhist sisters and brothers. She highlighted their work within the Philippines and beyond. Education and harmony were key themes in her speech, emphasizing harmony between the self and the family, harmony of peace throughout the world. To conclude, she spoke of the three main actions promoted at her school: “Do good deeds, speak good words, and think good thoughts.”
Fr. Dionito Cabillas, of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente, shared a solidarity message: “The Iglesia Filipina Independiente wishes to reiterate its commitment to live, immerse, and struggle with the poor in our country.” He then stated IFI’s mission: “The IFI, as a community of faith steeped in the nationalist history of the workers and the Filipino people’s struggle in the Philippines, affirms its historical mission and ministry to empower the poor, deprived and oppressed through liberative education, organizing and mobilizing the Filipino people to pursue life in its fullness, and to be active witnesses against injustices, and for the propagation of God’s love to all humankind.”
Eva Marie Famador, Creation Care Coordinator of the Philippine Council of Evangelical Churches, spoke of the way that “nature is getting back to us: we have less water to drink, less land…even our health is affected.” She talked about concrete ways to help the poor, emphasizing that “we embrace the poor by being present in their community and listening to their needs and aspirations.”
Dr. Shakun Vaswani, Vice President, Peacemakers’ Circle Foundation, Inc., represented the Hindu community. She recognized that progress is being made, but much more needs to be done to correct the situation: “We have one planet Earth, and it is a concern of all, regardless of their religion and economic status, to do their share to sustain our common home. Unfortunately, in the race for progress and economic development, mankind has overlooked our interconnected relationships with Mother Earth, the Environment, and with each other.”
Pastor Evangeline Celestra, from the United Methodist Church, expanded on how “we are all visibly and invisibly interconnected,” and that we are all a part of our environment, whether we realize it or not. “Life is short. Life is precious. Life is a gift.”
Fr. Angelito Cortez, OFM, reminded us of Pope Francis’ words: “Bros and sisters, let us begin again, because until now we have done nothing.” He added his own: “We need to listen to their stories…we need to empower our brothers and sisters who are there down the line, reminding us of our responsibilities. These stories can inspire us to continue our work and our advocacy. I believe that the Church, together with the government and other entities will build a better process of listening to each other, to highlight our own course, and to highlight our own projects, and will help us to build the betterment of our society.”
Bishop Gerardo Alimane Alminaza of the Diocese of San Carlos in Negros noted that, as a lifestyle of the Church, we are always called to listening and journeying together, because our Lord mandates us to love one another and it is his prayer that ‘all may be one.’ “We cannot but listen to one another, for to love is to listen, and to listen is to love. We cannot fail to hear the cry of the poor and the cry of our common home.”
“If you want to go fast, go alone, but if you want to go far, go together. ” -African proverb.
Fr. Ric Valencia, JR., Archdiocese of Manila, concluded in his closing remarks: Aside from listening, it (Laudato Si’) is also telling us to take action, because listening will only be fulfilled in the action that we take. We hope to continue supporting each other in this endeavor.”
An interfaith prayer from Indigenous Peoples of the Philippines was presented by Pastor Isagani Casambros, United Church of Christ in the Philippines, Inarawan, Antipolo City. To conclude the event, The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Manila Ministry on Ecology, in partnership with Living Laudato Si’ Philippines, presented their Season of Creation Song.
“For all our limitations, gestures of generosity, solidarity and care cannot but well up within us, since we were made for love” (LS 58).
As part of Laudato Si’ Week 2022, “Listening and Journeying Together,” Bishop Ambo David, DD president of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines, invites us to reach out to others in the spirit of dialogue, solidarity, and social friendship.
Watch Bishop Ambo David’s message:
Learn more about the Laudato Si’ Action Platform by joining Laudato Si’ Week from May 22-29