Development and Peace regional animator Anupama Ranawana asks people to respond to the damage we cause Mother Earth.

WCR PHOTO | RAMON GONZALEZ

Development and Peace regional animator Anupama Ranawana asks people to respond to the damage we cause Mother Earth.

February 8, 2016
RAMON GONZALEZ
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER

In his encyclical Laudato Si', Pope Francis writes of the throwaway culture that has propelled our common home into a climate crisis whose effects are felt primarily by the poor of the Global South.

With that in mind, Development and Peace is inviting Catholics to join in its Share Lent campaign that focuses on the pope's encyclical.

Called Create a Climate of Change, the campaign "continues to respond to Laudato Si's moral and spiritual challenge of converting ourselves to greater interconnectedness and solidarity with the most vulnerable," explains D&P's newly-appointed regional animator Anupama Ranawana.

"Our spotlight is on the environment, the one entity in the world which is the most vulnerable. The destruction of the environment has led to the poor among us becoming even poorer."

The Share Lent campaign focuses primarily on Canada's 6,000 Catholic parishes, 1,500 religious communities and 3,000 Catholic schools, with a threefold goal: to educate Canadians about international development, to raise funds and to renew the spirit of Lent.

This year, however, D&P won't be raising money in the parishes. The Edmonton Archdiocese, which has set up a unified collection system called Together We Serve, will provide D&P with the funds that the organization previously collected on Solidarity Sunday, the fifth Sunday of Lent.

Other fundraising efforts by D&P in parishes and schools won't be affected, including Think Fasts and hunger lunches.

Ranawana, a 30-year-old Sri Lankan native who took over as D&P regional animator two months ago, led the workshop on the Share Lent campaign at Newman Theological College Jan. 30.

She introduced parish reps and teachers from across the Edmonton Archdiocese to the different materials D&P provides for its Lenten education campaign.

Franciscan Brother Ben Ripley gave a theological reflection on Laudato Si' at the workshop and Father Stephen Wojcichowsky, chancellor of the Edmonton Ukrainian Eparchy, talked about how we can move toward ecological conversion.

In an interview, Ranawana, an expert on international relations who taught and worked in the United Kingdom until she came to Edmonton two years ago, said for the first time in world history there are climate change refugees - people who are migrating from their homes because they can no longer till the soil to feed themselves as their land has been devastated by climate change.

HUNGER CRISIS

She gave the current hunger crisis in Ethiopia as an example.

Also, in war-torn Syria "one of the destabilizing factors has been climate change, an increased level of drought that has led people from the rural areas to the urban centres," she said.

"Then what you have is overpopulation. When you compound that with (the armed) conflict, it just makes the situation even worse."

Climate change might also be affecting Alberta farmers' harvest cycles. "When you are used to having certain cyclicality to your life, especially what you depend on, radical climate change alters your life and can make your economic situation even harder," Ranawana said.

In the interview, the D&P's regional animator invited Catholic parishioners to join the Climate of Change pilgrimage by engaging with Laudato Si'.

"That's a good place to start. Second of all, become aware of the global situation that's going on and pray."

Ranawana, who is currently completing her master of divinity at Newman College, said prayer is the best form of advocacy that Catholics have.

"We can pray, we can recognize the fact that our misuse of the earth is a sin and ask for penance for it. We can ask for reconciliation with the earth again.

CONVERT YOUR HEART

"You can commit yourself, if you want to, politically. But during Lent the deepest thing is to reflect, to pray, to convert you heart to this issue that is making other people more vulnerable."

When a person prays "in a listening way, you can listen to what God is calling you to," Ranawana explained.

"The moment you pray and you reflect, you become thankful to God and for this wonderful earth he has given us. When you become thankful and you listen, your heart is converted."

Practical things people can do about climate change include challenging local, provincial and national politicians to "become serious about climate change," the regional D&P leader said.

She also urged people to reuse, recycle, carpool and use transit more.

"If the (grocery store) is walking distance, walk to it. Try to buy local produce. Those are just simple things."