Davos Summit: Challenging inequalities with the help of Laudato si'
By Mario Galgano
Talks at the start of the World Economic Forum (WEF) have focused on overcoming the Covid pandemic and the current war in Ukraine. To combat global inequality, the aid organization Oxfam has called for greater taxation of corporations and the very wealthy. According to Oxfam, the consequences of the pandemic and rapidly rising prices are fueling global poverty.
Parallel to the WEF, the Global Solidarity Fund, bringing together Catholic religious communities from around the world, is organizing discussion forums in Davos during these days.
On Sunday evening, the significance of the Pope's encyclical Laudato si' was discussed among other topics. In addition, the participants opened a photo exhibit conceived by Italian writer Lia Beltrami. The exhibit was displayed under the colonnades near St. Peter's Square in February. The photos show the "concrete effects" of challenges facing people and the environment, as described in Pope Francis' encyclical.
In an interview with Vatican News, Sr. Patricia Murray, Executive Secretary of the International Union of Superiors General (UISG), pointed out how important it is for religious communities to be in dialogue with business people.
"Only when we are in dialogue can we make a difference," Sr. Murray noted adding that she very much welcomes the talks in Davos, because such discussion forums offer the opportunity to speak directly with those responsible. "They are very open to our concerns," Sr. Murray said.
Here below is a full transcript of the interview with Sr. Patricia Murray
Q: How is it important that you are here in Davos? And what is the message that you want to give to the people here for the World Economic Forum?
The UISG (International Union of Superiors General) represents hundreds of thousands of sisters who work on the ground with those who are most needy, whether it's migrants and refugees or those who are in dire poverty, those who lack health care or any education - the list is so long, those who are trafficked or exploited in any way.
I think we can bring the message that there are sisters on the ground, that there is this enormous network of women religious and men religious also who work directly with those who are most in need. We all agree that networks and partnerships are the way to go to bring about change. And in a sense, at the World Economic Forum, you meet people of money. You also meet people who have other kinds of resources which can be used to actually bring about change.
So, we have networks that can use resources that are there because there are so many good people who want to see systemic change and want to focus on some aspect, whether it's the environment, whether it's refugees or migrants or whether it's poverty or the lack of water or maternal health. There are sisters involved in all those areas. And as it is, the UISG itself has been promoting an initiative called "Sowing Hope for the Planet", which is aimed at mobilizing the sisters of the world to make Pope Francis's encyclical, Laudato si’, a lived reality, not just a nice text, but that the recommendations that are in there would become real and really uplift people who are needful.
And Pope Francis, he even talks about partnerships. He's saying that among men and women of goodwill, there's a desire to bring about change in the world. So why not get together? So, I think the faith based community, the churches, religious groups, religious orders have a critical role to play precisely because they're trusted by people. And they can be a bridge. And I think they have networks and expanding networks that can be very useful.
Like today, when this gentleman spoke about the Worldwide Alzheimer's Initiative, we've just begun an initiative at UISG in collaboration with other religious conferences to look at the whole challenge of Alzheimer's among religious sisters, but not just among religious sisters, but also in the areas in which they live. What can we do to bring resources that are needed, to bring education so that we know how to diagnose properly and how to support women and men and even quite young people who are living with dementia or Alzheimer's today. So, there's so much we have in common. And I think one of our big learnings over the last number of years has been, never do alone what we can do together, and now never do alone what we can do with others.
Q: And how is this collaboration with people who came from the economic and financial worlds? Do we think they they are interested about the message from Pope Francis and your message?
You heard people today quoting the message clearly from Pope Francis who really are inspired by both the SDGs, but also see that Pope Francis brings the kind of moral responsibility. It's not just a feel good factor, but we have a moral responsibility to bring those who are at the margins to the center of our lives and our mission and our focus. And so many companies have programs of social responsibility that in a sense, if we can partner together with faith-based groups, the different churches, the different faith communities who have the trust of the people, I think a lot more can be achieved. And I think we all feel a moral responsibility in different ways.
Pope Francis invites us to a synodal moment now. Now that's for the Church, in a sense, to collaborate, to discern, to really decide where the priorities are, and then the call to action. And I think this synodal process is not just for the Catholic Church, it's actually for the world. And I would hope that we as religious sisters can be very much part of mobilizing people. The ground for change because in a sense, change often is small. It begins, it's the mustard seed of the Gospel. But the mustard seeds joined together, and often in time create something very substantial. So, I think that's what we're challenged to do.
Q: We see now that the problems in the world are very interconnected. We had pandemic, we have problems with pollution and now with the war...
All these things are interconnected. And peacebuilding. You know, if you look at the vision of the shalom of the scriptures, it's fullness of life for every person, fullness of life for the planet, fullness of life for the global community. So, in a way, that's a challenge that we feel deeply in our own hearts, that you want people to live with dignity, you want too that people are just not numbers or statistics. But we know their stories. We know their suffering. Because if I know what the suffering of my brother and sister, I’ll do something about.
So, I think we have a moral obligation as religious on the ground to tell the stories. And it's not about ourselves or the work we're doing. It's about helping those on the ground actually to raise their own voices, but to be alongside them in bringing that voice to forums like these. You know, also, I think in the future, those who are most affected need to be here at a forum like this.
But this is part of the process of bringing the religious community, bringing the faith-based community at different levels. Vatican Radio is here. Members of the Laudato si’ movement are here. Members of the Dicastery are here. So, these are various aspects of the Church life. Together, but also reaching out with good partners, we can make a difference.