Today’s world “imposes” a number of challenges that require our commitment to urgent change. Without this, life on earth as we know it today is seriously threatened. Among the many challenges, climate change is certainly a reality that requires our involvement. This subject has interested me for a long time and has made me change some of my habits. I try, as much as possible, to share this concern with others. It was in this vein that Sr Conceição Fontes, FMM, director of an educational institution where some of our sisters work – even though it is not ours – invited me to give a formation session for all the personnel of the institution, at the beginning of the school year 21-22, with a view to drawing up a Project to work on during the year with the children. I was happy to accept. The theme chosen was “our common home”, following on from all the work they had already done on Laudato Si. The beginning of the document was the starting point of my presentation: “our common home is like a sister with whom we share our life and a beautiful mother who opens her arms to embrace us” (LS1). The ‘common home’ is our responsibility, but we have mistreated and wounded it. The current economic model, which encourages unbridled consumerism, fuelled by unrestrained activism, leaves behind a trail of death. Our common home reacts to the aggressions it suffers. There are natural disasters, the severe drought that is now reaching alarming proportions……
The political agenda of governments has begun to include the energy transition, presented as a solution for decarbonisation, with the aim of reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Contrary to what they would have us believe, this is not the path of sustainable development, committed to the safeguarding of creation, because we know that this proposal requires the continuation of the current model, changing only the raw materials used for the same purposes. To give us an idea, if the current rate of growth is maintained, the amount of copper that will be needed in the next 30 years will be equal to that consumed by humanity up to now. There is no such thing as “clean energy”. In addition, the agrifood and textile industries contribute greatly to the degradation of our common home and are largely responsible for the depletion of the planet’s water resources. The only answer to this catastrophic scenario is a change of mentality, a new paradigm where unlimited exploration gives way to the protection of our common home. Only a change in our consumption habits will stop this destructive escalation. These are the convictions I have tried to convey to my listeners.
War is another devastating phenomenon that is destroying our common home. Consumption and war are both at the root of the great migratory flow we are witnessing today. Many of these forced migrants are refugees. This is another great challenge for us, FMM. Portugal has received a large number of people from Afghanistan and Ukraine, two countries ravaged by armed conflicts. Our Province has responded to requests from various institutions. In January this year, at the request of the JRS (Jesuit Refugee Service), we welcomed in one of our uninhabited appartments an Afghan family of 5 people, the mother and her 4 children, the youngest being 16 and the oldest 29. I am part of the team accompanying the Erfani family in their process of integration in our country. It is a difficult process, there are many wounds from the recent past. The cultural differences are enormous. The language barrier, especially for the mother who only speaks her mother tongue, does not make things easy either. Indeed, “complex challenges arise when our neighbour happens to be an immigrant. […] Our response to the arrival of migrating persons can be summarized by four words: welcome, protect, promote and integrate” (Fratelli tutti 129). Trying to alleviate the suffering of these people and seeing how they struggle to build a new life is a very enriching experience for me. At our recent chapter meeting, Mahdiya, one of the girls, shared with us her reality as a refugee. It was very moving. It is impossible to remain indifferent to this drama. Always in collaboration with others, parishes and municipalities, we have welcomed Ukrainian refugees in our houses. Faced with the requests that came one after the other, our response could not be different. In everything and always, we want to “show the face of God’s love in today’s world”.
Sara Renca, FMM