Vellore (India). “Walk Together to care for the Common Home – Earth” is the theme of the International Online Conference held on 23 January 2021, organized by the Department of Botany and Environment of Auxilium College of Vellore, Autonomous University of the Indian Province of St. Thomas the Apostle (INM), which registered the presence of more than 200 participants.
Sr. Jaya Shanthi R., Principal of Auxilium College, welcomed the participants and gave the word to Dr. Isabella Rosaline S., Head of the Department and Professor of Botany who, illustrating the conference program, gave the motivation: “To give awareness to our young generations on the importance of protecting the environment is of paramount importance.”
In her greeting, Sr. Ivone Goulart Lopes, Collaborator of the Youth Ministry Sector and Referent for Institutions of Higher Studies (ISS – FMA), presented the contents of Pope Francis Encyclical Letters regarding the environment, specifying that Laudato Sì is not a ‘green encyclical’, but speaks of integral ecology, since concern for nature is inseparable from justice for the poor, from commitment to society, and from peace. She invited us to develop a “more integral and integrated” vision and to give priority to the care of others, from where the care of the entire creation begins.
“What are the government, the leaders, the Church, the families doing to respond to the world situation of poverty, violence, suffering?” With this question Sr. Runita Galve Borja, General Councilor for Youth Ministry, began the opening address, focusing on paragraph 64 of the encyclical Fratelli Tutti: “We need to acknowledge that we are constantly tempted to ignore others, especially the weak. Let us admit that, for all the progress we have made, we are still ‘illiterate’ when it comes to accompanying, caring for and supporting the most frail and vulnerable members of our developed societies. We have become accustomed to looking the other way, passing by, ignoring situations until they affect us directly.” Through the video “Kindness keeps the world afloat”, she encouraged the participants to live a universal fraternity.
Following this, Fr. Alphonse Philip, Rector of Don Bosco Matriculation High Secondary School, Tirupattur (Vellore) spoke on the theme “The care of our common home”, proposing the question of Pope Francis: “What kind of world do we want to leave to those who will come after us, to the children who are growing up?” (Laudato Sì). The Rector explained the need to reflect on the effects of climate change caused by global warming and greenhouse pollution and to take responsibility for preserving the Earth for the next generation. Recalling some phrases of Pope Francis – “Everything is interconnected” and “less is more” – he focused attention on the care of creation, because “we are co-creators of God’s creation, who entrusted the Earth to our care.”
In the second intervention, Fr. Sumathi M., Head and Lecturer of the History Department of Auxilium College, spoke on the theme: “Impact of fraternity and social friendship in Higher Education”. Through an in-depth study of the parable of the Good Samaritan present in “Fratelli Tutti”, he expressed the conviction that where there are solid bonds of communion and fraternity, life is stronger than death because it is built on true relationships. He added that true and lasting peace will be possible only on the basis of a global ethic of solidarity and cooperation, at the service of the whole human family. In particular, he encouraged young people to create a world of brotherhood and sisterhood, seeking to be close to all, even those who are far away.
The conference ended with the thanks of Dr. Anitha T., Assistant Professor of Botany at Auxilium College. The participants left the meeting encouraged by the speakers to take care of the Common Home “with their own hands”, as the book of Genesis recounts (Gen 1:28) “In the beginning God created heaven and earth. God blessed them and God said to them: Be fertile and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it. Have dominion over the fish of the sea, the birds of the air, and all the living things that crawl on the earth.”