Laudato Si’ Dialogues: “The situation of environmental defenders around the world”.

March 23, 2021

Fr. Xavier Jeyaraj SJ and Melvin Purzuelo in a new edition of the Laudato Si’ Dialogues.

In the context of Laudato Si’ Lent, a new edition of the Laudato Si’ Dialogues was held on March 13, this time on the theme: “The situation of environmental defenders around the world”.

Xavier Jeyaraj SJ, director of the Jesuit Secretariat for Justice and Ecology in Rome, and Melvin Purzuelo, from the Philippines, a member of the Misereor organization, participated in the event, which was broadcast on GCCM’s YouTube channel.

At the beginning of the dialogue, an explanation was given of what it means to be an environmental steward, mentioning that on many occasions this can be a matter of “life or death.” Indeed, in 2019, 212 environmental defenders were reported dead, the highest number so far in one year. 

During Laudato Si’ Lent the GCCM especially remembered these environmental defenders , such as Berta Cáceres, Walter Méndez Barrios and Brother Paul McAuley.

“Unfortunately, these people are persecuted for defending creation and indigenous people,” Father Jeyaraj said, mentioning the case of Father Stan Swamy, an 83-year-old Indian priest who works in defense of indigenous people and was arrested in October. 

The Jesuit explained that these groups work for the preservation of land, forest and water, but “multinational corporations want to take advantage of this”.

For his part, Melvin Purzuelo commented that more than 3,000 Indigenous people were arrested in the Philippines for defending land, forest and water rights, accused of “speaking against the interests of the country, treated as national traitors.”

“It is very sad that our environmental workers have to live in fear,” he regretted. “They have worked for years protecting the forest, as a family tradition, but in recent years, because of the work of farmers, the forest has shrunk,” the Filipino went on to explain. These groups felt a sense of accomplishment in doing this work.

He also highlighted the importance of the Laudato Si’ message as “a call to unity and to appreciate the spirituality of creation that these communities have”. And he called on Catholic communities to help give them a voice, “because they are desolate and afraid”.

Watch the complete Laudato Si’ Dialogue here.