“But the needy will not always be forgotten, nor the hope of the afflicted ever perish”
Thursday, 10 September 2020
Every person has the right to dignity, to enjoy life and happiness. These rights cannot be realized when some people are excluded and pushed to the margins. Environmental exploitation and degradation affect people’s lives and their God-given rights to enjoy what was created for all.
The growth of the last two centuries has not led to an integral development and improvement in life quality for all. The human environment and the natural environment deteriorate together. The deterioration of the environment and society affects the most vulnerable, the poor, disproportionately.
In Laudato Si’, Pope Francis spells out these effects in a practical way: the depletion of fishing reserves hurts small fishing communities as they have no way to replace those resources; water pollution significantly affects the poor who cannot buy bottled water; the rise in sea level mainly affects impoverished coastal populations who have nowhere else to go (#48).
The poor suffer disproportionately. They are the majority of the world’s population, billions of people, yet mostly forgotten. Psalm 9 reminds us that God never forgets the disenfranchised. They are close to God’s heart. They should be close to the hearts of all who believe.
It is sad that those who are in the centres of power – professionals, politicians, opinion-makers and the communications media – are oft far removed from the poor. They often talk about them and reason from their comfortable positions. This can lead to the numbing of conscience and analysis that neglects the reality. We must remember too, that inequality affects not only individuals but entire countries.
A true ecological conversion, Pope Francis says, is always a social approach. It must integrate questions of justice in debates on the environment, so as to hear the cry of the poor (#49).
Today we are invited to examine our attitude towards the poor. Has my conscience been numbed to the needs of the poor? In what ways can I become more conscious of the poor and their needs as I go about living my daily life?