· Vatican City ·


In Opening
Sisters are mobilizing for the climate and going to world summits

Sisters for the Environment

 Sorelle per l’Ambiente  DCM-011
03 December 2022

They walked the length and breadth of the labyrinthine meanders of the Sharm el-Sheikh Convention Centre. Without wearing recognizable signs, with their observer’s passes strung around their necks, they moved relentlessly from the green zone, reserved for the general public, to the blue zone that hosted the negotiations of the UN Climate Change Conference (Cop27) from 18.00 p.m. to dawn in November. They attended dozens and dozens of events, sitting among the thicket of delegates, experts, activists. They chatted with hundreds of people, dealing with official negotiators and young people who had come from all over the world to demand that climate promises be turned into concrete policies and that justice be done to the most vulnerable victims of global warming. “Why did we do this? To tell those who suffer hurricanes, floods, droughts and other pollution-related catastrophes in first person that we stand by them. That their suffering matters to us. That we support their demands”, says Angela Reed of the Sisters of Mercy. “To listen”, is echoed by Combonian Paola Moggi.

Sisters for the environment, such as Dominican Dusty Farnan, Jean Quinn of the Daughters of Wisdom, Ernestine Lalao of the Congregation of Our Lady of Charity of the Good Shepherd, and Magdalene Musau and Ana María Siufi, both Sisters of Mercy. These are nuns who chose to attend the UN summit as part of their evangelization mission. This is not an isolated gesture. The International Union of Superiors General (UISG), which represents over 600,000 religious sisters scattered throughout the world, mobilized for Cop27 - and Cop15 on biodiversity scheduled from 7 to 19 December in Montreal too. The latter, who have always been engaged in the remotest corners of the planet, witness the lethal effects of climate change every day; in fact, long before the issue gained public attention, the nuns made it a priority. The publication of Laudato si’ in 2015 gave theoretical basis to their insights and impetus for an ongoing commitment to confront the environmental crisis, which is the other side of the social crisis.

On November 3, on the eve of the Egyptian summit, the UISG launched the declaration Sisters for the Environment: Integrating Voices from the Margins. There were three demands, each were further articulated into a series of points: to integrate responses to climate change and biodiversity loss; to integrate care for people and our planet; and, to integrate vulnerability from the margins “into leadership and decision-making, ensuring that the voices of those most affected by environmental disaster are at the centre of global conversations on resilience and recovery”. During the days of the conference, the UISG also followed the proceedings step by step, accompanying them with reflection webinars and moments of virtual prayer. Even, the faithful were invited to make an online pilgrimage to Mount Sinai, in whose shadow the Cop27 took place, in the hope that those gathered in the Sinai would feel in their hearts the invitation addressed by Yahweh to Moses to “take off your sandals” because the ground you are treading is “holy ground”.

 “If we do not recover this sense of reverence, of admiration, of empathy for Creation, we will not find the drive to care for it. The COP conference shows us this. Time and time again, the discussion focuses on technical solutions, but these are not enough. We need to start again from spirituality so that declarations of principle, abstract formulas become concrete policies and new lifestyles”, says Sister Paola Moggi. “Indigenous peoples teach us this: they feel connected with all living things and even with stones and water. Spirituality puts us back in tune with vital energy - with the breath of the Spirit, we would say - and, in its harmonization, makes us listen to others, whether that be human or nature”. The Pavilion of the Native Peoples of the Five Continents at COP27 became the reference point of the Global South. This was a permanent laboratory of the people’s economy, crowded with small farmers, waste recyclers, artisanal fishermen, men and, above all, women. “With them I experienced listening,” adds the Combonian, “deep listening”. This word defines the meaning of her apostolate experience at the summit, “Because it is the premise for creating authentic relationships and vital synergies from which the drive for transformation can start”. “Women in this regard are extraordinary. They know how to network everywhere”, Sister Angela concludes, “We have met so many who have survived terrible cataclysms. Yet, instead of giving up, they have continued to fight so that it would not happen to others. We want to accompany them. Without the pretense to teach, to command, to manage; instead, by simply standing beside them. We did it in Sharm el-Sheikh and we will continue to do it, at official summits as we do so in their villages”.  

A journalist with the national newspaper, Avvenire