News stories of flooding around the world have been heartbreaking. Large numbers of people have been displaced from their homes, and many have lost their lives. Even here in Singapore, where we are relatively well-protected from disasters, flash floods are becoming more common. The climate is changing more rapidly than we can adapt, and there is a wide consensus that human activities are the main reason behind this.
It is perhaps providential that we are in the middle of the Season of Creation. Beginning on Sept 1 and ending on Oct 4, the feast day of Saint Francis of Assisi, it is an ecumenical movement where Christians of various denominations come together to pray and take action to renew our relationship with God and creation. Therefore, this month is an opportune time to reflect on ecological destruction, its effects and what they mean for our faith.
We can start with the encyclical letter Laudato Si’, a watershed document released by the Holy Father in 2015 which adds to the ever-growing body of Catholic Social Teaching (CST). It was the first papal document wholly dedicated to the Principle of the Care for Creation. This principle forms the foundation of the teachings in the document – it holds that creation is a gift from God, and that if we seek to honour God, our Father, we must respect His gifts to us.
Another important theme in Laudato Si’ is the human cost of environmental degradation. The Holy Father lamented all forms of environmental destruction and its consequences when humanity as a whole does not respect God’s gift of creation. Furthermore, whether it is pollution or climate change, the people who suffer the most from environmental degradation tend to be the poorest. Their livelihoods are often dependent on environmental conditions, and they commonly live in places that are vulnerable to natural disasters. Thus, if we are to stand in solidarity with the least of our sisters and brothers, care for creation must be a part of that act.
But what can we do in the face of such a great challenge? First, let us join our fellow Christians this Season of Creation to pray and reflect on the gift of creation in our own communities. There are many resources available, and the Holy Father’s encyclical is one of them. Second, from that act of faith, we must then take action.
Often promoted in Singapore are the 3Rs, which stands for Reduce, Reuse and Recycle. Some contend for 5Rs, adding on Repurpose and Refuse (e.g. refraining from using non-environmentally-friendly goods or services). Either way, we are reminded that we need to more mindful of how we use natural resources, and that our lifestyles may need to change.
This article is the first of two dedicated to the Principle of Care for Creation during this Season of Creation. In the next issue, we will reflect further on the need for a simpler lifestyle. Not only is it necessary for an integral ecology, it is also conducive to Christian spirituality as shown by Jesus in the Gospels.
First published in Catholic News. Reprinted with permission.