The challenge of 2023: Upholding faith, social action, and global advocacy on ecological justice

The challenge of 2023: Upholding faith, social action, and global advocacy on ecological justice

Storm system approaching the US West coast on 3 January 2023 at 6:36 pm EST (Image from NOAA)

Ecojesuit explored collaborative opportunities throughout 2022 with the six Jesuit Conferences, institutions, and network partners to build a shared advocacy and faith-based engagement in critical global events.

With ‘local to global’ as the key approach, greater efforts were undertaken to connect with local and regional processes, and share local stories and voices. The Culture-based Solutions: Indigenous Responses to Biodiversity Challenges event, in partnership with the Conference of Jesuit Provincials in Latin America and the Caribbean (CPAL), the Jesuit Conference of Asia Pacific (JCAP), and the Jesuit Conference of South Asia (JCSA), raised the concerns of local and Indigenous Communities in relation to biodiversity challenges on forest protection, food systems, and mining ahead of the 21st UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII) in New York City, USA, and the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (COP15) in Montreal, Canada.

Parallel to the 2022 UN Ocean Conference, the Oceania Talanoa: Faith, Indigenous, and Nature’s Moana Shaping and Safeguarding Innovations of the Sea event shared the stories, concerns, and urgent calls of faith leaders, indigenous knowledge practitioners, and members of first Nations in Oceania on generations of injustices to the oceans and its inhabitants.

The 15th Conference of the Parties (COP15) of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity ended with the adoption of the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF), laying out four goals and 23 targets to halt biodiversity loss by 2030. Greater challenges are ahead in translating the framework into tangible actions on the ground while continuing to hold governments accountable to what was agreed in the biodiversity summit.

The 27th Conference of the Parties (COP27) of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) wrapped up with disappointing outcomes despite advancements on food and loss and damage, and the credibility of the process continues to be undermined by the corporate political lobby.

But this annual UN Climate Change Conference (officially called COP) still remains an important global body where lobby and engagement are possible. With COP being an increasingly difficult space to engage in, this posits a genuine challenge for the Ecojesuit network in bringing the local and regional contexts to the global.

How can the questions on the climate crisis be kept alive, especially in the context of the concerns of the most vulnerable? How can a shared global advocacy be sustained in 2023? Most importantly, how can urgent social action be collectively broadened while strengthening commitments to climate justice and integral concerns.

Ecojesuit’s efforts are in ensuring that these conversations are upheld and sustained within the Conferences as they strengthen the ecology mission towards a more just world.

The following diverse actions animated locally and regionally lay out the basis for further collaboration on five common themes in the coming year and beyond:

Youth engagement

As a network, it is important to find ways on how the voices of the youth can be uplifted and encouraged, and how a creative expression of hope and faith. The Ignatian Solidarity Network of the Jesuit Conference of the US and Canada (JCCUS) brings young people together in climate justice summits for ecological workshops and an exchange of ideas for action. The Jesuit Centre for Ecology and Development (JCED) in Malawi mobilized young people in South Africa through the Youth for Climate Justice Campaign that helped move the Heal the Earth: Caravan of Hope and shared youth voices on their calls for climate justice through ARTivism. In JCAP, five young people were awarded for their commitment to their ecology-related efforts through the Creators of Hope project. In JCSA, art camps are held for tribal youth in Kerala where they creatively depict their hopes for a future and express their cultural integrity and identity.

There is great value in organizing social venues where young people from different territories can come together, exchange experiences and ideas, and find ways to strengthen a lobby for transparency, accountability, and change.

“Solidarity across generations is key for sustainable development. We must collaborate to foster successful climate actions, equitable inter-generational relations and partnerships to ensure no one is left behind.” – Martha Phiri, JCED Climate Justice Coordinator, during the “Intergenerational Solidarity on Climate Justice” webinar

Ecclesial networking and synodality

Ecclesial networking seeks to foster dialogue and collaboration between the Church, Indigenous and local people, youth, and other faith-based organizations to bring in the voices of the margins in the care for the Common Home and people. The hope is to create a space for synodality through this dialogue to strengthen commitments in caring for oceans, forests, and people.

Ecclesial networks including the Pan-Amazonian Ecclesial Network (REPAM), the Ecclesial Network of the Congo Basin Forest (REBAC), the River above Asia Oceania Ecclesial Network (RAOEN), and the European Laudato Si’ Alliance (ELSiA) are proceeding within and beyond the Jesuit Conferences. It is hoped that greater collaboration with ecclesial networks and the broader Church can collectively deepen, strengthen, and sustain commitments of service to the margins amid the many complex socioecological challenges.

“CELAM has had numerous opportunities for collaboration and mutual learning with the Asian region, especially with regard to the territorial ecclesial network – the River above Asia Oceania Ecclesial Network or RAOEN – for the care of our Common Home…The experience of the Amazon region has served as a model of networking to seek the new synodal path for the Church and for integral ecology. This Universal Synod is an ideal occasion to continue weaving the South-South network in order to respond to the cause of Laudato Si’ and Fratelli Tutti.” – Excerpt from CELAM (Consejo Episcopal Latinoamericano y Caribeño) President Monsignor Miguel Cabrejos Vidarte’s address during the FABC50 General Conference

Policy advocacy

Engaging with policy is an important dimension in the shared advocacy in bringing forward the concerns and contexts on the ground.

