Laudato Si is ‘mercy and compassion’

August 11, 2021

Sheen Orihuela (4th to the left, white shirt) together with other Jesuit Asia Pacific Conference workshop participants pose for the camera in this photo taken in 2019. Photo supplied

Spending five days in an Indigenous community at Balay Laudato Si’ in Bendum town, Bukidnon province in the southern Philippines was a worth-sharing experience. 

It gave me a renewed hope and a sense of belongingness towards caring for our common home

The five-day “Jesuit Asia Pacific Conference (JCAP) Reconciliation with Creation workshop” was held in August 2019. 

It brought together diverse individuals from across Asia Pacific Region including Australia, Korea, Cambodia, Indonesia, Vietnam, Myanmar, Portugal, and the Philippines.

The workshop aimed to: (1) provide an understanding of the Universal Apostolic Preferences (UAPs) as a basis for experiencing deeper collaboration, (2) develop a context for a deeper spiritual conversion as we discern, (3) communicate with people in the margin, the youth, and degrading environment and lastly, (4) to explore creative and deep ways to respond to the struggles for a positive engagement with a secular society that has yet to mature.

As a climate advocate, I am well aware of the science behind the climate crisis and its impacts, but attending the workshop enabled me and the participants to have deeper reflections on ourselves, our struggles, motivations from doing our advocacies, and the way we view life and our environment in general. 

It is really important to look within ourselves and seek spiritual conversations and discernment as we accompany the marginalized ones, and as we make decisions and/or actions towards addressing the ecological problems we are facing today.

The indigenous peoples are among the most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change and yet, they are also one of the greatest stewards of our environment. 

Their identity is deeply rooted in their ancestral domain and their traditional knowledge and practices in preserving their lands are unique.

We had an intimate conversation with the indigenous youth students and listening to their struggles in continuing their studies, sharing their ways of caring for the environment, their hopes and fears — made me deeply appreciate more of their vibrant culture and their unique role in our society and in caring for our common home.

I recalled, one of the students said that “ she wants to finish her studies so she could help her family out of poverty, to be able to give back to her community, and to protect her land and culture against external influences and businesses/corporations that have vested interests.”

The conversation we had with the youth was also a realization that fighting for justice means protecting their land and their future generation. 

We must continue to fight and recognize the rights of our Indigenous People and the role of youth as drivers of change in our society.

Jesuit Asia Pacific Conference workshop participants pose for the camera in this photo taken in 2019. Photo supplied

Our land is our life, and we owe it to the land why we still continue to exist in this world. 

Immersing ourselves with nature and engaging ourselves with the Indigenous people, made me more see the interconnectedness we have with God’s creation and our shared responsibility to preserve it.

With all the wonderful experiences from the workshop, we are all filled with deep appreciation, peace, and reconciliation with creation. 

As I reflect on my short stay in Bendum, I am extremely grateful to my fellow participants as we have openly shared our own struggles, and hopes in this world — knowing that we are not alone in this battle. 

This gave me a renewed hope to continue fighting for the preservation of our common home and to walk alongside the vulnerable groups and the marginalized sector of our society. 

To heed the cry of the earth and poor and make their voices heard — above all, is to always respond with compassion and hope.

Sheen Orihuela is a humanitarian worker, an eco-warrior, and a mission climber. Her passion to serve the most vulnerable and her love for nature brought her to far-flung communities where access to basic services is difficult. She is the Advocacy Officer for Local Actions and Community Engagement of Living Laudato Si’ Philippines and a member of Youth Strike 4 Climate Philippines.

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