In 2015, Pope Francis’ published Laudato Si’ an encyclical on climate change and inequality. The following is a reflection on his words and a consideration of how Laudato Si’ both informs and affirms the work of the Famvin Homeless Alliance. The reflection will be published in three parts.
In turn, we ask you to reflect on what unique contributions the Vincentian Family could bring to the movement for environmental and social justice.
The Famvin Homeless Alliance seeks to ignite Vincentian networks around the world. In Laudato Si’, the Pope declares his belief in the ability of local communities to unite and solve the social problems that members of their community’s experience.
Society is also enriched by a countless array of organizations which work to promote the common good and to defend the environment … Around these community actions, relationships develop or are recovered and a new social fabric emerges … These actions cultivate a shared identity, with a story which can be remembered and handed on. In this way, the world, and the quality of life of the poorest, are cared for, with a sense of solidarity which is at the same time aware that we live in a common home which God has entrusted to us (sec. 232)
These words bear a striking resemblance to the mission of the FHA’s 13 Houses Campaign, which launched in 2018. The campaign seeks to promote collaboration across the various branches of the Vincentian Family with the aspiration of ending homelessness one house at a time. At the core of the campaign is the recognition that it is possible to act locally and have a global impact. Any measures that change the world, empower the poorest of the poor, and halt the detrimental impact of climate change will be rooted in the innovative efforts instigated by local communities.
For instance, the 13 Houses project of the Palakkad district, Kerala, India was instigated by the Vincentian Service Society for Rural Development (VSSCRD) in response to the large scale evacuations that had occurred following flooding and landslides. Many homes had been severely damaged and destroyed, and families had become impoverished, losing not only their possessions but also their livelihoods. The VSSCRD therefore constructed affordable, robust homes that would enable flood victims to remain in their homeland, uplift them to a basic standard of living, and safeguard them from future natural disasters.
The energising of community networks is vital to solving social problems, especially those of the environment. We must remember that “we are not disconnected from the rest of creatures, but joined in a splendid universal communion” (sec. 220) and regain the conviction that “we have a shared responsibility for others and the world” (sec. 229). In doing so, we might stand a chance of reversing the incoming environment-socio-economic crisis.
I – The context to Laudato Si’