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International
Solidarity Reflection

School Sisters of Notre Dame

Solidarity with All Creation

June 2017

Introduction

St. John Paul II defines solidarity as a virtue, “a moral and social attitude, by which one, with firmness and perseverance commits oneself to the common good; that is to say, to the good of all and of each individual, because we are all really responsible for all” (Sollicitudo. Rei Socialis, 38). Although this definition focuses on human persons, it is clear that, in our time, this call to solidarity does, indeed, include all of creation.

This year’s theme for World Environment Day, 5 June, is “connecting people to nature”. Commenting on his belief that many of our environmental problems stem from the break down of our relationship with nature, Sir David Attenborough said, “If you lose the passion for nature you’ve lost one of the more precious things human beings have. It is the source of everything we find beautiful… You have only to do the slightest thing and once the flame is lit, it will keep on burning.” (quoted on World Environment Day website)

If we are to live the virtue of solidarity, then we need to kindle the flame of our relationship with all of creation.

Call to prayer

Scripture: Mark 16:16 “Go out to the whole world; proclaim the Good News to all creation.”
(Emphasis mine) Song: Any hymn of praise to God for creation

Experience

Faced with despairing news and statistics of environmental degradation, it is sometimes difficult to spot the hopeful stories borne out of human ingenuity, creativity, wisdom, and passionate solidarity with creation. For example:

Many countries have projects to mark World Day to Combat Desertification (17 June). In Plateau State, Nigeria, the Centre for Earth Works (CFEW) carried out an awareness-raising campaign at St. John’s College in Jos followed by a tree-planting exercise. The event featured major discussion on the issue of protecting land and inclusive cooperation to checkmate issues of environmental degradation, the need to support goal 15 of the sustainable development goals (SDGs) and the damaging effects of human activities on the environment. (Online Reference)

In efforts to prevent fracking in the United Kingdom, the Quakers recently stated: “The UK needs to be investing in efficient and renewable energy, and reducing demand, not investing in additional fossil fuels. Fracked gas is not the low-carbon solution some suggest that it is and is incompatible with tackling the climate crisis. It is destructive of the environment, land and communities.” On Saturday, 6 May, many Quakers climbed Pendle Hill in Lancashire to protest against the effects of fracking, both locally and around the world. Quakers are known for worshipping in stillness; they gathered in a meeting for worship for witness. (Online Reference)

Responding to the pollution of our seas evidenced by shoreline plastic and rubbish, Surfers Against Sewage submitted evidence to the UK House of Commons Environmental inquiry, detailing how a deposit return system of plastic bottles would reduce pollution, increase recycling, create jobs, save local authorities millions of pounds and curb carbon emissions. By April 2017 they already had over 210,000 signatures on the petition. (Online Reference) Note: 8 June is World Oceans Day.

Across Britain, 2.5 billion coffee cups are thrown away annually; only 1% of these are recyclable. Here are some responses: two thirds of Londoners want more eco-friendly cups. A British company has developed a biodegradable coffee cup that “will disappear into CO2 and H2O within 3 months”. Twenty-five Coffee chains sell reusable cups, some offering a 10% discount to anyone bringing in a reusable cup. (“Get cheaper coffee …,” London Evening Standard, 11 April 2017)

Reflection

“‘The external deserts in the world are growing because the internal deserts have become so vast.’ (Homily, Pope Benedict XVI, 24 April 2005) …What they [all of us] need is an ‘ecological conversion’ whereby the effects of their encounter with Jesus Christ become evident in their relationship with the world around them.” (Laudato Si’, 217)

“There is a nobility in the duty to care for creation through little daily actions, and it is wonderful how education can bring about real changes in lifestyle.” (Laudato Si’, 211)

“Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.” (Queen Elizabeth II quoting St. Theresa of Calcutta, "Christmas Day Address, 25 December 2016.)


From our SSND General Chapter Statements
  • 1992: We have heard anew … the cry of creation …. We reverence all creation as a sacred revelation of God.

  • 1997: We commit ourselves to reverse those personal and communal choices which exploit the earth and impoverish peoples.

  • 2002: We have heard the cry of our world. Although precious and beautiful in God’s design, the earth and its peoples exist today in a fragile, divided and fragmented condition…we embrace our Gospel responsibility to living simply … reverencing all creation.

  • 2007: Internationality: We recognize … new potential for acting interdependently among ourselves and with all creation. Eucharist: Cosmic in dimension, … calling us … to reconciliation … with all Creation.

  • 2012: We … are profoundly affected and challenged by … the ecological crises of our times. We commit … to live more simply, responsibly, and sustainably with one another and with all of creation.

Action

  • Raise to the surface good news creation stories to be celebrated and shared.

  • Daily see and appreciate something beautiful so as to sustain your solidarity with all of creation.

  • Join or initiate local actions to counteract damage to creation.

Closing Prayer

One or both of the prayers at the end of Laudato Si’.

Prepared by Sister Miriam Bruder (AM, England) for the International Shalom Office, Rome, Italy
Graphic from a design by Gen Cassani, SSND; Watercolor map: Elena Romanova