Sr Roxann Neckles SSM, based in Grenada, reflects on the November 19–21, 2020 virtual event, ‘The Economy of Francesco’ (francescoeconomy.org).
Exciting, enlightening, engaging, encapsulating, encouraging! These are some of the words that describe my experience as a participant in the ‘Economy of Francesco’: a process which began with an invitation from Pope Francis to young economists, entrepreneurs and change makers.
The invitation was accepted by over 2,000 young people from 120 different countries.
The Economy of Francesco (EOF) is a process that calls forth young people to usher in newness, to reimagine and creatively design a new economic system that abandons the notion of self-interest for the interest of the common good.
Its premise combats waste and consumerism, promotes sustainability, care for the environment and inclusion of all peoples, especially the poor and marginalised. It is a system that is driven by love and care for the other and not for profit.
This experience did not only furnish me with new knowledge and insights, opportunities to network with others and exposure to new ideas, but it also brought to my awareness, the weaknesses and limitations of the present economic system that benefits a few and disenfranchised the majority. It has impressed upon me the urgency to act.
In the Caribbean, we are very much aware of the limitations of the present system. Many of our islands are crippled by high levels of debt, mostly owed to developed nations.
We are experiencing severe weather conditions because of climate change, even though our contribution to climate change is minimal to most. In addition, we are plagued with rising unemployment and poverty, a phenomenon exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
We continue to support and implement policies that are destroying our natural environment and affecting the livelihoods of many of our brothers and sisters. For example, our continued use and discriminatory disposal of plastics and non-biodegradable products threaten the livelihoods of our fisherfolks; our reliance on imports and tardiness in promoting sustainable farming practices threaten the livelihoods of our farmers.
Political and social unrest are causing the displacement and migration of many of our brothers and sisters, forcing them into conditions that degrade their dignity as human beings and infringe upon their freedom and rights.
We cannot continue to operate like it is business as usual. We must be change makers. The Caribbean Church must take the lead in starting the process of change in the region, making our economic system more sustainable, and fair for all.
Pope Francis tells us that we must not be afraid to take risks in encouraging and stimulating models of development.
As individuals belonging to the Body of Christ, we can do our part in combatting this system of waste and consumerism. We can acquire only what we need and refrain from hoarding, “from indulging in intellectual fashion and ideological positions that isolate us from life and the real suffering of people” (Pope Francis). We can start the process of change by addressing inequalities and injustices in our workplaces, church parishes, communities, and institutions.
On the parish and diocesan level, we can promote projects and programmes that incorporate the social teachings of the Church. We need to engage in projects that encourage sustainable development and the inclusion of all persons.
For example, we can begin the process of divesting from fossil fuels and investing in renewable energies. It is my hope that our parishes and institutions will join the many parishes and institutions around the world, who have heeded the call from Pope Francis and have totally divested from fossil fuels.
There is an urgency to act now. The world is falling into ruins and God is calling us to go and rebuild the world just as He called St Francis to go and rebuild His Church.
Let us listen to the voice of God through Pope Francis and take action to create an economic system that has the people and the environment at its centre.