November 2020 marks five years since the 2015 Paris Climate Conference began. Three Maryknoll Sisters, two Maryknoll Fathers, and one member of the Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns traveled to the Conference. There they witnessed its proceedings and connected with others. They listened as world leaders, indigenous peoples, and other men and women religious discussed the impacts of climate change. They also participated in spiritual gatherings and demonstrations. These Maryknollers believe it is important to bear witness to the work for climate justice around the world.
It was a powerful event, as Sr. Claris Zwareva said. “The pilgrims had ‘walked the talk’ which means that they were demanding urgent action to stop the effects of climate change. [Christiana Figueres, the Executive Secretary of the Conference of Parties] stressed that the world must realize that climate change is happening now. It is not enough just to awaken; we must become conscious of how our actions are contributing to climate change. If we truly love the Planet, our home, we must take action. Science is telling us the truth, therefore we must listen.”
Since then, Maryknollers around the world have continued to work for climate justice and a healthier planet. In Thailand, Fr. Lawrence Radice works with the Research and Training Center for Religio-Cultural Community to teach people about caring for the environment from a religious perspective. In Peru, Sr. Patricia Ryan works with the Derechos Humanos y Medio Ambiente (Human Rights and Environment) nonprofit to defend the rights of indigenous peoples and rectify environmental wrongs. In Haiti, Lay Missioner Jill Foster works with partners at the Jean Marie Vincent Agricultural Center to combat deforestation and promote environmental sustainability.
These are just a few examples of Maryknollers working to realize the agreements reached at the Paris Climate Conference. Hearing their stories gives me hope that in another five years, the Earth will have deviated from its current climate path because people choose to take action. As Pope Francis said in his encyclical Laudato Si’, “May the relationship between man and nature not be driven by greed, to manipulate and exploit, but may the divine harmony between beings and creation be conserved in the logic of respect and care.”