A prayer for climate

Renee Julienne M. Karunungan
A prayer for climate
With Pope Francis' encyclical 'Laudato Si,' how prepared are we, the Philippines, the largest Catholic country in Asia, to take on the challenge the pontiff has given to us?

Today, September 1, is marked by the Catholic church as the World Day of Prayer for the Care of our Common Home. Although it has been done by the church since 1989, this year may be more significant as we await for the Conference of Parties (COP) 21 which will happen in Paris in December and which will decide the fate of the planet. (READ: What’s happening in Paris in December? 10 things to know)

The Philippines, a predominantly Catholic country, welcomed Pope Francis when he visited the country earlier this year. Thousands of people lined up on the streets, braving the rain. Some even flew from far provinces to Manila, if only to see the pope for a few seconds.

We have always taken pride in our religion. We attend mass every Sunday, take communion, do charity work. We make sure our children pray every night, know the mysteries of the rosary, remind them that guardian angels watch over them.

This is the effect of religion deeply embedded in our culture. Our religion becomes our law, our way of life. We have always hinged our lives on our being Catholics. Our weeks are measured by the number of times we go to church, our hours by the prayers we say, our lives by the number of sacraments we receive.

And now, with the encyclical “Laudato Si” written by Pope Francis, how prepared are we, the Philippines, the largest Catholic country in Asia, to take on the challenge the Pope has given to us?

Laudato Si’s challenges 

CARE FOR ENVIRONMENT. Pope Francis puts emphasis on care for the common home in his encyclical issued a few months ago titled "Laudato Si'.

I say challenge because there are many things in the encyclical which we have yet to address as a country. For example, one issue Pope Francis addresses in his encyclical is fossil fuel and renewable energy.

He says, “there is an urgent need to develop policies so that, in the next few years, the emissions of carbon dioxide and other highly polluting gases can be drastically reduced, for example, substituting for fossil fuels, and developing sources of renewable energy.” (READ: IN QUOTES: What Pope Francis says about climate change

Currently, the Philippines has been approving coal power plants left and right, with more than 50 already approved to be built in the next few years. Surely this is not caring for our common home. (READ: The repeat of Genesis: On climate change and renewable energy)

However, while the government has yet to prove it is sincere in its commitments in tackling climate change, some Filipinos are ready to take on the challenge, together with other Catholics and people from different faiths, as they embark on a journey from Rome to Paris in a call for climate justice.

Climate Pilgrimage 

The Climate Pilgrimage is a continuation of the Climate Walk, which was led by then climate change commissioner Naderev Yeb Sano together with walkers from different organizations. The walk started from Manila (kilometer zero) to Tacloban (ground zero) and commemorated the anniversary of Super Typhoon Yolanda.

Throughout the walk, the team stopped to hold climate tours, which educated vulnerable communities about climate change and its impacts. The Climate walk also sought pledges from local government officials to make climate adaptation one of their priorities. (READ: Advocates end 1,000-km Climate Walk at Yolanda ground zero)

This year, as countries are preparing to sign a legally binding agreement in Paris, the walk will continue on a pilgrimage, a show of solidarity and force of different religions coming together to make a stand for people and planet.

“We will come together because the issue of climate change encompasses all religions. This is not just an issue that should be addressed by Catholics but by everyone whose faith believes in the care of the planet,” Nitya Saulo, one of the walkers of the Climate Walk who will join the pilgrimage in Paris, said.

“As a Filipino, I will do this journey for my countrymen who have suffered and are suffering from climate change impacts. We seek justice for them,” Saulo added.

Naderev Saño will again be leading the pilgrimage this year. “This journey is intended as a reminder to the whole world that the climate crisis is real, affecting lives and livelihoods, and scarring our aspirations for a better future,” he said.

Today, as climate talks are currently happening in Bonn in preparation for Paris, whatever our faith may be, whoever we believe in, let us all say a prayer for every person affected by climate change and its impacts, for every negotiator to act on behalf of every person in his/her country, and for every country to sincerely commit to tackling climate change.

After all, as Pope Francis said in Laudato Si, “The climate is a common good, belonging to all and meant for all.” – Rappler.com

Renee Juliene Karunungan, 25, is the Advocacy Director of Dakila. Dakila has been campaigning for climate justice since 2009. She is also a climate tracker for Adopt A Negotiator.

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