Ethiopia and care for our common home

Rachel McCarthy works in the CAFOD Theology Programme. She reflects on the Ethiopia food crisis on the anniversary of Laudato Si’, Pope Francis’ landmark encyclical on ecology.

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Herit lives in Ethiopia. She says “I have worked hard for a better life”.

It pains me to hear about the devastating drought in Ethiopia.

I have no doubt that our partners are doing all they can to tackle the Ethiopia crisis. Thanks to your generosity, we are able to support families to cope with the drought in a way which respects their dignity.

Read about our response to the Ethiopia crisis

Yet it is still a distressing situation. Herit is a mother who lives in a village in the northern Tigray region. She has toiled for many years to help her family be self-sufficient, so I can only imagine how devastating this must be for her. “I have worked hard for a better life,” she says, “to go back to dependency is very difficult for me. I feel sad, it hurts me inside.”

For me, Herit’s words echo someone I met in Kenya with CAFOD a few years ago. John, a village leader in rural Isiolo diocese, greeted me warmly and walked with me up a hill to where his community were gathered. We looked across the slope of the field, across the swirls of dust where the fruit trees once grew, and there was not a drop of water in sight. Looking into his eyes, I saw the pain as he expressed what this lack of water meant for his people. Hunger.

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It strikes me as so unjust. Pope Francis reflects on this in his encyclical Laudato Si’. Quite simply, he says, “the deterioration of the environment and of society affects the most vulnerable people on the planet” #48.

Daring to open our eyes

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Cattle graze on dry land in Ethiopia.

For me, Herit’s story resonates with the first chapter of the encyclical, which asks what is happening to our common home. Francis states, “our goal is to become painfully aware, to dare to turn what is happening to the world into our own personal suffering and thus to discover what each of us can do about it” #19.

In this first chapter, Pope Francis invites us to understand, to look deeply from within, not from outside. To imagine how it would feel to struggle to access water, or to be in the clutches of economic injustice. It is only by remembering that we are all deeply interconnected that we can hope to create a better world.

Restoring peace and beauty

Laudato Si’ guides us on the right path. We recognise the harm we have caused to God’s creation, but we have an opportunity now to restore goodness. “We are called to be instruments of God our Father, so that our planet might be what he desired when he created it and correspond with his plan for peace, beauty and fullness” #53.

Looking back over this year, I am so inspired by the amazing efforts of the Catholic community to act as instruments of God. Hundreds of people have reflected on Laudato Si’ with our study guide. Dozens of people have gone the extra mile on the pilgrimage to Paris. This week, to celebrate the anniversary of Laudato Si’, parishes in Southwark diocese have held a special rosary meditation to care for creation.

Download our vigil for the care of creation

These efforts are beautiful. They reflect our mission to care for our sister earth out of love for our global family. And so I would like to offer a prayer, giving thanks for the blessings of this past year, and looking to the future with hope.

Pray for wisdom

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In Laudato Si’, Pope Francis asks us to look to Our Lady to show us the path of wisdom.

Hail Mary, Mother of Mercy,
our life, our sweetness and our hope.

To you, we cry, as children of God,
joined as one with our wounded world,
with hearts full of hope for a home transformed.

Mother of Creation, look upon us, we pray,
so we may come to see God’s earthly garden
through the radiant light of wisdom.

Holy Mary, Mother of all,
make us worthy we pray,
to treasure the earth, our common home,
and show us the blessed fruit of your womb, Jesus.

This prayer is inspired by the Salve Regina.

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