Diocese of Leeds parishioners have been instrumental in planning a major national conference with a crucial environmental message.
The 43rd Conference of the National Justice and Peace Network (NJPN) will take place at the Hayes Centre in Swanwick from 23-25 July 2021. The conference is entitled 2021: Moment of Truth – Action for Life on Earth and has in part been organised by LiveSimply Group members at St Mary and St Michael’s Parish in Settle, Paul Kelly and Maggie McSherry, in their respective capacities as members of the National Justice and Peace and Northern Dioceses Environmental Groups.
Amongst the 200 delegates attending the (Covid secure) conference are young Catholics sponsored by our Diocese of Leeds Justice and Peace Commission, including Curia Communications and CAFOD volunteer Mathew Maslen from the Parish of St Blaise in Bradford and Innocent Nwachukwu from the Bradford Parish of St Joseph.
Christine Allen, Director of CAFOD, is to chair the three day conference, which will welcome Bishop John Arnold, who is the lead bishop on the environment for England and Wales, as celebrant for the conference Mass.’The time for action is now’ is Bishop John’s message, ‘This meeting, a few months before COP26 in Glasgow, allows the voice of the church to come together, unite and look at ways we can take the call for action back to our parishes and communities to create a different legacy for the next generation.’ He feels, ‘this conference comes at a unique and vital moment for we are seeing weekly more and more evidence of the irreversible damage that climate change is having on our common home.’ This refers to, ‘clear evidence around the world’ of ‘severe and long term droughts, floods, rising sea-levels and extreme record-breaking temperatures that our actions and our way of life are inflicting on our world.’ The chair of CAFOD noted that, ‘these events have affected millions of people, most often in the poorest countries of the world and people who have done least to damage our environment.’
Keynote speaker Lorna Gold, acting Chair of the Board of the Global Catholic Climate Movement and author of ‘Climate Generation: Awakening to Our Children’s Future’, will also stress the urgency of the challenges faced in addressing climate change and biodiversity loss against a backdrop of Covid. ‘The pandemic and the ecological crises are increasingly intertwined” she will say, and “besides a personal conversion, what is needed now is community conversion – and this can be embodied in concrete plans on how our communities will change.’ She added that, ‘after a year and a half of confinement, I hope that participants will leave energised and inspired, with lots of practical ideas on how to create bold Laudato Si’ plans for their communities.’
Other speakers include Lord Deben (Independent UK Committee on Climate Change), Andy Atkins, Fr Eamonn Mulcahy and Mark Rotherham. NJPN Chair Paul Southgate, from Hexham and Newcastle Diocese, says, ‘Our Conference will ask what must be done to build a viable future as we battle climate change, the biodiversity crisis and the pandemic?’ He hopes, ‘participants will feel inspired, empowered and equipped to meet the challenge and create the deep change required by ecological conversion in themselves, their communities and the world.’ Underlining the inspiration from Pope Francis he says: ‘”The future has a name”, says Pope Francis, “and its name is HOPE”.’
Liturgy will be led by Colette Joyce, Justice and Peace Fieldworker in Westminster Diocese, in collaboration with liturgical composer and pastoral musician Marty Haugen online. He has written a special chant ‘For Our Common Home’ for the occasion.
More than 20 stalls will be available in the Just Fair and around 15 workshops available on such topics as: ‘Fossil Free Churches’, ‘Sustainable Development Goals’ ‘Conflict and Environment’ and a ‘Nature Explorer Walk’ with a botanist. Justice and Peace Scotland will give a briefing around ‘Attendance at COP26 – real or virtual’.
So, on the sixth anniversaries of both the Paris Agreement on Climate and Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato Si’, the conference will stimulate moves towards ‘ecological conversion’.
The conference aims to launch a decade of transformative action – in lives and communities – and that action can start in YOUR home, school or parish …