Somalia and its neighbours in the Horn of Africa are in the grip of the worst drought in more than 40 years, which has wiped out livestock and crops. Four consecutive droughts, the ripple effects of the Ukraine war, climate change and Covid-19 have created the direst of conditions in the region. The UN’s World Food Programme (WFP) estimates that the number of people at risk of starvation across the region had increased to 22 million.
In Pakistan, record monsoon rains and melting glaciers in the northern mountains have brought floods that have affected 33 million people and killed at least 1,314, including 458 children, Pakistan’s National Disaster Management Agency said.
In Pope Francis’ message for the Season of Creation he calls on world leaders, ahead of COP27 in November, to “take more ambitious steps”, to keep “their promises of financial and technical support for the economically poorer nations, which are already experiencing most of the burden of the climate crisis”.
He urges corporations, specifically: “the great extractive industries – mining, oil, forestry, real estate, agribusiness – to stop destroying forests, wetlands, and mountains, to stop polluting rivers and seas, to stop poisoning food and people”. It is necessary for all of us to act decisively. For we are reaching “a breaking point”.
The Season of Creation begins on September 1 (the World Day of Prayer for Creation) and runs until October 4(the feast of St. Francis of Assisi). It is an ecumenical season where the world’s 2.2 billion Christians are called to pray, to reflect and to take action for our common home.
This year’s theme invites us to “Listen to the Voice of Creation” and the symbol is the Burning Bush which called to Moses on Mt. Horeb. It invites us to reflect from the scriptures: “I have heard their cry…I know their sufferings…Come, now! I will send you…I will be with you” (Ex 3: 1-12).
Today, the prevalence of unnatural fires are a sign of the devastating effects that climate change has on the most vulnerable of our planet. Creation cries out as forests crackle, animals flee, and people are forced to migrate due to the fires of injustice. On the contrary, the fire that called to Moses as he tended the flock on Mt. Horeb did not consume or destroy the bush. This flame of the Spirit revealed God’s presence and affirmed that God heard the cries of all who suffered and promised to be with us as we work for justice.
The Season of Creation calls us to listen to the voice of creation, to listen to the voices of those who suffer the impacts of climate change, to the voices of those who hold the generational wisdom about how to live gratefully and more sustainably, within the limits of the land. These are voices of the Earth. The global Christian family is called to awaken to the urgent need to heal our relationships with creation and with each other and to encourage our church communities to do the same.
The role of faith communities in addressing the environmental crises we face becomes ever clearer: to create space for and encourage an ecological conversion in our parishes, our families, our communities. For as we read in Laudato Si’, “Everyone’s talents and involvement are needed to redress the damage caused by human abuse of God’s creation” (Laudato Si’, 14). The Season of Creation is a special time where we can be nourished and inspired to live out this vocation.
Laudato Si’ encourages us to never underestimate the power of small actions, things we do in our daily lives in our homes, schools and parishes to try to live more sustainably. However, we must also raise our voices to ensure that our governments are doing all they can to move us towards a more sustainable future. This Season of Creation, let us hear the cry of the earth and respond to it in prayer and action, “so that we and future generations can continue to rejoice in creation’s sweet song of life and hope” (Pope Francis).
“For we know that things can change” (Laudato Si’, 13).