Cover Photo: CYNESA Executive Director Allen Ottaro addresses participants at the Laudato Si Conference (Photo Credit_Sally Axworthy)
“Young people demand change. They wonder how anyone can claim to be building a better future without thinking of the environmental crisis, and the sufferings of the excluded.” These words from paragraph 13 of the encyclical Laudato Si’, came alive in a unique way at the Vatican summit marking the 3rd anniversary of the ground breaking encyclical, as young people set the stage at the opening of the conference.
A group of children led a powerful opening prayer, in which they reminded all present of the need to “understand with our minds, feel with our hearts and act with our hands”, in the same way we make the sign of the cross. The children also showcased the concrete activities they are leading in their communities, in creating a “prophetic economy”.
Soon after the words of welcome from H.E. Cardinal Peter Turkson, the Prefect of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, and the opening remarks from the Secretary of State of the Holy See, H.E. Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the panel of young people was introduced to the audience.
Representing Europe was Laura Menendez from Manos Unidas, Spain, while Delio Siticonatzi from the Pueblo Ashaninca in the Amazon, spoke on behalf of young indigenous. Also on the panel were Australian Polar explorer, Jade Hameister, and Macson Almeida from the Don Bosco Green Alliance in India, representing Oceania and Asia respectively. The important task of speaking on behalf of young people from Africa was assigned to CYNESA Founder and Executive Director, Allen Ottaro.
Citing the many environmental challenges that his country, India, is facing, from climate change to pollution, Mr. Almeida challenged participants to move from discussion to action. “ I urgently appeal to those repsonsible, to quicken the pace of the climate negotiations. With every year that we spend negotiating, we are losing out on time. Time is a luxury we do not have”, said Almeida, his sentiments fitting perfectly with the conference’s aim of raising ambition towards the next UN Climate talks, COP24 in Poland.
In his remarks, Mr. Ottaro called for greater solidarity, especially with those communities that are on the frontlines of climate change. “ We need to stop agonising and start organizing”, said Ottaro, even as he encouraged intergenerational solidarity, “what the elders can see while sitting down, the young can only see from the top a tree. We rely on the wisdom of our elders as we work towards solving the climate crisis.”
The young panel certainly set the pace at the Vatican conference, but it is clear that many more young people are taking action in their communities. CYNESA will build on this momentum, and mobilize even more young people on the African continent, to stop agonizing and start organizing-leading the way towards ecological conversion.
Founder & Executive Director, CYNESA.