Last month, Pope Francis issued his first own-authored papal encyclical titled as “Laudato Si” (Praise Be), much-awaited as not only a Roman Catholic but a global response to overcome the huge problem of a looming climate apocalypse. The encyclical basically called for solidarity and dialogue among peoples, nations, sectors and institutions to reform mindsets, cultures and systems that are behind the causes and effects of environmental destruction – excessive use of fossil fuels, throwaway consumerism, economic and moral poverty, exploitative businesses, communal conflicts, perversion of technologies, and so forth.
Many perceive the encyclical as the Pope’s special message to the global summit on environment to be held in France in September. However, the track record of such international get-togethers is abysmal, the world ecology has continued to deteriorate despite all the manifestos and resolutions from these conferences of the past decades. Each of the participating nations and organizations has priorities other and more urgent than saving the world.
The integrative approach that the encyclical calls for is probably what is new or novel, and offers new hope for a real resolution of those environmental and human ecological problems at the local more than – or before – the national or international levels. As with many other system-wide problems, a one-size-fits all formula like curbing carbon emissions or, for that matter, interreligious activism to curb terrorism does not suffice. Every place has its unique configuration of problems that requires its equivalent and often basic solutions.
Zamboanga City, for one, has its own unique set of problems related to ecology, internal defense and security, economic development, inter-cultural relationships, governance, and so on that are in the diagnosis of the Pope’s encyclical are integrally connected and inter-active. For one, the city’s and Mindanao’s active and potential terrorism threats are quite different from that of the ISIS in the Middle East or Europe’s migration-borne.
Hence, local initiatives in the spirit of solidarity towards collective long-term survival is a formula that is at the heart of the papal encyclical. In a place like Zamboanga straining with so much social conflict and division, starting such an honest to goodness process going poses a formidable challenge. That Christian churches and Muslim communities are traditionally structured to be operationally autonomous points to where and how the solidarity, problem-solving initiatives can or may begin. To quote a cliché, think global but act local.