I think that it is still anniversary time for LAUDATO SI’, the encyclical subtitled CARE FOR OUR COMMON HOME presented by Pope Francis to the Church and the world 5 years ago. Firstly there is the whole anniversary year still to come, ending on 24 May 2021 with initiatives and activities around creation. Next, the Vatican’s DICASTERY FOR PROMOTING INTEGRAL HUMAN DEVELOPMENT is working on a “Multi-year Roll Out Plan with the aim of building sustainability, in the spirit of Laudato Si’.” The first of these plans will be LAUDATO SI’ FAMILIES, followed in later years by other groupings. The stated aim is “Families Embarking On A 7-Year Journey Towards Integral Ecology.” Right up our alley I would say, and of course we have already started, just need more and wider support for the 2020 theme OUR WORLD – A FAMILY OF FAMILIES.
It is necessary to be relevant, contextual and up to date. Earth-shattering events have hit us from the beginning of 2020 including on the climate front. .The Covid-19 pandemic struck us all in our own situations with all kinds of devastating health, social and economic effects. Another event that struck the world just in the last weeks has been the large number of protests and riots in many countries under the banner #BlackLivesMatter. The catalyst for this was an incident of police brutality which resulted in the killing of a black man who was being arrested by a white policeman in Minneapolis USA. Such racist incidents are extremely unfortunate, but happen all too frequently in too many places; South Africa has its own share of brutality in the name of “law and order.” The US George Floyd incident happened right at this time when maximum safety precautions are needed in the fight against the virus that continues to spread. But preventative regulations were ignored as thousands protested and others rioted and looted across cities, streets and public squares.
Could one ask, “Are these protests really all about racism and black lives, or a backlash and frustration about the untenable situation in which the virus has placed people at this time? There are definite political aspects too. Is prejudice and discrimination on many fronts not also at the root of this?
The South African Bishops in 2016 issued a Pastoral letter on racism stating, “We need to have a candid conversation on racism and its manifestation in order to adequately and seriously address racial divisions in our country.” But not only racist differences exist and differences have always been there. Inequality, gender and threatening worsening poverty are being experienced in society with many positive as well as negative responses. Our task remains to reconcile and grow in acceptance of one another.
Laudato Si’ while highlighting many environmental and also social issues did not, and most likely could not possibly have predicted what we now face. How could this reality be contextualised, except under the banner #thecryofthepoor. Many of the poor across the globe today are black and have been oppressed and disadvantaged. However most indigenous people are in a similar boat and so are refugees and migrants fleeing from their home countries. There are many local poor and homeless people of all ages and cultures.
We in South Africa have just commemorated Child Protection Week with the theme “Report child abuse and neglect.” MARFAM’s June theme is “Children belong in Families.” Families are meant to be havens of security. The lock-down since 26 March in South Africa has been hard on families and hard on children. Reported incidents of abuse and gender-based violence did increase and now that purchasing of alcohol is again permitted hospitals are already announcing an increase in incidents of alcohol-related accidents and violence.
Pope Francis in Laudato Si’ states. “I will point to the intimate relationship between the poor and the fragility of the planet, the conviction that everything is connected, the critique of new paradigms and forms of power derived from technology, the call to seek other ways of understanding the economy and progress, the value proper to each creature, ecology, the need for honest debate, the responsibility for policy, the throwaway cultural and a new lifestyle. LS 16.” Quite a mouthful!
Interesting at this moment when the cry of the earth is heard just a little less due to a decrease in normal climate-affecting activity because of the pandemic the earth appears to be having a moment’s respite while the cry of the poor is heard more loudly. How will we answer it? Mother Theresa’s words are just a simple response, “if you want peace in the world, go home and love your families.” TR FAMILY WEEKLY 10 JUNE