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Doctrines & Morals
 
 
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A SAFARI WITH LAUDATO SI’

OUR MOTHER EARTH, who contains us, does also sustain us and govern us accordingly (cf. Laudato Si' no. 1). At the same time, she expects us to be responsible for taking care of her according to God's command. "God blessed them, saying to them, 'Be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth and subdue it. Be masters of the fish of the sea, the birds of heaven and all the living creatures that move on earth.' God also said, 'Look, to you I give all the seed-bearing plants everywhere on the surface of the earth, and all the trees with seed-bearing fruit; this will be your food.

And to all the wild animals, all the birds of heaven and all the living creatures that creep along the ground, I give all the foliage of the plants as their food … God saw all he had made, and indeed it was very good" (Gen. 1:28-31). Pope Francis, in his wisdom and on behalf of the Church, emerged with the Encyclical Laudato Si' (LS) in response to such God's command, while looking at the signs of the times. A timely moment of publishing it when human beings who are created in the image and likeness of God himself begin to abuse the Mother Earth; hence, endanger human species and all that she inhabits.

Laudato Si' is a prophetic Encyclical as conflict in the future may be mainly caused by the exploitation of natural resources. In fact, the document has become highly influential and widely shared document of the Church as it urges humanity to have an attitudinal change towards the Mother Earth. It is for this reason that LS embraces three key words namely, respect, responsibility and relationship. Respect for each other as human beings who are created in the image and likeness of God; responsibility for what is entrusted to us, human beings, by the Creator; and positive relationship between the earth and human beings, among human beings themselves as well as between human beings and their Creator. "As Christians, we are also called 'to accept the world as a sacrament of communion, as a way of sharing with God and our neighbours on a global scale. It is our humble conviction that the divine and the human meet in the slightest detail in seamless garment of God's creation, in the last speck of dust of our planet'" (LS, no. 9).

This document, therefore, needs to be understood not as a scientific document. It is a justice document applied to the Ecology. In other words, this document, can only be appreciated and understood if engaged as a social justice document as an expression of Catholic Social Teaching. It  follows Pope Francis' prism based on encounter, dialogue and solidarity. It is realistic and pragmatic. It envisages "A  of paradigm shifts leading to centrality of justice, empowerment from below, a dynamic interaction between deductive and inductive method, interplay between the contextual and the universal" (Peter-John Pearson, Reflection on LS, p. 1). In a sense, LS follows a katabatic approach. It is justice document as it is the constituent of the mission of the Church. It is critical not only to Church's life, but also to all who value and care for our common home. It provokes the sense of redeploying social power and the transformation of the social system. As a justice document, it is not a paracetamol pill or a tranquilliser document as W. Brueggemann states: "Justice is not some romantic social ideal for another world. It is the hard work of redeploying social power and the transformation of the social system. Those of us who benefit from inequality in the world are susceptible to blind spots and generally we struggle to keep those spots blind. But one must conclude from Micah and the whole prophetic tradition that the redistribution of social power is a crucial element of the Gospel, and that is a summons to justice." Justice demands not only the avoidance of wahala or unnecessary pain, but fostering care and responsibility for the other.

Based on the Social Catholic Teaching, while reading and interpreting the signs of the times, the document expresses a deep sense of the communitarian vision. This emanates from the Trinitarian principle which begins with the sign of the cross expressing God who is Trinity. And of course, the Trinity is relational, is love; three-in-one, making part of the systematic theology. Surely,  LS coheres around a theologically inspired communitarian ethic. Thus, it decries "… the classical liberal model where society is understood as an artificial contract between autonomous individuals undertaken for self-interest rather than fraternal reasons" (Schuck, p. 187). Its approach, therefore, takes a wider scope compared to other documents of the Church. Pope Francis quotes not only other Popes but also other different documents as well as individuals who compliment the care of our common home. This shows that the Church is not an isolated entity. She makes part and parcel of the planet entity.

Reading the signs of the times, Pope Francis goes, meets and touches those in the peripheries, those in the fracture zones. He, therefore, understands well that almost half of the world's population, which is over three million people live on or under $2.50 per day. That as the UNICEF documents state that thousands of children (over 25,000) die daily quietly due to poverty in the world's poorest villages in the so called developing countries based in the South pole. That over 24 million children are forced by conflict to flee their homes; hence, become refugees or internally displaced persons (IDP). This implies that 1 in 200 children are refugees or migrants or IDP. And 9 out of every 10 such children travel unaccompanied; thus, worsening their vulnerability. That forced prostitution, forced and bonded labour are on the increase and have become the song of the day. And most of them are women and children. That arms industry, drug industry and human trafficking have become highly organised at a global scale; these are inhuman and illegal businesses, depriving that human dignity. That pollution, deforestation and destruction of sources of water are alarming. Global warming and its effects are part of the consequences of the abuse of ecology or God's creation.

The concern of Pope Francis to bringing out LS is a provocative challenge to us too. It is a serious call or invitation to every human being to look at all the signs of the times and find out not only short term solutions but also long term solutions of which the future generations will appreciate us, and not condemn us. This implies that individuals alone cannot do much, the communitarian aspect of it at both local and global levels has necessarily to be engaged. Care for the common home is, indeed, our business!

 


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