VANCOUVER – Imitating the charity and love for nature of St. Francis of Assisi, Franciscans around the world are championing social and environmental justice issues and treating them as inextricably connected.
"Generally speaking, poverty and environmental crisis go hand in hand," said Franciscan Father Joseph Rozansky. The director of the Franciscans' Office of Justice, Peace, and Integrity of Creation in Rome recently visited Vancouver.
Concern for nature
"A concern for nature goes along with a concern for God's people," Rozansky explained. "If you take any issue of justice and peace, you will be able to tie it in to the environment."
The JPIC works to resolve problems facing humans as well as the earth. The priest gave some examples: war, air pollution and mining.
"Who is it that most loses out when we make bad environmental decisions? That would be the poor," he said.
The organization focuses on environmental justice, peace and reconciliation, aid for the excluded, and ethical use of natural and financial resources.
The priest added that the Rome office runs a course that trains JPIC animators, or, those who raise awareness about these issues.
"Do I buy fair-trade coffee or do I buy non-fair-trade coffee, which I know is exploitive? It's a moral choice," said animator Andrew Conradi.
Conradi, one of only three lay JPIC animators in the world, is the regional animator for the Franciscan province of Christ the King (western Canada) and national animator for the secular Franciscans.
Local concerns he's brought to the forefront include fair-trade choices, prison ministry, outreach to migrant farm workers, refugee resettlement, and problems facing those living in the Downtown Eastside area of Vancouver.
"I was just trying to spread the idea, teach it in the schools, make the parishes aware of it, because basically what you're doing is you're living and implementing Catholic social teaching, and that's what we're about," Conradi explained.
He's connected with the Office of Service and Justice of the Archdiocese of Vancouver, working with director Evelyn Vollet to develop and garner support for socially and environmentally conscious programs.
Conradi and Vollet are putting together a campaign to encourage parishes and schools to "become fair trade," starting with changing the coffee they brew.
Currently, Vollet's focus is on expanding the archdiocese's prison ministry to include restorative justice. Her office also welcomes and supports migrant farm workers and refugees, and promotes speakers on environmental issues.