- Written by Br. Patrick Nuanah
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I choose to call this article "Faith Rising from Rome" because that is what it is. It is my pleasure to share this experience because it was wonderful and a once in a life-time experience. I would never have thought of being in Rome anytime soon, of visiting the Vatican, not to mention seeing the most famous and adorable Pope Francis, the man for our times. Even the very circumstances surrounding my invitation to this Multi-faith Convergence of emerging leaders, and my eventual successful visa acquisition, turned out to be an unbelievable blessing. I still find it hard to believe the Italian Consulate in New York granted my visa in such short notice! But somehow I knew God was with me and had appointed angels to assist me in every step of the way to Rome and back.
What happened in Rome from the 28th June, was organized by the U.S. based GreenFaith, under its executive director, Rev. Fletcher Harper, an Episcopal Priest and Activist for environmental concerns. GreenFaith invited to Rome over one hundred young emerging multi-faith leaders across the globe that care about climate change and the environment. The move was greatly inspired by Pope Francis’ leadership around climate change and his care for the poor and vulnerable. His encyclical “Laudato Si” was released shortly before we got to Rome and on Sunday, June 28th we began a mile and a half match to St. Peter’s Square to add our voice in support for climate action now.
We were joined by GreenFaith group members Br. Patrick Nuanah from Ghana & Kiran Bali, a Hindu woman from the U.K., with CLT members Brs. John Casey, Hugh O’Neill & Richard Walsh in St. Peter’s Square at the June 28 climate match. thousands of others by the time we got to St. Peter’s Square where, in addition to thanking Pope Francis for his encyclical, we wanted to use this march to urge world leaders to consider climate change when they meet in Paris this December.
The need for climate action, change of heart and lifestyle is imperative. For me, this great convergence shows how powerful our voices can be. Pope Francis was overwhelmed at the first sight of our presence in the Vatican, seeing thousands of people holding green leaves in St Peter square when he appeared through the window for the usual Sunday Angelus. We had prepared these “green leaves” made from paper and distributed them to waiting pilgrims in the Square. One additional role the ‘green leaves’ played, apart from using them to wave in support of our match, was people also using them as shade to cover their heads from the sun. The leaves made the whole place green, so impressive that the Pope spent an appreciable time thanking us for our presence.
Following the march to St. Peter’s Square, the rest of the days in Rome were workshop sessions. There we had the opportunity to share our own lived experiences and the impact of climate change is having on various countries. The diversity of the group was a means of support and gave us courage. We shared our sacred stories and felt we were not alone. It was clear in the sharing that the most vulnerable and worst affected people are the poor, developing countries, small Islands and coastal areas.
The great irony is that the countries contributing the least greenhouse gas pollution are the very ones that suffer the most from climate change. A young lady from Fiji shared a very touching story in which she was literally begging participants who have sand back in their countries to give her some sand to send back to Fiji to help communities that were getting washed away. She pleaded in tears saying that “my people have asked me not to forget to tell you to help them with sand.” The convergence was a true revelation of how people of different faith backgrounds can unite in one chorus to work for a common cause.
I had the privilege for the first time to interact with a Baha’i, with Sikhs, Buddhists, and Hindus. The other faith groups were Christians of all denominations, Catholics, Anglicans, Methodists, Presbyterians, Baptists and Protestants; Muslims, Jews, and the Indigenous people. All these faith traditions had come because they care about climate change and the environment. Some had already established ongoing projects to respond to climate change.
At the end of the convergence, we had truly become a new family with great networking skills to keep corresponding with each other. We were provided with training in media and communication skills. We left Rome with renewed strength, zeal and support to keep working until a sustainable climate change deal is reached. Each participant was to return home with a project proposal to implement in our respective countries.
I thank Brothers Kevin Cawley and Sean Moffett; Mrs. Losiana Vejuka and Mr. Gabriele Delmonaco of Boys and Girls Town Italy ; Brother Bob Novak and the entire Iona community for their unflinching support they gave me in the whole process of my trip to Rome. The time was short but it was worthwhile. I was also happy to visit our Generalate while in Rome. Our CLT members were also at the climate march in keeping with the pioneering and prophetic role our Congregation of Christian Brothers has played over the years.
To conclude, so much has happened in my life in a short period of time. I had a successful graduation in May, and in July, there was a summer symposium organized by Iona’s Hagan School of Business where I made a presentation on water and its implications on developing countries like Ghana. I also had a one month very educative internship in a natural park in New Rochelle. Lastly was the trip to Rome and of course the goodbyes before leaving for Ghana. I am so grateful to my brothers in the Iona Community, Saint Joseph's Community, the 21 Prior Terrace Community and others within the North American Province. My experience in the Iona Community and at the College was just incredible and I am grateful to all the brothers who greatly impacted my life with their rich and invaluable knowledge, wisdom and spirituality, love and humility. I treasure very much the warm sendoffs I got from the Iona Community, from Saint Josephs’ and the brothers from Cardinal Hayes Community, where Brs. Tyrone Davis and Billy Sherlock live; not to forget the farewells from personal friends of mine. I feel so deeply blessed, privileged and grateful for all that has happened.