Slowly we are becoming more and more conscious of the fact that no woman [or man for that matter] is an island. Whilst Ireland might geographically be an island we are not when we consider the world in which we live.
We are part of the human race, we are producers and we are consumers, we do good and, hopefully not too often, do bad!
How do I relate to my environment? Do I treat it with care and respect, as Pope Francis ask in his Encyclical Letter On the Care of our Common Home [Laudato Si’]. Or do I see myself as the master of creation and see fit to use it as I will, with no thought to the future generations, ‘our children’s children’ as the Bible puts it? As Pope Francis puts it in #52 of Laudato Si’: “We need to strengthen the conviction that we are one single human family.”
The million plus people who fled their countries in 2015 – what is my attitude to asylum seekers, refugees, migrants – to people of other faiths than my own? Thousands of people – particularly women and children – were trafficked into Europe – some of them into Ireland – and are now the victims of prostitution and other forms of slavery.
VIVAT International was founded in 2000 by the Divine Word Missionaries [SVD] and the Missionary Sisters of the Holy Spirit [SSpS] to lobby for the poor, the marginalised and for the protection of creation. Today there are 12 religious congregations – who are working at the coalface with the poorest of the poor in our world, not only in Europe, but throughout the world.
Last year, VIVAT produced an excellent resource manual which individuals and groups can draw on should they wish to reflect – and pray – on such issues. One of the Reflections relates to a farm family in Ethiopia’s Rift Valley:
Mr Bofo and his wife Shewaye live in the small Ethiopian village of Meja Lalu, 130 kms south east of Addis Ababa in the Central Rift Valley. They have eight children and four grandchildren. Like almost everyone in the village, they are farmers and utterly dependent on the food they can produce. In Meja Lalu, as in the whole of Central Rift Valley, small farmers like Mr Bofo depend on the timing and quantity of rainfall. As the impacts of climate change increase, however, rainfall and other climate patterns in the Rift Valley are becoming more unpredictable, exposing farming households to periods of drought and flooding that undermine income and family wellbeing. They don’t have the resources to get through months and years of drought, so individuals and households cope with these disasters by migrating to cities and bigger towns.
Parents like Mr and Mrs Bofo are the main source of farmland for children, but their farm (less than one hectare) is already too small to feed and cover the medical expenses of their family. Desperation for land and viable livelihood opportunities, coupled with recurring periods of drought, crop losses, and the absence of alternative income sources, has already forced four of their children to migrate to bigger towns in search of unskilled, off-farm employment.
Their daughter Misha, who worked as a housekeeper in another town, is now back home and extremely ill, having contracted the HIV/Aids virus. The three children who are working try to send money home, but their social exposure in difficult work places is not without a price.
Global warming, much of it due to human activity, is a root cause of the dire poverty affecting the Bofos and their neighbours in rural Meja Lalu. Their story is the story of most families in the village.
Until people in the world’s better-off nations open their eyes to what is happening in Africa’s many ‘Meja Lalus’, little will change for families like the Bofos who, in the words of Pope Francis, “have no other financial activities or resources which can enable them to adapt to climate change…” (Laudato Si’ 25)
This reflection is accompanied by Scripture readings, prayers etc.
To access a PDF copy of the VIVAT booklet click here.
To access the Climate Justice / SMA Thumbprint Campaign resources click here.