Towards Improved Conditions and Inclusive solutions for the People at the Margins amid Limitless Development and Ecological Crisis in Asia
‘Ask the beasts, and they will teach you…’ (Job 12:7)
Our common home is at the tipping point of a climate catastrophe. Our environmentally damaging lifestyle is putting the innocent and vulnerable Creation at risk. Asia, which is regarded as “third world” or “developing world,” has vulnerable groups of people including women, the Indigenous People (IP), the Dalits and the children, who suffer the unjust consequences of irresponsible lifestyles and systems promulgated by globalisation led by neoliberalism. We have struggled to survive typhoons, floods, droughts, famine, and tsunamis. We have witnessed how the Earth, to which we are all intimately connected and in which divine presence abounds, is ruthlessly destroyed for capital gains. In a serious attempt to arrest this downward spiral of destruction, and to bring about a new life-giving world-order with a special focus on IPs, 70 youths from 14 countries participated in the Asian Youth Academy (AYA)/Asian Theology Forum (ATF) under the theme, “Peace in Indigenous Peoples’ Lives amid Limitless Development and Ecological Crisis in Asia,” from 27th July to 5th August 2018 in Tagaytay, Philippines.
- Sustainability Development: During the AYA/ATF, we were exposed to the reality of the common problems faced by most Asian countries. Particularly disturbing are the attempts by governments to squash IP’s rights to land in an attempt to direct resources towards profitmaking capitalist entities. We have often erroneously assumed that technology and modern developmental strategies have the answer to all problems. However, in our race for the accumulation of wealth, we have left behind our connection to our ecological roots. It is only through the practice of eco-spirituality, in dialogue with indigenous spiritualties and ecocentric values from Asian religions, that we can regain this relationship with the spirit of Earth guiding us towards sustainable solutions.
- Education & Information Communication: Considering the internal conflicts over ideology within national politics, it is important to create a balance between progressive and conservative perspectives, supported by educated and logical reasoning. Youth need to undergo and undertake training that will enable us to engage more effectively in making peace between different ideologies, religions, and cultures.
- Development for Youth: Youth today are victims of a fast-paced industrialization with education and potential careers designed to feed this system. We need a new economic system that puts people and environment before profit.
- Intra-Church: We have become aware of the degree of human rights violations in our respective countries and the role of the Church in alleviating these violations. However, social outreach is controlled and limited due to the lack of a democratic leaderships within the church hierarchy and equal representation of the laity. The church that had claimed to embrace “the joys and the hopes, the griefs and anxieties, of the men and women of this age, especially of the poor or those who are in any way afflicted” as its own (1) is can be seen only in social outreach and action towards justice. Christian institutions are often lacking in democratic and quality leadership, are embroiled in internal politics, and remain hindered by anthropocentric, androcentric, and hierarchical thinking. We, as members of the church who are actively engaged in various ecological and transformative efforts, seek the support of our church leaders to promote justice and equality within the Church leadership.
- Self-assessment of AYA-ATF and Post-Forum: We, the young people, have already taken a step towards leadership by attending the AYA/ATF, dialoguing and discussing the urgent issues that challenge our people and our generation. We are determined to put our ideas and solutions into action to help us effectively be the change and influence society.
We want to see more than mere ‘tokenism’ by global leaders and want discussions and sustainable action in every community that includes but is not limited to:
- Sustainable Development: Pope Francis clearly suggests by saying: “For new models of progress to arise, there is a need to change ‘models of global development’…..Put it simply, it is a matter of redefining our notion of progress. A technological and economic development which does not leave in its wake a better world and an integrally higher quality of life cannot be considered progress.” (Laudato Si, no.194) We know it is impossible for sustaining life on Earth by continuing “business as usual”. Taking Francis’ suggestion seriously, we have to put all our efforts to change the model of current economy system which focuses mainly on technological and economic development. We need to put in practice the 7R’s: Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Refurbish, Repurpose & Regenerate, resist the temptation of consumerism and throw-away cultures and practice the spirit of stewardship and to maintain and strengthen the relationship among the various secular & religious groups, institutions and individuals involved in this forum.
- Church Reform: There is a need for increased synodality (3) between Church hierarchy and laity with horizontal leadership. Movement from a vertical ‘command and control’ form of leadership to Jesus’s revolutionary practice of horizontal ‘mutual-accompanier’ leadership structure (4) is an urgent need. We also need to see increased women’s leadership and in decision-making roles within the institutional Church. There needs to be representation of all persons as lay leaders, religious, clergy and bishops – that we may work together towards ecological justice. There is a need for an improved understanding and promotion of ecospirituality within the Church, inclusive of local cultural practices without judging them as ‘pagan’ or ‘demonic’.
- Youth Affairs: Youth need development and formation that help them to challenge and transform misogynistic and hierarchical mind-sets which affect the society, family life, and the Church. It is time to bring the Catholic Social Teachings to the forefront.
- Education and Information Communication: It is necessary to be with the community in building resilience among those on the margins of society. We need to be involved in the promotion, training and advocacy for sustainable, social economies, respecting indigenous wisdom and ecological sustainability. Learning from, working with, and supporting sustainable lifestyles of the IPs and developing solidarity platforms that advocate their rights to life and land and basic human dignity. Social media today can effectively be used to highlight and promote solutions to issues that affect our planet and people and use our affinity to technology as a tool and space for evangelisation.
- Improvements for AYA and its afterward: Climate change affects the whole planet. This discussion should not be limited to Asia alone, but dialogue between the east and west may result in better understanding of the direct and indirect impact of lifestyle choices on global temperature rise. We appreciate the Pope’s initiative of a Synod for the Youth in 2018 and we hope it will help make the Catholic Church more welcoming towards the young people, women, IP groups and LGBT+ (we are glad to see that the term has appeared for the first time in the official Vatican documents as it is used in the “working document” of the synod.), without discrimination, for the common good of everybody.
We appreciate the Synod’s usage of the term LGBT in a positive manner which we believes symbolizes the Catholic Church has become more open and inclusive to all the minorities in the world.
On our part, we commit to continue to participate and lead movements that advocate the rights and protection of IPs in our respective countries and on international levels. We also commit to continually observe and support the ‘cleansing’ activities within Catholic Church, as it brings order in the chaos of abuse, financial mismanagement and cover-ups caused by faltering clerics and Christian leaders.
We believe that Pope Francis’ ‘Listening Church’ (2) is the way forward in real and mutual respecting and learning from the “others as others” in the world. Thus, we are dedicating ourselves to the cause of creating awareness, education and communication, advocacy and action needed to develop Christian and secular communities that can help the IP groups build resilience to calamities.
The vulnerable indigenous groups, at risk due to the actions of the ‘developed’ communities, need us to listen to their ancient wisdom so we can support each other. We, the young people, want to move upwards from ‘discipleship’ towards leadership in Church and society in supporting IPs and towards delaying the effects of Climate Change.
In our experience, we have seen that our statements, appeals, suggestions, and demands for support and real change has elicited little real action and commitment from the Church and political hierarchy. Like the apostles, we continue to take on the challenge of being authentic witnesses of social sustainable development and human liberation. At the same time we want to alleviate the conflict in the relationship between the clergy and laity, corruption, financial mismanagement, and abuse. In supporting this endeavour, the Church’s hierarchy will experience the support and love from youth which, combined with the teachings of Jesus, will make our community one of mission and service acting upon Jesus’ message ‘to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of
sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free’ (Lk 4: 18, NIV).
#EarthPeople #IStand4IPs #EcoYouth #IPLivesMatter