Rita (Belletty) and I had a wonderful time at the recent National Justice and Peace Conference in Swanwick, Derbyshire.
Speakers included our very own Clare Dixon OBE (Head of our Latin America Team at CAFOD), theologian Dr Gemma Simmonds, Sarah Teather MP (Chair of the All Parliamentary Group on Refugees) and award winning broadcaster and film maker Mary Colwell.
The theme was ‘Called to life in all its fullness: accepting the responsibility of our baptism’ and the conference aimed to empower lay people to do just that, providing us all with an opportunity to share our life experiences and renew our commitment to justice and peace.
Around 300 participants heard from Clare, who is also an advisor to the Department for Justice and Solidarity of the Latin American Bishops’ Council and a Trustee of the Archbishop Romero Trust. We listened intently as she spoke about the many prophetic witnesses she has met and had the honour to work with over her 30 years experience of working in Latin America. It was really moving to hear her recall so many stories of prophets who have been and still are beacons of hope for us all.
Mary Colwell, a producer at the BBC Natural History Unit, called for concern for the common good to include God’s creation.
She quoted eco-theologian Thomas Berry who said that humanity has broken “the great conversation with Earth” and urged that “we must start talking again, and listening”.
“I know I am preaching to the converted when I say it is being true to our baptism to care for the life and landscapes that make up planet Earth” she said and urged everyone to “keep talking about it, work for it, love it, enthuse people about it, write letters of complaint when things are wrong, write letters of praise when organisations or governments or church leaders act”.
Then, just as she finished speaking, all the lights suddenly went out as a huge thunderstorm took place over our heads!
Sixteen workshops were held on the Saturday, covering topics such as Prison Ministry, Water, New Economics, Ethical Investment, Poverty in Britain and Human Trafficking.
Maria Elena Arana (our CAFOD Campaigns Outreach Coordinator) held a special climate change workshop where participants had the opportunity to take our For the love of action, which we’re promoting as apart of The Climate Coalition, and hear about our forthcoming campaign which will launch in the autumn at our Supporters’ Meeting in this diocese.
We also had the chance to make our very own climate pledge on the CAFOD stall inviting everyone to state what they were already doing to cut their carbon footprints or set themselves a challenge to do more.
A fabulous conference and so valuable in helping us learn more about the fantastic breadth of work going on at the moment! It really did help me recharge my batteries and get ready to continue the struggle!
For more information on the National Justice and Peace Network, visit their website. The NJPN conferences are held each year in July and we already have the date for the next one (17-19 July) which will be entitled ‘The things that make for peace’. Go if you can!