Published in The Criterion – July 1, 2016
“Global temperatures soar for the 12th straight month” reported the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in May.
India recorded its hottest day ever at 123.8 degrees amidst a deadly heat wave and drought. Climate scientists said sea levels could rise to devastating levels sooner than previously predicted. Climate related disasters such as droughts and floods can potentially displace millions of people, according to the UN Refugee Agency.
Faced with such dire predictions, we may feel tempted to close our eyes to the problem or to turn away in despair. But to do so is to ignore our faith in God. “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand” (Is 41:10).
Our faith calls us to hope. In their book Active Hope, authors Joanna Macy and Chris Johnstone say we must begin by acknowledging the painful and difficult reality of climate degradation.
Whatever challenging situation we face, we can choose our response. It is not enough to passively wait for an external agency to bring about change. Active hope is about taking positive steps, no matter how small, toward the desired outcome. As people of faith, we trust that God will use our individual actions to further his plan.
June 18 marked the first anniversary of the release of “Laudato Si’, on Care for Our Common Home.” In this encyclical letter, Pope Francis says “[Climate change] represents one of the principal challenges facing humanity in our day” (#25).
He calls for an “integral ecology,” and asks people to enter into dialogue about how our relationship with nature is integrated with our relationships with each other. Care for our common home must be a part of our family life, our economic choices, our political systems, and all the decisions we make on a daily basis.
The release of “Laudato Si’ ” and the voices of the faith community have had an impact on world leaders. That influence was felt as representatives from almost 200 countries met in Paris last December, and committed to phasing out the use of fossil fuels while increasing renewable energy.
Locally, voices from the faith community were instrumental in the success of the campaign to stop burning coal at the Indianapolis Power and Light’s Harding Street plant.
Hoosier Interfaith Power and Light (www.hoosieripl.org) helps Indiana faith communities respond to the challenge of climate change with resources that help congregations and individuals use energy more efficiently. It sponsored “Interfaith Voices for the Earth: Our Common Home” in March. Panelists from different faith traditions, including Archbishop Joseph W. Tobin discussed how their religions call them to act to care for creation and each other. (See a related story in the March 25 issue of The Criterion.)
The archdiocesan Commission for Creation Care Ministry invites you to choose hope by taking action in your home and parish to reduce your environmental impact. Our goals are to support you in this effort by providing resources and by building a network of parishes committed to the principles set forth by Pope Francis in “Laudato Si’ ”. Contact us on Facebook at Archindy Creation Care, or by e-mail at email@example.com. We welcome your input and ideas.
“And now these three remain: faith, hope, and love; but the greatest of these is love” (1 Cor 13:13). Have faith that God is with us in our struggles to make the world a better place. Choose hope. Take actions rooted in love for God and love for our neighbors, and the wonderfully complex gift of creation that supports us.
(Sharon Horvath is a member of the archdiocesan Commission for Creation Care Ministry and of St. Thomas Aquinas Parish in Indianapolis)