When I was growing up, I learned about major wars in the past, and I was grateful that there were only sporadic conflicts all around the world. I was optimistic that the world was becoming more peaceful. But that was a naïve thought. Arms race is coming back in several regions. Geopolitical tensions between powerful nations are heating up. Politics around the world is becoming more and more polarised, with little desire for mutual understanding between different groups (Fratelli Tutti, 15, 29, 262). Worse, all of these are happening while we are facing a crisis that threatens the entire world: climate change. Yet, we still find so many reasons to fight one another when a threat so great requires every nation to cooperate together.
It is not surprising then that Pope Francis’s most recent encyclicals deal with these issues. Laudato Si’, published in 2015, is devoted to care for creation. It is concerned with how human societies are destroying the environment, and as a result, threaten the survival of vulnerable communities who depend on it for their livelihood. Fratelli Tutti, meanwhile, is concerned with paralysing divisions in society around the world, worsened by the pandemic crisis.
I think the call of the Holy Father in these two important encyclicals to protect our common home, especially for the poor, and to promote a spirit of fraternity are absolutely essential if our society and the world at large are to turn towards the path of peace. It is certainly difficult, perhaps nearly impossible. But it is not. Moreover, I think we in Singapore have a duty to maintain and develop further our ability to maintain social cohesion in the face of great challenges and be an example to the rest of the world. I think we can do it.
In fact, I think of the recent launch of Faiths@Work Demo Farm, taking place at Canossian School, affiliated to Canossaville, a member organisation of the Caritas family. Honoured by the presence of Senior Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam, leaders of various religious traditions came together to raise awareness of crops that are resilient to climate change so that vulnerable communities can adapt better. In effect, this initiative is an attempt to answer the Pope’s exhortation in his two encyclicals.
Providentially, we are also in the middle of Season of Creation, a time when various Christian groups, in the spirit of ecumenism, come together to pray, reflect and act for the care of creation. The theme for this year is “A Home for All”. I think we can be proud that Singapore can be the host of Faiths@Work, which is really about protecting our common home for everyone, regardless of group identity and differences. But we must continue the momentum. Let us, therefore, spend time in this Season of Creation to reflect on how we can respond to the invitation of Pope Francis, one step at a time, and invite others to join us in this effort to care for and protect our common home.
Erwin Susanto is part of the Advocacy, Formation and Young Adult teams at Caritas Singapore. He enjoys boring his friends with his interest in Old Testament/Hebrew Bible studies and finds it hard to resist commentating on all kinds of contemporary issues.