A couple of months ago, we chose “Caring for our common home” as the theme for this issue. We chose it to mark the 5th anniversary of Pope Francis’s encyclical Laudato Si’ which calls us to a deep personal and communal transformation and a new relationship with the earth, our common home.
As we go to print, we find ourselves in what seems to be a new world. Our common home has been transformed by the COVID-19 pandemic, and it is marked by fear, suffering and pain.
While not intentional, the coincidence could not be more appropriate. The care of our common home and the current crisis are deeply linked and Laudato Si’ can show us a way forward.
While it is true this virus can infect anyone regardless of social status, race or geography, it has also exposed deep cracks in our society. The effects of the virus have been felt especially among the weakest: the elderly in care homes, the poor, racialized communities, the ‘essential’ but least remunerated workers, and people in refugee camps, in slums, in the streets. The virus spreads where it is impossible to practice social distancing or to wash one’s hands frequently due to lack of water. The same people have inadequate access to health services or protective equipment.
The economic impact is no less serious. In the Global South people lose their source of income with no assistance from government; migrants and farm workers are going hungry; fields are not being cultivated, setting the stage for famine.
The virus has exposed the divisions in our common home and among those who inhabit it. Yet, through all this fear, pain and suffering, there is hope. The generous and courageous response of many people for the victims of COVID-19 has shown us a new world is possible and we have the capacity to care for our common home and each other.
Laudato Si’ calls us to heal the earth and all its creatures, to reframe our priorities, to change social structures so that no one is left behind. The experience of our own vulnerability could be the turning point to feel close to those who are always vulnerable, and to infuse us with a desire to build a world based on equality, democracy, defence of human rights and care for our common home.