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Jane Lavery is volunteering with Operation Noah as part of her university placement while she studies for an MA in Theology, Ecology and Ethics at the University of Roehampton. She is hoping that during her placement she will answer the question: to what extent does faith inform activism?
I have been aware of a palpable faith in places like Lourdes or Medjugorje where people’s belief in a transcendent God who will perform miracles is intense; however, I feel the faith of those involved in Operation Noah is of a different dimension. As Ruth Jarman, a member of the team, stated following her involvement in a protest: ‘Faith is a bit pointless unless it is lived. … In the face of the desecration of God’s good creation that is happening now … I cannot walk by. In the face of the mass starvation that will happen when temperatures rise … I cannot walk by.’ She quotes Dietrich Bonhoeffer: ‘Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not find us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.’
Here is a lived faith that is prepared to stand up and be counted in the face of adversity; it may possibly be described as a form of martyrdom in the name of God’s love – and therefore what should be the love of the faithful – for all creation. It is possibly a belief that humans work alongside God as God performs miracles.
I am working with the Bright Now team, which is currently focused on helping churches disinvest from fossil fuels. One of the first tasks I was given was to read some of the literature they have produced:
I found the first particularly fascinating; how the major oil companies are being disingenuous in their commitment to the Paris Agreement, although they first realised several decades ago the impact of global warming through burning fossil fuels. I find it incredible that profit is considered more important than the lives of people, not to mention the polluting effect of their products on our beautiful world. It also concerns me that while many individuals are making great efforts to stop their personal reliance on fossil fuels, large international companies are not, and it is they who are the major polluters.
Another concern is the seeming lack of long-term plans to provide clean, green methods of transport across the globe. Although electric cars are becoming more accessible there are issues with the mining of lithium for the batteries and it would seem that there is little long-term co-ordinated strategy.
In Laudato Si, Pope Francis promulgates the need for ecological conversion. But this is not just for individuals; in talking about the importance of technological and economic cooperation he says ‘environmental protection cannot be assured solely on the basis of financial calculations of costs and benefits’, (#190) and ‘A technological and economic development which does not leave in its wake a better world and integrally higher quality of life cannot be considered progress’ (#194). It is to be hoped that more extractive industries will come to understand the wisdom of these words.