THE present health crisis with its negative socio-economic effects is an opportunity for us to start anew, says Zambia Conference of Catholic Bishops secretary general Cleophas Lungu.
Celebrating the 5th Anniversary of Laudato Si under the theme ‘Everything is connected’ on Sunday, Fr Lungu said it was the time to shape a new future that was responsive to the needs of the environment and all peoples, especially the poor and those who live in the margins of society.
He said during the past week which the Catholic Church set aside as Laudato Si Week, which run from May 16 to 24, Catholics throughout the world had been walking in solidarity for a more just and sustainable future.
“The fifth anniversary of Laudato Si’ offers us an opportunity to act together in a strategic way of taking care of God’s creation, our Common Home. Today marks exactly 5 years since the release of this popular Encyclical and as we end the cerebrations today, we are delighted to note that Laudato Si is not only a well written letter by Pope Francis to the people of the world, but has over the years become a point of reference for the Christian denominations, other religions, government policy makers, including the United Nations, as well as environmental groups and movements worldwide,” he said. “It is a letter that touches on all sectors of life, reminding us that our socio-economic, political and environmental organisation and practices, must not lead to increasing the crisis that mother earth is currently going through.”
Fr Lungu said people were living through history-shaping events as they continue to fight the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Coincidentally, Laudato Si’ teaches us how we can overcome such challenges and build a better world all together. People everywhere are crying out for hope, and our faith is urgently needed to light the way,” he said.
In 2015, Pope Francis when addressing the United Nations said: “The misuse and destruction of the environment are also accompanied by a relentless process of exclusion. In effect, a selfish and boundless thirst for power and material prosperity leads both to the misuse of available natural resources and to the exclusion of the weak and disadvantaged, either because they are differently abled (handicapped), or because they lack adequate information and technical expertise, or are incapable of decisive political action. Economic and social exclusion is a complete denial of human fraternity and a grave offense against human rights and the environment.”
Fr Lungu said the encyclical was more relevant than ever in “this moment of global health crisis, which overlaps with the existing ecological and social crises to further exacerbate the suffering of the most vulnerable”.
He said the encyclical also helped to see beyond the end of the current pandemic, to envision a systemic change that would truly uproot the origins of unequal access to a healthy environment, medical care, and economic support through periods of enforced business pause.
Fr Lungu said the present health crisis with its negative socio-economic effects, was an opportunity to start anew.
“It is the time to shape a new future that is responsive to the needs of the environment and all peoples, especially the poor and those who live in the margins of society. Laudato Si’ tells us that ‘everything is connected’ and so our realisation to this fact must help us to stop the pending ecological catastrophy. We must know that our own good health depends on the health of the earth. Ecological damage is a global emergency and so is COVID-19,” he said. “The two are related as they affect many people, both directly and indirectly. Again, let us remember that both challenges are experienced most deeply by the poor and vulnerable, and both expose the deep injustices that exist in our societies today. To resolve these challenges, a united effort that calls on the best of the values we share is needed.”
Fr Lungu announced the launching of a campaign aiming at “building resilient communities” in the context of Laudato Si’.
“This takes into account of the fact that Zambians will be going to the polls next year and will thus be choosing their leaders who offer themselves to serve the people. These leaders are called to be at the heart of any resilient community,” he said.
“In the 21st century, building resilience is one of our most urgent social and economic issues because we live in a world that is defined by many disruptions, mostly caused by our own carelessness and destructive style of life. Resilient communities have the ability to plan and prevent or mitigate any stresses or shocks of a natural disaster. This way, they identify and are better able to respond to disasters they may not be able to predict or avoid.”
Fr Lungu said through the campaign, ZCCB was inviting every person enjoying the gift of creation to act together to save “Our Common Home as we work together to create a new birth, by restoring the disrupted eco-systems, as we build solidarity among ourselves”.
“Let us listen to the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor. This is the time for all communities to undertake ambitious actions to address the mounting environmental perils facing the planet and its people,” said Lungu. “On the whole, we hope that this campaign will offer the current generation a chance to transform our country into a just one without leaving any community behind.”