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Michael Haddad (L) with Msgr. Lucio Ruiz of the Dicastery for Communication, and Pietro Sabastiani, Italian Ambassador to the Holy See Michael Haddad (L) with Msgr. Lucio Ruiz of the Dicastery for Communication, and Pietro Sabastiani, Italian Ambassador to the Holy See  (AFP or licensors)

Michael Haddad: Hope is a seed which must be preserved

Michael Haddad, paralysed from the chest down, is presented with a book blessed by Pope Francis which he will carry with him across the globe to Norway’s seed bank, in hope of preserving it for future generations.

By Francesca Merlo

Within the walls of Rome’s Palazzo Borromeo, home to the Italian Embassy to the Holy See, Michael Haddad stood and addressed around 50 people about the urgency of the climate emergency.

The climate emergency

He highlighted that, though it is a global phenomenon, its consequences are always felt at a local level. Yes, he said, we all suffer the consequences of climate change, but some will more than others. He was referring, in particular, to the 15% of the world’s population who are disabled. The largest minority, he said.

We have already reached the point of no return when it comes to climate change, said Michael. “But at the same time, we cannot despair”.

Faith, determination, hope

Michael himself stands and walks only with the help of an exoskeleton, after an accident left him paralysed from the chest down when he was only six-years-old.

But although he uses an exoskeleton, scientists find it hard to explain how Michael is able to stand, walk and even climb stairs in his condition. Michael swears by three things: faith, determination and hope.

At the event in the Italian Embassy on Friday, participants watched a video created by the UNDP, in which doctors and scientists spoke of Michael’s tenacity. They said he should not even be able to stand, let alone walk, or climb stairs.

Defeating all obstacles, for a great cause

As UN goodwill ambassador for environmental issues, Michael has undergone numerous missions, from short walks, to marathons to climbing mountains. One marathon in particular was to raise money for a hospital that had been bombed in Beirut, capital of his home country, Lebanon.

His next mission is travelling to the North Pole and taking with him a palm-sized edition of Pope Francis’ book Why are you afraid? Have you no faith? which collects the most significant words pronounced by the Pope during the Covid-19 pandemic. This version will be slightly different, however, as it has been blessed by Pope Francis himself.

Hope: a seed itself

Speaking to Vatican News after having presented his journey at the Italian Embassy, Michael explained that this book will be going to the bunker of the Svalbard Global Seed Vault, the world's largest and safest seed vault, a symbol of the safeguarding of the planet's biodiversity, located in Norway, 1,300 kilometres beyond the Arctic Circle.

Listen to the full interview

This book, too, is a seed said Michael, but “a different kind of seed”, a seed of hope which must be “spread all over the world”. That is why it must be preserved, he continued.

But along with this seed of hope, Michael is going on his journey to “invite people to communicate about the climate agenda.” It is important for us, and especially for world leaders, to start talking and acting towards the climate crisis.”

Also present at the meeting on Friday were representatives of various UN organisations, including UNDP, which co-hosted the event along with the Institute for Global Dialogue and Culture of Encounter, with the participation of the Vatican Dicastery for Communication.

Symbolic gesture

Michael’s upcoming walk is a symbolic gesture, planting the seed of hope in the coldest and most remote land of the earth.

It is made even more significant by being carried out by an ambassador of goodwill who, for years, has overcome all physical limitations to draw attention to urgent action on climate change, care for the common home and inclusion in the face of inequality.

17 December 2021, 17:11