Caring for and protecting our Common Home is an unavoidable responsibility. Pope Francis calls us to assume reciprocally and unequivocally this ecological commitment to be able to give a new meaning to our existence. The Encyclical Laudato Si ‘ compels us towards a task that has no borders; it is universal and this means that we have enormous challenges that animate other daily commitments that are no less important: justice and mercy, peace, and reconciliation with the creation.
We celebrate World Environment Day, a special date proclaimed by the United Nations in 1977, but celebrated since 1974. In this celebration we express our serious concerns, particularly about the systematic violations of human rights and the rights of the creation. This is, in effect, a perversion of politicians and their henchmen. Given this, we are invited to take care of people, particularly the most vulnerable (Ps 40, 1), to take care of and protect life on this planet, to care for the spirituality and theology of creation that requires the search for urgent and priority actions, such as an unavoidable ethical and spiritual commitment to restore life and health to this planet that we are making sick and destroying every day.
This reality is characterized by the destruction of the environment, climate change, the deplorable living conditions of the poor, as well as humanitarian disasters and social unrest in many Latin American countries that are often marked by political or military persecution. They are painful realities that are a consequence of the socio-environmental deterioration that we are experiencing. Pope Francis points out this way: “The human environment and the natural environment are degraded together” (Encyclical Laudato Si ‘ n. 48).
At present the protagonists of the protests are young people, most of whom live in the poorest strata and are fed up with the lack of opportunities, exclusion, neglect and growing inequality, and everything that prevents an individual from fully enjoying life in this Common Home. Added to this reality are the problems that most afflict us: forced quarantines due to the pandemic that has left psychological consequences and poverty and increasing violence that cause massive migrations. It should be noted that the majority are children living with the serious risk of suffering some kind of physical, sexual, mental or emotional aggression. In general, children are vulnerable and are the main victims of aggressions and injustices, a true human tragedy that particularly impacts children who are separated from their families. Also noteworthy are the harassment and reprisals of the gangs and organized crime, the high rate of homicides and femicides, and disappearances that day by day feed crime rates and, unfortunately, the destruction of democratic processes.
The clamor of young people and of the earth join together. For many the most lethal is not Covid-19, but the permanent socio-environmental deterioration that impacts our quality of life. In effect, these other pandemics are causing more deaths, polarizing societies, dividing families, and creating a conflictive environment that can ultimately be very destructive.
Within this panorama we discover that Central American countries lack opportunities and lack of attention to socio-environmental problems that deteriorate the social fabric. An example of this is the political corruption, a reflection of the deterioration that affects and creates much greater discontent. Undoubtedly, the pandemic has increased corruption and further impoverished our peoples. In addition, the pandemic has been an excuse to allow the exploitation of our natural resources. On the other hand, according to some surveys that have been carried out, the large sectors of the population are angry and reject how the governments are managing the health crisis, especially in terms of the lack of vaccines, the dissemination of truthful information about contagion, transparency of related expenses, and also the use of the army and paramilitaries to repress the people, actions causing greater pain and suffering. In reality, there are many abuses and subsequent impunity for these attacks, violating civil liberties. Of this there are countless testimonies.
In the same way, we analyze the ongoing depredation of natural resources. In reality, innovative, eco-sustainable projects that can positively and significantly impact society are greatly needed, and they should improve living conditions. However, the projects that have been implemented have not been effective due to the mainly political corruption scandals and social stability. This means that we are facing serious problems or even a serious crisis with disastrous results at all levels. Some see it only from the socioeconomic point of view (the interests of the corrupt and their accomplices) or, in other words, only the macroeconomic perspective is included, mainly towards natural resources.
Corruption and misery are two faces of the same reality, now even more visible in our peoples. Faced with this situation, we need radical changes. We need a union of resistance that promotes dialogue and mutual care, discards petty interests, and presents urgent proposals and alternatives since many things must change to generate quality of life. Undoubtedly, we must continue to demand more equity and opportunities from governments, above all, access to public information and an end to violence and intimidation of media outlets that are committed to truth and transparency, and against corruption and impunity .
The government is the main actor in protecting the environment and demanding social responsibility programs from companies, promoting policies aimed at holistic ecology that help reduce environmental pollution, as well as recycling campaigns to reduce environmental impact. For this, it is necessary that environmental law, climate change initiatives and other environmental programs include the prevention of ecological disasters, the human right to water, and sanctions against industry practices that destroy ecosystems and pollute aquifers. All these ecological actions are for the benefit of the human population and, therefore, it is a task that falls to everyone and particularly to the international community (Encyclical Fratelli Tutti n. 175).
Br. Anselmo Maliaño Téllez OFM
Franciscan Network on Migration, El Salvador