Papal Encyclical on the environment: a call for compassionate Earth Behavior

Reflecting on the 15th anniversary of the Earth Charter, I am reminded of the values taught by St. Francis of Assisi. St. Francis lived in accordance with the values formulated in the Earth Charter, long before the Earth Charter Document was written. And now, after so many centuries, these values are needed more than ever. Values such as logic and power seem to be outmoded. According to St. Francis, we should focus on relevant qualities such as self-knowledge, modesty and compassion. These qualities will lead to authentic behavior and will serve the environment and the Earth community.

St. Francis of Assisi, who was an inspiring leader with love and compassion, led his fraternity in extreme simplicity. He showed the world how much power is hidden in gentle values if they are exemplified in an individual’s lifestyle. These authentic Franciscan values are echoed by Pope Francis in his Papal Encyclical letter on the environment, “Laudato Si’: On the Care of our Common Home”, published the 18th of June 2015. In this letter, Pope Francis declares climate change and environmental protection as moral issues. He refers to the Earth as “our common home”; in fact, as written in The Earth Charter, it is our common destiny.

We should feel inspired by both St. Francis and Pope Francis. The urgent message of the Papal Encyclical to all of us should foster a new awareness within ourselves, as human beings related to Mother Earth. Being aware that the Earth is our only home should spur us to a generous, service-minded attitude towards others and the Earth. As stated by Angaangaq Angakkorsuaq, shaman and Eskimo-Kalaallit Elder from Greenland, “The Big Ice is melting and we can’t do anything about it. The only thing we can do, is melt the ice in the heart of men.” We have to see, hear, and feel with our hearts, in order to act with the power of compassion for the Earth and all living beings.

With this perspective we celebrate the 15th anniversary of the Earth Charter on Monday June 29th in The Netherlands
Brigitte van Baren
Earth Charter Affiliate Netherlands