In December, MLSM Canada’s Agnes Richard and Karen Van Loon were in Montréal during the UN Biodiversity Conference COP15. They reflect on their experiences at COP15 and parallel events in a 5-part blog series.
Companions in Solidarity
The most rewarding events were those where I met wonderful colleagues and new friends, all enlivened by our trust in Pope Francis and his letter to the world, Laudato Si’. Early on a cold Saturday morning, the Archdiocese of Montréal invited us to a mass for delegates representing faiths at COP15. Bishop Alain Faubert’s homily was a refreshing affirmation of the prophetic voices people of faith bring to climate change and biodiversity loss conversations. He compared the biblical prophets Elijah, John the Baptist and even Jesus to modern prophets.
“I wonder: Are not the advocates of biodiversity, those who struggle to oppose climate change, those concerned by the climatic emergency, those who everywhere shout, who protest, prophets?”
Bishop Faubert reminded us –
“‘The phenomenon of climate change has become an emergency that no longer remains at the margins of society. Instead, it has assumed a central place, reshaping not only industrial and agricultural systems but also adversely affecting the global human family, especially the poor and those living on the economic peripheries of our world.’ Who said that? Pope Francis, who makes urgent pleas to us Christians enjoining us to get involved, to open our eyes.’ This is the Gospel: the good of our common home, care for others, for the poorest who are more vulnerable. This is our cause.”
Following the mass, we were invited to breakfast with Bishop Faubert. He inquired about our work and invited us to stay in touch and continue our conversations with him. I will certainly follow up on his offer!
For me, this was the most valuable encounter of the trip. The assertion from a Canadian bishop that the work we do is necessary and prophetic is precisely the message MLSM Canada wants to build on and amplify. His invitation to continue a dialogue will, I hope, lead to similar conversations with other Canadian bishops, and by raising their understanding of our work I hope to increase support for Laudato Si’ Animators working in parishes and communities.
At breakfast I also met Stone Iwaasa, a Canadian peace activist and Two Row Wampum Liaison under the protection of Bear Clan at Mohawk Traditional Council. He spoke of the teachings of Stuart Myiow, Wolf Clan representative of the Mohawk Traditional Council of Kahnawake, and renowned teacher, often called upon to share Kahnawake knowledge with people across the globe. Stone told me of the importance of the leadership of women in traditional Kahnawake governance structures, how women’s knowledge is revered as foundational for peace, care of creation and as guiding strength for societies. Stone spoke of the connection between women and Grandmother Moon, and the cosmic understanding in Myiow’s teaching of her integral connection with Mother Earth. Members of the Mohawk Traditional Council of Kahnawake and far beyond have grave concerns about the potential for commodification of Grandmother Moon’s body by corporate interests, extension in thinking that more than life on earth needs protecting. Stone also helped me find the appropriate Kanienʼkéha words to honour Mother Earth, “lethi ‘nisténha Ohóntsa” on the poster I prepared for the rally.
There is nothing as exciting as raising your voice with thousands of concerned citizens in a public demonstration calling for policy and societal change. Louise Royer and Kim Gottfried Piché arranged for us to join members of Quebec Civil Society Collectif COP15, to prepare posters for the afternoon March for Biodiversity and Human Rights, and join others from Montréal faith communities on the street.
We met local Development & Peace folks, and the parishioners of St. Francis of Assisi Parish who brought the Saint along!
Pastor Graham Singh and the congregation of St. Jax Anglican Church welcomed the Laudato Si’ Movement delegation and Chris Elisarsa of World Evangelical Alliance, to their Sunday morning service on December 11th.
St. Jax, had been closed for use, but Pastor Singh is bringing new life to the community and building. It is a place where vibrant multi-lingual worship, where opportunities for local arts and culture groups co-mingle with faith-based activities to create a truly open and welcoming space in their downtown neighbourhood. The sign outside welcomes passers by to circus events that occasionally take place within! Singh says “Our hope is to build a modern, open place where all can come.” And in the process he hopes to create a truly valuable community asset that will contribute to a thriving, healthy urban community.
Carol and I were invited to speak about our contribution to events at COP15 and the Laudato Si’ Movement. Towards the end of the service Pastor Singh invited congregants to join in prayer, led by Chris Elisara, in support of all people of faith attending the UN conference, and for the blossoming of our work in every corner of creation. Carol and I were deeply moved, and carried their prayers with us back to the conference on Monday morning.
I am certain the gifts of the Spirit, moving through all those people of faith who wished us well, had a positive effect on the outcomes at COP 15.
Watch for Part 4 of this blog series next week when Karen Van Loon will tell us of her experiences at the Indigenous Village.