The following blog is a guest post by Peter Arndt, Executive Officer of the Catholic Justice & Peace Commission of the Archdiocese of Brisbane. This firsthand perspective of the injustices suffered by the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, Australia’s First Nations people, is “a sober look at our world” showing how “human intervention in the service of business interests and consumerism is actually making our earth less rich and beautiful.” (LS 34)
We offer this story in prayerful hope you will give special attention during Laudato Si’ Week to recognizing injustices within your own sphere of influence to “help create a culture of shared life and respect for our surroundings.” (LS 213)
My name is Peter, and I am Executive Officer of the Catholic Justice & Peace Commission of the Archdiocese of Brisbane. The Commission has been mandated by successive Archbishops since 1985 to promote Catholic social teaching within the Archdiocese, to promote social and environmental action, and to work with others in the community to promote social justice, peace, and care for creation.
I support the Commission in this work and represent it in various forums and networks, and we are very much inspired by Pope Francis’ invitation for us to embrace an integral ecology.
“Our first priority has always been to accompany First Nations peoples in their struggle for justice in Australia.”
We recognize that dispossession is the root injustice at the heart of the many injustices First Nations Australians have endured. They have cared for Australia since time immemorial, but their removal from the country has seen not only grave injustices for them, but it has also resulted in recklessness and abuse of the country by settler communities and growing degradation of Australia.
We see the connections between the injustices and mistreatment faced by Australia’s First Nations people and the ecological problems we face in Australia today. It is for this reason we seek to accompany Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in their struggle for justice as integral to the pursuit of the healing of the earth.
We hear and see the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor in this country as one, and we believe our response must recognize the interconnection between the suffering of Earth and the suffering of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples who have cared for Australia with great wisdom since the beginning.
The Laudato Si’ Action Platform offers us a structure that enables us to develop a holistic response to the ecological and social crises we face locally. It provides us with a framework with which to respond to these problems locally, truly embracing the fullness of Pope Francis’ message.
“The Laudato Si’ Action Platform offers us a structure which enables us to develop a
holistic response to the ecological and social crises we face locally.”
Within our own context, flooding, bushfires, and other weather events have become more severe and frequent here in Brisbane. As I speak, we are in the middle of another significant flood. This comes only three months after another serious flood from which many are still recovering.
There are many other ecological concerns we see, including the growing threats to populations of animals and plants in our part of the world. Just this year, the Australian Government upgraded the protection status of the koala from vulnerable to endangered. This is a worrying development.
“We hear and see the cries of the earth and the cries of the poor in Australia as one.”
Our accompaniment of local Aboriginal communities has also alerted us to the depth of the suffering they face. One particular concern is the very high rate of youth suicide in Aboriginal communities. We understand, through our prayerful reflection on Laudato Si’, that these problems are not only ecological, social, economic, political, and scientific in nature, but also, fundamentally, spiritual.
We need to embrace a spirituality that enables us to deepen our relationship with God, with our fellow human beings, and with all of creation. It is only through renewing our relationship with God we will realize only God offers us peace.
When this insight becomes central for us, we can become attentive to the world around us, the immense beauty of the people, the creatures, and all of creation around us, but also their significant suffering.
“It is only through renewing our relationship with God that we will realize only God offers us peace.”
One thing a group or organization can do today to begin their journey toward integral is spending time together prayerfully studying Laudato Si’, and our understanding will be all the richer if we dialogue with local Indigenous people about Pope Francis’ teaching.
We need to focus on nurturing a spirituality that can fill the emptiness and hunger a preoccupation with consumerism and materialism creates. Action to reduce carbon emissions, protect endangered species and address environmental degradation is essential, but, for us Christians, these actions need the firm foundation of a spirituality that places God the creator and God’s immeasurable love for all of creation at the center of our consciousness.