Three olive trees were planted in the middle of a world congress

International youth congress on post-pandemic issues and care for the Common Home brought together renowned experts and social, political and religious leaders.

Speaking from their own countries yet united by the same message, Fabiola Yáñez and Martine Moïse, First Ladies of Argentina and Haiti, respectively, and Augusto Zampini, Secretary of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development at the Vatican, planted an olive tree as a symbol of their commitment to protect our common home.

This gesture was made as part of the International Congress for the Care of the Common Home, a virtual, global and multidisciplinary meeting dedicated to the educational implementation of the papal encyclical letter Laudato Si’, which brought together researchers, teachers, parents and young people from all over the world on 3 December.

Notable participants at the meeting included as Ingrid Neuque, from the Mhuysqa (Muisca) indigenous community of the Resguardo de Cota-Cundinamarca in Colombia; Tania Ávila Meneses, theologian from the Oruro Department in Bolivia; Yesica Patiachi Tayori, leader of the Harakbut indigenous people of the Peruvian Amazon, and James Mwenda, conservationist of the rhino unit at the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in central Kenya, among others, participated in the meeting.

«From the depths of my being, from my community and from my territory, I feel that many of the situations that have led us to disharmony as a society are due to the fact that we have begun to fragment what nature brought together», said Ingrid Neuque at the round table discussion, Vision of indigenous peoples. «I see this encyclical of Laudato Si’ not only as a social encyclical, but also as a manifesto, a statement in favour of life itself, in favour of the call to reconnect,» she concluded.

The Congress ended on a high note with the inauguration of the first Scholas Laudato Si’ Observatory, on the banks of the Riachuelo, in the municipality of Lomas de Zamora (Argentina). There, Fabiola Yáñez was joined by the world directors of Scholas José María del Corral and Enrique Palmeyro, the mayor of Lomas de Zamora, Martín Insaurralde, and the head of the diplomatic mission of the Haitian Embassy in Argentina, Jean Claude Cenatus, among other representatives from the academic, business and trade union fields.

In addition to Argentina and the Vatican City, Haiti was specially represented on this day thanks to the experiences that young Haitians from Scholas are carrying out, such as the recycling project through art Pibèl Poubèl, aimed at overcoming the grave problem of plastic dumping on their coasts, and environmental protection awareness- raising campaigns in schools, among others.

Message from the First Lady of Haiti on the occasion of the launch of the Laudato Si’ Observatory. (Video)

«What a pleasure to know that there are people who want to live and implement the teachings of Pope Francis in the encyclical Laudato Si’, said Augusto Zampini, Secretary of the Vatican’s Dicastery for Human Development, at the beginning of the Congress.

«We are part of nature, of God’s creation, who gave us a unique responsibility, that of caring for it. There are certain elements of ecosystems that cannot be touched, because they change the structure that allows life; without it there is nothing to work with and nothing to care for,» he shared.

«In Laudato Si’ the Pope does not speak of adjusting some things there… others there…: no, he speaks of an ecological conversion at the root, hence the ‘radical’, hence the importance of the symbol of the implantation of the tree, a new source of life, and for that we have to change at the root what damages the Common Home, and what is it? Among other things: an extractivist mentality, which extracts from nature and from human beings… which also generates a throwaway culture… We have to change it for a culture of encounter, because when I meet with others I cannot be indifferent to the pain of others», he added.

Message from Augusto Zampini for the International Congress for the care of the common home (Video)

Laudato Si’ Observatory for students around the world

The observatory that has been inaugurated in Argentina expects to welcome students and trainers from 130 universities from all over the world to exchange experiences on the care of our common home, in the light of the papal encyclical letter Laudato Si’. Based in an area of Villa Fiorito, on the banks of the Riachuelo, an emblematic area for environmental recovery, this space will be equipped with classrooms, vegetable gardens, sports areas and everything necessary for young people to carry out their work to raise awareness about caring for the earth.

By holding the Congress and inaugurating the Observatory, Scholas continues to respond to the call of Pope Francis who, for this year’s World Environment Day, launched the University of Meaning and called on Scholas through young people, teachers, parents and researchers, as well as leaders from around the world, to work together for the Global Educational Pact.

This also consolidates the experience gathered by Scholas in recent years through educational experiences and programmes. Such is the case of Scholas Huertas [Scholas Orchard], where students from rural and agro- technical schools work together to apply techniques to cultivate vegetable gardens without the use of agrochemicals, an invitation not only to produce their own food, but also to understand the importance of the partnerships between biodiversity and the cycles of nature, and to consume a healthy diet.

More backgrounds

Also noteworthy are the «Common House» experiences, an agreement with scout associations in countries such as Mexico and Bolivia, where youths from schools in different socio-economic contexts and scout groups work to address the socio-environmental crisis affecting our planet..

Students from the Velarde Primary School and the Agricultural School, during an experience of the «Huertas» Program, in Salta, Argentina (2016).

It is also worth highlighting the Scholas International Indigenous Youth Encounter in June 2019, where young people from various indigenous ethnic groups around the world had a one-on-one meeting with Pope Francis and the opportunity to share with him their dreams, their pain and the pain of the common home, which is one and the same.

Wezum, the Scholas Youth Observatory, also dedicated its second «Scholas Talks» experience to this topic at the end of last year. It consisted of a series of virtual chats that gathered young leaders of indigenous communities, academics, social organisations and students to discuss the importance and the meaning of caring for the «Common Home». Watch videos: Scholas Talks “Caring for the common home”.

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