Environmentally conscious initiatives centred on human dignity
Following the call of Pope Francis, Catholic youth in Western Sydney are taking action to support environmentally conscious initiatives centred on human dignity.
In the process, they have forged interfaith solidarity with other young Australians from various faith backgrounds who also inspired in their stewardship for creation.
“Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato Si’ really speaks out not just for Catholics”
“Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato Si’ really speaks out not just for Catholics but a document presented to all people seeking the care for our environment,” said Our Lady of Lourdes Seven Hills Parishioner and young Catholic Ian Epondulan.
Mr Epondulan, like others in his parish, is a volunteer with the Sydney Alliance Voices for Power; a non-partisan collective aimed at fostering environmentally conscious actions within local communities.
For residents in Western Sydney such action is especially pressing given the demographics of working class faith-based migrants bearing the brunt of climate change catastrophes such as bushfires and heatwaves with many of whom unable to afford air-conditioning or access to the beach.
“With the number of migrant communities in Western Sydney there is much importance on education – especially to those who don’t have English as their first language – to know how to beat the heat and focus on the environment,” said Ian.
One of the initiatives will include the parish of Our Lady of Lourdes to provide a “heat refuge” trial, offering nearby residents an air-conditioned place in which to escape on days of extreme heat.
A heat refuge is a cool zone with good air-conditioning and facilities -toilets, comfortable seating and cold water- where the community can go on an extreme heat day to comfortably relax for hours at a time if they cannot at home.
“In western Sydney compared to the East we have dry heat here and a longer streak of heat days. You’ll notice the weather in Western Sydney is at least 6-10 degrees higher on average,” said Ian.
Indeed, with the rising average temperatures across Australia, heatwave related deaths in Melbourne, Perth and Sydney have doubled in number from 2007 to 2020. The number is expected again to double by 2050.
“The heat refuge project is just one of those particular solutions; the other solution is having discussion with our local MPS to say climate action is very important and something needs to be done at a federal level,” said Ian.
“As Catholics we are asked to put our faith into action”
It is Ian’s hope that if the trial is successful other parishes will get involved in similar projects.
“We hope if this heat refuge trial works it may pave the way for other parish communities,” he said.
“The urgency to look after the environment is definitely within Catholic teaching and as Catholics we are asked to put our faith into action.”
Through a common care of the environment Our Lady of Lourdes has since forged a friendship with Muhajirin Association – a faith based Islamic organisation focused on environmental care also associated with Voices for Power.
Zubaida Alrubai, a practicing Muslim woman and volunteer at Muhajirin spoke to The Catholic Weekly of the interfaith friendship between the faiths in Western Sydney- a common alliance based on stewardship for creation.”
“It’s a mutual relationship through the cause of climate action,” said Ms Alrubai.
“Muhajirin Association is now a partner with Our Lady of Lourdes and also hosts and provides time and resources.”
Ms Alrubai spoke of the commonalities between the two Abrahamic faiths on their duty and care for God’s creation.
“I feel like both our communities have a strong commonality through our faith for care and responsibility for the environment,” she said.
“In the Islamic faith it is also very important to take care of the creation that God gave.”
“It is a privilege to live in such a beautiful country so we must be aware of the footprint we have on the environment and the consequence of our actions.
Taking care of what God has given us
“Through the love of God taking care of what God has given us I feel a sense of connection to my faith through the work that I do - it helps me become a better person and the community a better place.”
The Sydney Alliance is a diverse coalition of community organisations, religious organisations, unions and schools that uses the tools of community organising to make the city a better place to live.
For more information about Sydney Alliance Voices for Power or to get your parish involved visit the Sydney Alliance Voices for Power Facebook page.