By Jesy Romero, Water Resources Coordinator for CAFOD’s Church partner CEAS
I have seen first-hand the marginalisation and exclusion of the poor communities we work with, who are constantly defending their lands. My Christian vocation compels me to speak the truth and nothing but the truth for the common good. This is why I travelled thousands of miles from my home in Peru to visit CAFOD supporters and campaigners in London last October for the launch of their campaign, One Climate, One World. I wanted to explain the impact climate change is having in Peru and the conflicts occurring because of water shortages, so that people will better understand the importance of caring for God’s creation.
Water shortages and flooding in Peru
Latin America is one of the regions most vulnerable to climate change, yet some people don’t know about the scarcity of water in Peru. My country has 70% of the world’s tropical glaciers, and in the region where I work I can see how they are melting at an alarming rate. The statistics are catastrophic; the Peruvian government says that by 2030, all the glaciers below 5,000 metres will have melted completely.
In addition to the water shortages, which come about because of the disappearing glaciers, there is also an increased risk of flooding, because the displaced ice from the mountains can crash into the lakes. We fear that at any moment there could be another avalanche, like the one in 1970 that killed many thousands of people in my area.
How CAFOD’s partner CEAS is helping
In my job as Water Resources Coordinator for CAFOD’s partner CEAS (the social action arm of the Catholic Bishops in Peru), I help farming communities adapt to a changing climate and respond to water shortages. With my colleague Monica, I run workshops for the community on issues related to human rights; help people understand the laws governing indigenous communities; and model water resources and environmental protection practices.
At national level, we are running awareness-raising campaigns in different dioceses looking at climate change from an ethical and moral perspective. People are making commitments at personal, familial and organisational level to respond to climate change. Together with Caritas and CIDSE (an international alliance of Catholic development agencies), we organised a meeting with the Latin American Bishops at the UN climate talks in Lima in December, to share with them the impact of climate change in Peru, and we are making further proposals for action from the Catholic Church, in the context of justice and the common good.
My visit to England
I came to London with Adán, a farmer and community leader from the Cruz de Mayo community, to share our experiences. Prayer is a very important force for us in Peru – prayer and action go hand in hand. When we were in Newcastle visiting CAFOD supporters, we met people who go on pilgrimage regularly and pray for a particular aspect of CAFOD’s work. We talked about them praying for us in Peru. I think these types of spiritual actions are really important, as they are mutually beneficial. From our side, we have been organising ecumenical prayer and fast days, and we helped coordinate a large vigil in the run-up to the UN climate talks in our capital city. As Pope Francis reminded us in his letter sent to the president of the UN climate conference – Manuel Pulgar-Vidal (Peru’s Environment Minister) – climate change is a moral and ethical issue, and God has given us creation to protect.
I believe the Catholic Church has a very important role to play in the fight against climate change, because of its credibility as an organisation. Without being tied to party-political interests, it can present ethical arguments taking into account Catholic Social Teaching. For example: issues of solidarity, the common good and participation, and subsidiarity. The Catholic Church is on the side of the people and the public voice of the Church can greatly influence decisions of governance because of its closeness to people. It can work on awareness-raising from the perspective of the gifts of God’s creation.
In order to achieve peace in the world, it’s necessary to work for climate justice, and that’s why all of us should assume responsibilities. We have different things to contribute, but we can all make a difference. CAFOD’s climate change campaign has a lot of support, and we think it can serve to inspire people in other countries to influence their politicians too. The key to reducing the impact of climate change is for the government and the communities to work together. We can’t expect our communities in Peru to take on the government’s responsibility. On a macro-level, it is crucial that governments reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Our visit to London has been mutually enriching. On the one hand, we have learned about CAFOD’s work here in England and Wales, and on the other hand, we have been able to share our experiences in Peru. I think all of us can work towards the common good for all to safeguard the gifts of creation. CAFOD supporters have given us new energy to go back to our work in Peru. We feel revitalised.
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Jesy’s blog was also published in The Catholic Times.