Pope Francis’s encyclical, ‘Laudato Si’ (“Praised Be to You”) with a subtitle “on care for our common home”, has been one of the most widely anticipated papal documents in recent memory. ‘Laudato Si’ criticizes those who fail to care for that with which they have been entrusted and the consequences that can flow from that failure. A 184 page encyclical originally published on 18 June 2015, ‘Laudato Si’ has been a challenging document for us the Divine Word Missionaries. The tone of Pope’s phrasing the document has been described as ‘cautious and undogmatic’ and calls for sustained discussion and dialogue. Further he adds, “There are certain environmental issues where it is not easy to achieve a broad consensus. Here I would state once more that the Church does not presume to settle scientific questions or to replace politics. But I am concerned to encourage an honest and open debate so that particular interests or ideologies will not prejudice the common good.”
The concern for ecological care is not just a thing out of the blue. There had been numerous debates – local, national, international, to protect the mother earth from all time high calamities and disasters. The news items of recent devastating floods in Europe, bush and forest fire outbreak in the US and Australia, heavy to heavy localised rains, cyclones leading to flash floods in India, may be a few instances that flashed on our newspapers, social media and TV screens; the bottom line is that each and every individual irrespective of caste, creed, religion, gender, nationality has a duty to perfect and protect our depleting environment. The seven Laudato Si goals call for our response to the cry of the Earth; the cry of the poor; ecological economics; adoption of simple lifestyles; ecological education; ecological spirituality; and emphasis on community involvement and participatory action.
There are seventeen UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) vis-a-vis seven Laudato Si goals. The SDGs or Global Goals are a collection of seventeen interlinked global goals designed to be a “blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all”. The SDGs were set up in 2015 by the United Nations General Assembly and are intended to be achieved by the year 2030. They are – no poverty, zero hunger, good health and wellbeing, quality education, gender equality, clean water and sanitation, affordable and clean energy, decent work and economic growth, industry-innovation & infrastructure, reduced inequalities, sustainable cities & communities, responsible consumption and production, climate action, life below water, life on land, peace and justice & strong institutions, partnership for the goals.
Both the above goals were introduced in the same year and their implementation at different spheres or platforms has taken place through voluntary, faith based agencies or political, national and international agencies. But the crux of the matter is that these goals awaken our consciousness-capital to address the most important issues like listening to the cry of the earth, cry of the poor, ecological education, economics and spirituality, community, group or individuals engaging in ecological conservation. The clarion call to us the Divine Word Missionaries is to implement a few collective, planned and organised doable activities in our campuses. Only a spiritual soul can reflect and understand the significance of these goals and act upon them. We as the spiritual leaders are called upon to go on the other side along with our flock, animating and facilitating them in the effort to accomplish the Laudato Si goals. Are we willing to accept the challenge of being the partners in fulfilling these goals? We need to work together; together we can make a difference and take care of our common home.