Be praised for our Sister, Mother Earth

To mark the observance of international days that have a particularly deep resonance within the Franciscan family, sisters and brothers collaborating with Franciscans International have provided spiritual reflections on the intersection between their faith and their human rights work. For Mother Earth Day, Brother Christopher John SSF, Minister General of the Society of Saint Francis, explores the topic of environmental justice.

FI collaborates closely with the Society of Saint Francis to address the negative impacts of logging in the Solomon Islands: at the United Nations, we support their grassroots work using a human-rights based approach. You can find our most recent work on environmental justice at the UN here.

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Franciscans are rightly concerned with the needs of the environment in which we live. Francis might have turned into the saint of birdbaths in popular thought, but his approach to creation was much richer than that simple image. He affirmed the value of creation and saw that God entered the world in human form in the humility of frail human flesh. And he recognized too that God continues to dwell among us in the bread and wine of Christ’s body and blood. The world we live in is a sacramental encounter with the divine.

The things of our physical world are important; in other words, “matter matters.” Justice is a rich concept in biblical terms. More than the punishment of wrongdoing, it means giving people their rights, and especially to those most vulnerable.

If we bring environment and justice together as environmental justice, Franciscans have a powerful lens to look at the world. We love and care for the material things of creation, since they are for us signs of the divine presence. But we also hear the voices of the suffering. The poor, the marginalized, the oppressed peoples of the world. Just as we hear these human voices, we also need to hear the voices of the whole created order crying out for justice because the voices of the rivers, lakes and forests and so on, these are the voices of the vulnerable.

But justice requires more than just listening. The biblical phrase is to “do justice”; justice is action. The action done by Franciscans International is to take the voices of the vulnerable (of humans – and of all creation) and to let these voices speak in the UN gatherings where policies can be set and programmes initiated.

Our best witnesses to the cry of the environment are those living most closely to the land and sea and rivers. They see and know the daily changes caused by climate change or rising sea levels. They know what it is when their land no longer produces the crops it has for generations, or when their fresh water supplies become undrinkable.

They have no alternative supplies. Their daily food comes from the land and sea round them—or it doesn’t.

As an example of this, we’ve visited villages in Solomon Islands and heard the stories of the environmental, social and spiritual damage caused by logging. We’ve taken these stories to the UN and used them to lobby successfully for improvement in management of logging. There’s much to follow up, and environmental matters at local level interact with global concerns. It’s just a start, but we are driven by the voices we have heard. And as Franciscans we are committed to continuing to advocate for the needs of Mother Earth.

Franciscans are (or should be) the people who know intimately the needs of those living on the most vulnerable margins. We are privileged by education and status. Let us also be the people who “do justice” for all our sisters and brothers in creation.

Defending a Healthy Planet: Franciscans at the UN Climate Conference

The COP26 was Glasgow will be a pivotal moment for the preservation of our common home and Franciscans are present to demand strong and urgent action. In a briefing directly from the parish of the Friars Minor in Glasgow, we explain how Franciscans around the world are coming together for climate justice and what those not present can do to support this work.

With contributions from:

  • George Smulski OFM (Guardian of Parish of Blessed John Duns Scotus)
  • Budi Tjahjono (Asia Pacific Program Coordinator at Franciscans International)
  • Mylene Saluta (Executive Director of the Fellowship for the Care of Creation of the Philippines)
  • Clark Berge SSF (Guardian of Hilfield Friary)
  • Christopher John SSF (Minister General of Society of Saint Francis)
  • Lindlyn Moma (Director of Advocacy for the Laudato Si’ Movement)
  • Angelito Cortez OFM (Vice-Director of the Justice, Peace, and Integrity of Creation Office in Rome)

    Moderation by Benedict Ayodi OFMCap, Outreach Officer at Franciscans International

Sister Water calls us to the people of El Salvador

In March, Fray René Flores OFM delivered a statement to the Human Rights Council calling on the governments of El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras to come to an equitable agreement for sharing their transboundary waters. He is one of the many Franciscan brothers and sisters who have addressed the United Nations of the years. However, their advocacy at the international level builds on years of work in their communities where, in many cases, human rights violations are a daily reality

Fray René himself lives in El Salvador, a country that will run out of drinkable water in just 80 years according to some estimates. The Franciscans have been part of the efforts to avert this impending crisis, including by looking across the borders of the countries that make up the “dry corner” of Central America.  Meanwhile, at the national level, they have successfully pushed for a constitutional amendment that recognizes the rights to water and sanitation, giving people new handholds to take action. Following his statement at the UN, Fray René wrote this short reflection on the human and spiritual dimension behind his work.

