“Join the Dots Together.” This was the title of the initiative involving forty (40) organizations and the Focolare community to combat the climate crisis.
Doing something together for climate justice and working collaboratively to have a greater impact on this serious and urgent issue. These were the goals of the event held in January 2024 in Belfast, Northern Ireland, organized by the Focolare Movement community together with the Belfast Jesuit Center, the Ulster University Chaplaincy, Redemptorist Youth Ministry, and the Diocese of Down and Connor.
The initiative was attended by sixty people representing forty organizations. It was held at the University of Ulster and was entitled “Join the Dots Together,” meeting to work side by side on the climate emergency.
Dr. Lorna Gold, president of the global “Laudato Sì Movement,” – born after Pope Francis’ encyclical of the same name on caring for the Common Home-in her speech addressed thorny issues including the slow progress of the elimination of combustible fossil fuels while at the same time instilling a sense of joyful hope in all present.
Reflecting on the COP28 (28th United Nations Climate Change Conference) document, she pointed out that it was important to have confirmed that the primary causes of climate change are fossil fuels. “The genie is out of the bottle now and there is no going back,” she stated. She then spoke about the importance of the Fossil Fuels Non-Proliferation Treaty. The use of the term “nonproliferation,” usually linked to weapons of mass destruction, is in fact related to the risks the world faces from the continued use of fossil fuels. In addition, Lorna Gold was keen to highlight the importance of faith groups as major stakeholders in the planet with billions of dollars invested in global markets, and owners of 12% of the world’s land. “People of faith,” she reiterated, “are in a key position to change the narrative and rewrite the future.”.
It is no coincidence that Lorna Gold has just been named CEO of FaithInvest, an organization that focuses on mobilizing all faiths to put their resources, particularly their financial investments, to help move the economy towards a more sustainable one.
The event was a powerful testimony for civil society and religious groups in Northern Ireland, with people from the interreligious forum, the Baha’i community, the Gaelic Athletic Association foundation, the Mothers’ Union and Trocaire (Caritas in Ireland), as well as several nonreligious groups such as Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful in attendance. “It is very unusual to find this sort of gathering of groups united for a common cause,” said Lorna Gold, “perhaps it is precisely the climate issue on which we all agree.”.
Some testimonies from participants.
Georgia Allen and Glen MacAuley, young people of Fridays for Future NI every Friday in 2023 went on strike in front of Belfast City Hall and felt it was important to attend the meeting. “It was positive and interesting, with an inspiring speaker,” said Allen. “It was a call to action, to do something concrete together. At the end they wanted to take a picture with Lorna Gold as a symbol of participation in the climate strike with her!
John Barry, professor of Green Economics and Policy at Queen’s University, said, “In this time of climate and ecological emergency we must all come together recognizing that it is already late and worse than people think, but not without hope. Faith communities have an important role to play, so it was good to see such an interfaith gathering of people of faith willing to roll up their sleeves and start repairing our broken world.”.
Edwin Graham of the Interreligious Forum commented, “Joining the Dots… Together-an extraordinary initiative that brought together many people from a multitude of organizations and groups that care about the environment. The diversity of those in attendance was impressive, from high-level leaders in faith communities to small organizations made up of dedicated activists.”.
Nicolas Hanrahan of Trocaire noted: “It was great to see so many people doing a great job of taking care of our common home. (…) I look forward to the next one!”
These sentiments were echoed by Sister Nuala of St. John’s parish: “Today was beyond all our expectations, everyone not only enjoyed it, but found it extremely helpful.”.
Finally Finbarr Keavney of the Newcastle Laudato Sì group, “What an exciting and hopeful morning. It is so nice to meet many lovely people of different faiths, all bound together by a desire for climate justice.”.
Lorna Gold finally reiterated that connecting the dots and formulating plans to work collaboratively on climate justice is the key: “We can plant the seeds of a new future, but the only way to do it is together.”.