The Jesuit European Social Centre (JESC) in the Conference of European Provincials (CEP) is focusing on policy advocacy and pedagogy through its Ecology Work Plan 2022. In CPAL, a group of researchers from Jesuit higher education institutions is undertaking research on the relationship between the environment and corruption. In JCCUS, national conferences are held annually to convene young people in advocating at the legislative level. The Jesuit Ecology Network Africa (JENA) of the Jesuit Conference of Africa and Madagascar (JCAM) closely followed the COP27 discussions on food systems and laid out the key outcomes of the Sharm el-Sheikh Joint Work on Implementation of Climate Action on Agriculture and Food Security as basis for JENA’s advocacy on agroecology.

Ecojesuit as a network is challenged in truly engaging in policy advocacy at the national and global levels. Greater commitment is needed in building and sustaining alliances that go beyond crafting of statements. Policy reviews are also a good way in forming a baseline for advocacy actions, as well as forming links with key people in policy-making at the national level, or with negotiators at the global level, and engage them in dialogue.

“Advocacy is the process of thinking and promoting new ways of understanding our social relationship, our global structures, our political commitment. The challenge of building a democratic political social subject based on real citizen participation is a real challenge for us. It is impossible to do this when we are not present on the ground, because this is not only to have ideas but how we have experiences in what we call ‘empowering people.’ Empowering people means to organize and to participate in a democratic and just society.” – from the address of Father General Arturo Sosa SJ during the 2022 annual meeting of Social Apostolate Delegates, Advisory Committee Members, and GIAN leaders

Climate justice

Climate justice is a key advocacy of Ecojesuit in sharing the realities of local communities vulnerable to climate change impacts that also relate to health, food systems, and water justice.

In the Conferences, agroecology is a key focus and advocating for loss and damage in COP27. In CPAL, lobbying for the Rights of Nature and Indigenous Peoples is an integral focus in its social apostolates and networks. In JCSA, the Lok Manch people’s platform is mobilizing climate and ecological justice efforts by enhancing climate resilience in communities across India. In JCCUS, higher education institutions such as the Loyola University Chicago (LUC) and Santa Clara University (SCU) are organizing conferences on climate action and environmental justice through LUC’s 2023 Climate Change Conference and SCU’s Climate and Environmental Justice Conference.

Greater action and commitment are still called for especially in ramping up loss and damage and carbon mitigation commitments as a basis for a more coherent North-South advocacy, and better connecting with climate vulnerable communities. The challenge is how these voices can broadly (and coherently) be included in global processes, and how the corporate political lobby can be engaged with transparency and justice.

“We demand a political, social, and economic model that prioritizes the integrity of our common home, that recognizes and respects the territories and the full exercise of the rights of the Amazonian peoples and the rights of Nature…we urge the governments of Pan-Amazonian countries to put into practice their speeches against the climate crisis and the rights of Mother Earth, with real measures against deforestation, degradation and increased emissions, and not with so-called Green Economies. We demand that they fulfill and strengthen their commitments assumed at the international level.” – Excerpt from the Final Declaration of the X FOSPA, 31 July 2022

Faiths in the UN agenda

In COP15, the Faith & Biodiversity UN Coordination Group engaged in the process through An International Multi-Faith Response to the Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework, laying out comments, key messages, and recommendations on the draft post-2020 Biodiversity Framework and which is now the adopted Kunming-Montreal GBF, from a faith-based standpoint.

As the global network for ecology, Ecojesuit keeps track of global processes (SDGs, UNOC, UNFSS, UNFCCC COP), how these proceed, and how local realities become affected which then shapes the advocacy.

These processes also highlight the importance of the faith dynamic as a valid participant in these global events, how faith can enter such processes integrally, and its value as an expression of hope.

“In the latest Encyclical, Fratelli Tutti, Pope Francis proposed dialogue and encounter as a means of building a more just world…these dialogues [include] community and civil society representatives with lived experiences of climate change, researchers and professional advocates with policy expertise, officials from all levels of government, and leaders in the Catholic Church who would frame the pressing ethical questions raised by climate change in terms of the action of God and the demands of justice.” – Excerpt from the Foreword of His Eminence Fridolin Besungu Cardinal Ambongo from the Communiqué of the African Climate Dialogues

Looking towards 2023

2023 is another year of opportunities for collective action and advocacy such as the 10th World Ocean Summit & Expo 2023 in Lisbon, Portugal on 28 February to 2 March, the UN 2023 Water Conference in New York, USA on 22 to 24 March, the 22nd session of the UNPFII in New York, USA on 17 to 28 April, World Youth Day 2023 in Lisbon, Portugal on 1 to 6 August, the 2023 SDG Summit in New York, USA on 20 to 21 September (tentative), and the UNFCCC COP28 in the United Arab Emirates on 30 November to 12 December.

It is always an effort to build a faith-based engagement to highlight the importance of faith as a valid form of participation in global spaces. It is through faith that a sense of commitment is strengthened in working towards an integral ecology way of living while standing alongside the most vulnerable. Faith also enables a sense of vision and hope for a more just world, which is what is greatly needed in present times.

It is Ecojesuit’s hope to enable an “active communications” dynamic to coherently share and collaborate on the advocacy and messaging, to effectively communicate local realities and voices, and to strategically connect with other groups and potential partners who also share the advocacy. With adequate preparations and time involvement at the onset with the Conferences and network partners on the identified key themes and areas of action, Ecojesuit seeks to contribute to strengthening collaborative agendas. And all these need to be connecting with a broader global community for concerted impact.

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