The commencement of the events preceding the Second United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA 2) such as the Science Policy Forum (SPF – 19th to 20th May) and the Fifteenth Global Major Groups and Stakeholders Forum (GMGSF – 21st to 22nd May), coincided with the anniversary of Laudato Si released by His Holiness Pope Francis on 24th May during the Solemnity of Pentecost, in the year 2015 on the third year of his pontificate.
While the world might have been focused on the scientific dimension of environmental degradation, climate change and global warming, Laudato Si still found space in the forum through the deeds and dictums of most people attending the UNEA 2, the SPF, and the 15th GMGSF. The SPF brought together some 300 of the best scientific minds drawn from across the world to deliberate on scientific issues relevant to the global challenge that man continually accelerates. Laudato Si would not feature at the SPF until the GMGSF.
During the first day of the GMGSF on the evening of Saturday, 22nd May 2016, the Executive Director of the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) and the Undersecretary of the United Nations, Achim Steiner, engaged with the Major Groups and Stakeholders (MG&S) in an open forum. Being a Major Group and Stakeholder, the Catholic Youth Network for Environmental Sustainability in Africa (CYNESA) represented by David Ngigi Munene (Programs Manager), Desdery Moses (CYNESA Tanzania), Linda Matole (Core Team Member, Kenya), and Hellen Wangechi Mugo (Core Team Member, Kenya) was present.
When Peter Denton of the United Church of Canada (UCC) asked about the establishment of a place for Faith-Based Organisations (FBOs) at the UNEP and the UNEA, Mr. Steiner referred to the UN policy that makes it difficult for the UN and its agencies to engage directly with religious groups.
Mr. Steiner however, fondly recounted the Pope’s visit to the UN in 2015. He proceeded to applaud the Holy Father for the guidelines offered on the care of our common home through Laudato Si. He described Laudato Si as one of the “richest texts” ever written on caring for our planet.
Laudato Si would later feature at the Green Room event during the presentation by CYNESA delivered by the Programs Manager (author) on Tuesday, 24th May 2016. During the engagement with at least 60 participants, it was reiterated that Pope Francis sought, through Laudato Si, “to address every person living on this planet” (Laudato Si para 3). Furthermore, it was important to draw the unbreakable, difficult-to-overlook intertwinement between science and religion.
Bringing Laudato Si to a nearly-explicitly-scientific platform was a reaffirmation of the Holy Father’s sentiments, “science and religion, with their distinctive approaches to understanding reality, can enter into an intense dialogue fruitful for both” (Laudato Si para 62).
David N. Munene.
David is the Programs Manager at CYNESA.