Caroline Grogan works in CAFOD’s Campaigns team. She recently met Fr Edu, a Goldman Environmental Prize winning activist who works for NASSA (Caritas Philippines).
I had never heard a priest and social and environmental activist speak before, so I was privileged to hear CAFOD partner Fr Edu at the Rebuilding Justice Event in London on Saturday. He was there to thank CAFOD supporters for their generous donations that helped people post-Typhoon Haiyan. He spoke about the widespread poverty across the country, where communities are made vulnerable to the effects of extreme weather and a changing climate.
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Fr Edu became an environmental activist “by accident” when he stood up for the indigenous Mangyan community he was serving in Mindoro island. “Defending our land is a necessity,” he said, and standing in solidarity with people being forced off their land is imperative.
Fr Edu currently serves indigenous communities in a highland region of the Philippines. I was moved by his description of Filipino resilience as a a strong force which was “enabled by our faith. He is excited by Pope Francis’ ground-breaking encyclical on which he says asks us to put our “faith into action”.
It was extremely inspiring to hear about how he is motivated by love for God’s creation. Fr Edu reminded us that the organisation he leads – Caritas Philippines – means love. Fr Edu expressed this love in these words, “We should never sacrifice people and the environment for short-term benefit of the few.”Filipino family life
In 2013, post-Typhoon Haiyan Fr Edu worked with local Caritas group NASSA to ensure people had access to safe drinking water. He helped install thousands of water pumps and toilets in dioceses across the Philippines and set up workshops to educate people around sanitation issues.
Fr Edu spoke of the difficulties communities’ face predicting when rains will come, making growing crops to sustain their families difficult. Extreme weather is a huge threat to families who have no safety net: when Typhoon Haiyan struck, the domestic water supply became contaminated, making the water undrinkable as it was mixed with human waste.
When referring to the children of the poorest people in the Philippines, Fr Edu challenged us by asking, “What kind of world do we want to leave to them?”
Global climate change petition
Fr Edu has joined CAFOD in supporting the Global Catholic Climate Movement and aims to get a millions Filipinos to sign the climate change petition. This petition will be handed in to world leaders ahead of UN climate talks this December.
Find out how you can play your part and stand in solidarity with communities overseas affected by climate change.