15M: Climate Strike, A Franciscan reflection on the new global movement

“Whoever receives this child in my name receives me.” (Lk 9, 48) We all know this phrase in the Gospel which the Church usually interprets that the simplicity and pure heart of children are something very close and dear to God. This Gospel echoes even louder in front of the manger of baby Jesus during the Christmas celebration.

Greta Thunberg

Greta Thunberg

Here is a girl from Sweden. Her name is Greta Thunberg. She is 16 years old. She started her solo protest of “School Strike for the Climate” in front of the Swedish parliament on August 20, 2018. The slogan of her Friday protest was “Why Study for a Future We Might Not Have?”

How many politicians would listen to her voice? How many corporate CEOs would give ear and take her simple question seriously? However, it seems the youth of the world has heard and agreed to her angry but honest voice while the majority of the grownups ignored and indifferent of the cry of the Earth and the cries of the poor for their “business-as-usual.” On the 15thof March 2019, after seven months since Greta started her solo protest, her cry became the enormous voices of hundreds of thousand youth from more than 120 countries.

In Annapolis, USA, the 12 postulants of the six US Provinces and several other friars have participated in an event organized by Maryland Catholics for our Common Home and joined an ecological march along with many civilians. In Guatemala, the post-novitiate brothers participated in the global climate strike, joining the care of the Common Home in a committed manner with students of the Rafael Landívar Jesuit University.

The JPIC Office in Rome has also participated in the public demonstration of the climate strike movement at Piazza Della Madonna di Loretto, Rome, on March 15. Around 50,000 young people have gathered for the climate justice demanding bold climate policies. The slogans were such as “Only a Handful of Years to Avoid DISASTER,” “We are Not Defending the Nature. We are Nature Ourselves,” “We Want Our Future Back,” “The Next Flood Won’t Be Biblical,” and “Change the Policies, Not the Climate,” etc.

Will the grownups in politics, international corporates, and religions now receive her question and change the course from the catastrophic future of humanity and its civilization? Can we Franciscans embrace the voice of the 21st-century prophet, Greta as the message from the crucified Lord in the small chapel, San Damiano? Can we Franciscans confess the sin of ecological indifference and ignorance and commit ourselves to ecological conversion? If we didn’t do that or if we wouldn’t do that, where’s the meaning of our religious life? What is the meaning of the Gospel we proclaim?