By Fr. Thomas Pallithanam, SDB
Let me begin by quoting Pope Francis. When we celebrated Earth Day, which fell during the Easter season, the Pope reminded us, “It will still be necessary for our children to take to the streets to teach us the obvious: we have no future if we destroy the very environment that sustains us.”
Stories from across the globe speak of children and youth who long to make our world beautiful and livable. They are the warriors who challenge the might and indifference of both the political and the corporate class. For instance, Greta Thunberg is a household name. “Gretas” serve as inspirations and challenges to the powerful, where they live and make their voices heard because of one important factor—they speak truth to power. The accompanying collage shows school children in a faraway little village in Andhra Pradesh, India, campaigning for the protection and conservation of water bodies polluted by industries.
They are mobilizing themselves everywhere, often taking risks that “grown-ups” are unable or unwilling to grasp. Last year, I was privileged to join more than 80,000 young children and youth for the New York City Climate Strike March. Suddenly, the song “When the Saints Go Marching In” came to my mind. I thought we needed to word it differently: “Oh when the saints go marching ON!”
Will we be just bystanders? Will we be found wanting? They are the new saints, not marching into heaven, but hurrying, struggling, and battling to make this world a heaven for you and me. Can we, in whatever setting we find ourselves, inspire the young we work with to take up an environmental issue that confronts them? Can we mobilize our young people to extend solidarity to at least one environmental struggle/campaign this coming year? We will then be marching to “To Another World That Is Possible.”