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Sister Water calls us to the people of El Salvador

“The human right to water, together with sanitation and adequate food, are deeply felt needs of the population, more than anything else fundamental, and we ask God, that ratification is achieved,” the Archbishop of San Salvador, José Luis Escobar Alas, said in his message in the crypt of the Metropolitan Cathedral”

Diariocolatino. 20-2-2021

On 19 February 2021, the Campaign for the Human Right to Water and Food – which is supported by social organizations, environmentalists and churches defending human rights – made a call to the presidents or general secretaries of the ten political parties that fielded candidates for deputies and mayors in the elections of 28 February. The purpose was for the representatives to sign a public commitment supporting the ratification of the constitutional reform on these rights for the population; this event was held in front of the tomb and the prophetic memory of Saint Romero. Of the ten parties, four representatives of the parties were present, all of them women (why didn’t men come as representatives: is it because women are already a majority in political spaces?)

“Regarding the agreement, the organizations and churches pointed out that the current legislature has approved two reforms to the Constitution of the Republic, one that recognizes the human right to water and its sanitation. And, the second, linked to adequate food. Article 2, first paragraph and Article 69, where these rights that the Salvadoran State must guarantee are added”

Diariocolatino. 20-2-2021

The struggle for the recognition of water and sanitation as a right, as well as the proposal for a general water law, has been fought for more than a decade by civil society and churches. The fight for the determination of food sovereignty has been longer, struggling for food quality to reach the majority. This struggle for environmental justice and against impunity confronts the privatizing and monopolistic interests of the oligarchic groups in the country as well as the guidelines on extractives of the government in power.

In the history of the Salvadoran people this act is transcendent, for seeking that the parties and their representatives publicly commit themselves in favor of the human rights to water and food. That is to say, in favor of the majority and the good of the Common Home in this territory. It was an act of civil responsibility, with citizen participation and collective leadership. It is important to highlight the non-signature of some parties, which we hope will commit themselves in the following days.

The other transcendental aspect is that once again the hierarchy of the Catholic Church and the historic Christian Churches agreed on the defense of the human rights of the people, and the care of creation as a gift from God for all in equality. Water is fundamental in these times of pandemic. Water is integrated to the territories, to biodiversity, to the forests and ecosystems, everything is a relationship of interdependence in the Common Home. Without quality and access to water there is no food for Salvadoran men and women, much less for future generations.

We are part of a single intention of creative love. That is our profession of faith; our God left this “sister Mother Earth” so that life may continue and be transformed into more LIFE. God did not create capitalism, extractivism or the market economy. The divine proposal seeks that life be abundant for all his creatures. Thank you sister water, you summon us and inspire us with your fragility, tenderness and goodness of life!

Lenten Reflections: Social justice and stages of the cross

Sisters and brothers from across the globe came together to explore the different dimensions of their social justice work, the challenges they face, and how we can come together to meet them in a changing world.

With contributions from:

  • Benedict Ayodi OFMCap (Outreach Officer, Franciscans International)
  • Alexandro Rangga OFM (West Papua)
  • Diana Muñoz Alba FMM (Mexico)
  • Joseph Dufe OFMCap (Cameroon)
  • Peter Amendt OFM (Germany)
  • Angelito Cortez OFM (the Philippines)
  • Achieng Anne Celestine FSJ (Kenya)
  • Igor Bastos, Youfra (Brazil)
  • Markus Heinze OFM (Executive Director, Franciscans International)

Franciscan Action at the UN: The responsibility of business on human rights:

Throughout the world, we are witnessing the devastating impact of extractive industries on the communities we live in. It is undeniable that the current methods we use to collect and produce resources are devastating to our Common Home. Together with the OFM’s Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation office in Rome, this event takes a look at the historical engagement of Franciscans on mining issues.

We also hear from brothers in Brazil and the Philippines about our work at the United Nations to establish a new human rights treaty on transnational corporation, and how these efforts could help bring justice to their communities. Examining these issues in the context of Laudato si’, the webinar ends with a discussion exploring new ways in which we can come together and take action.

With contributions from:

  • Sheila Kinsey FCJM
  • Rodrigo Péret OFM
  • Angelito Cortez OFM
  • Markus Heinze OFM (Franciscans International)
  • Benedict Ayodi OFMCap (Franciscans International)
  • Budi Tjahjono (Franciscans International)

Moderation by Moema Miranda OFS

Lenten Reflections: The mandala of Saint Nicolas of Flue

These reflections are based on a “mandala” created in the 15th Century based on the insights of Saint Nicolas of Flue (1417-1487), who was canonized shortly after the Second World War and proclaimed Patron Saint of Peace.

The images of the mandala are sequenced according to the pleas of the “Our Father.” Its structure is that of a wheel which symbolizes the passing of time, and the history of the world and of humanity.

God, the Unmoved Mover, is the center of the wheel and at the same time takes part in the different scenes. Through God’s action, history of the world becomes that of salvation. However, humans are not just the “objects” of salvation. They take active part in salvation, as “subjects,” with their acts of mercy.

Just 70 years ago, after the horrific experiences of the First and Second World Wars, the United Nations adopted and proclaimed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, with the hope that this action would prevent such horrors from ever occurring again. Mercy and human rights are interdependent. Without the recognition of the rights of humanity, mercy can be humiliating.

Without mercy, rights can be loveless. Yet, both are rooted in human dignity which is unconditional and inalienable for each and every human being. When the respect of human rights and works of mercy go hand in hand, then history becomes that of salvation.

This reflection booklet looks beyond the original scenes of the mandala, at sisters and brothers of our time, who work together with Franciscans International to bring mercy and rights together in their Franciscan mission.

Let us now become one with them in prayer so that “God’s kingdom come, and His will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”

The reflections are available in English, French, German, Italian, and Spanish.

Lenten Reflections: Seven last words, seven acts

The Seven Last Words is a devotion that reflects on the sayings of Jesus of Nazareth as he was crucified. Traditionally prayed during Lent, the Seven Last Words allow the faithful a means of meditating on and identifying with Christ’s suffering and passion.

Franciscans International offers a contemporary take on this Lenten tradition, reflecting on Jesus’ last words through the lens of migration. Like Jesus of Nazareth, who endured dehumanizing cruelty, many migrants and refugees today experience dehumanization as a result of violence and poverty, unjust laws and inadequate immigration policies, xenophobia, racism, and a myriad of other causes. 2017 saw international migration at an all-time high, with an estimated 258 million people living in a country other than their country of birth (United Nations, Migration Report 2017).

Pope Francis, who has expressed “particular concern for the forced nature of many contemporary migratory movements,” has called for “a coordinated and effective response to these challenges” (Forum on Migration and Peace 2017). His vision, which can “be articulated by four verbs: to welcome, to protect, to promote and to integrate”, invites people of faith to respond to issue of migration in a just, compassionate, and comprehensive way.

Similarly, the United Nations has begun the process of crafting a Global Compact on Safe and Orderly Migration, which aims to be the first inter-governmental agreement that will address international migration. Various actors, including non-governmental organizations such as Franciscans International, are currently working to ensure that this Global Compact includes a holistic, rights-based approach to migration.

By meditating on the passion of Christ through the lens of migration, we can engage in a deep, spiritual reflection on the realities faced by so many of our migrant and refugee brothers and sisters and can begin to consider responses to this burning issue.

The Seven Acts proposed here, which are inspired by the Holy See’s statement, “Responding to Refugees and Migrants: Twenty Action Points, and Now and How, Ten Acts for the Global Compact,” from civil society, distills seven everyday actions that all people of faith and good will can to do to support and uphold the dignity and human rights of our migrant and refugee brothers and sisters.