Friday, May 13, 2016

David Choquehuanca, Foreign Minister of Bolivia and "Bien Vivir"

I had the honor of introducing David Choquehuanca, Foreign Minister of Bolivia, at William Camacaro's May 12th Alberto Lovera Bolivarian Circle event about "Bien Vivir," or "Living Well."  This is an indigenous concept of humanity living in harmony with nature that is so simple it may seem radical (which actually shouldn't surprise anyone, as the word radical means "to the root"). 

David's comments about Bien Vivir, Bolivian culture, and its earth-honoring traditions echoed Pope Francis' encyclical Laudato Si in profound ways. He spoke of a "crisis of values, morals and world outlook," the need for us to be integral human beings, living in alignment with Mother Nature / Mother Earth, the need for a focus on equality, the concept that we all belong to one big family, and the similarities and distinctions amongst humans and between humans and other aspects of nature. He spoke of many indigenous terms and concepts that show us the deep wisdom our world has fallen away from, such as the symbolism in the Bolivian flag that we must learn to nourish ourselves and seek nutritional sovereignty, not just learn how to eat.  Bien Vivir is possible for those committed to self determination, dialogue, and resisting capitalism but transcending socialism, to a new way of pushing forward to decolonization in order to support all of life.  This concept is best captured in the Quechua-Aymara term "Jallalla," which Pope Francis greeted crowds with when he visited Bolivia in 2015. The more we compare this indigenous wisdom with the recently unearthed spirituality of the Church that Pope Francis has unearthed and shared in Laudato Si, the more I believe we will see just how similar these worldviews are.

As we know, Pope Francis took his name from St. Francis of Assisi. St. Francis exuded and lived out a spirituality that displayed his kinship with all of creation - a worldview that is actually quite similar to the indigenous worldview David Choquehuanca spoke about. I find great value and importance in working to bring this spirituality back to a Church that needs our support to instill the teachings of Pope Francis in a meaningful way.

I am therefore grateful to be part of organizing a Laudato Si workshop series with the West Side Deanery, which includes Catholic Churches along the West Side of Manhattan in the Archdiocese of NY.  The next workshop, the second of a two-part focus on Chapter 5: Lines of Approach and Action, will be held on Tuesday, May 17 at 7pm at St. John the Baptist Church on West 30th St between 7th and 8th Avenues (refreshments at 6:30pm). We'll be sharing about several Catholic and religious organizations working to address climate change and other social justice issues, that people can collaborate with to bring various ecological initiatives back to their home parishes or organizations.

Another opportunity to continue the conversation is by participating in Tierra Sagrada (Sacred Earth, Sacred Trust) - a global day of worldwide, multifaith prayer and action for creation on June 12.  Organized by people of faith from Latin America, this day will mark six months after the Paris Climate Agreement, join the celebration of International Environment Day (June 5) and the first anniversary of the publication of Pope Francis' encyclical Laudato Si (June 18). While 175 countries have already signed the Paris Climate Agreement, "we are set for temperature rises well above the critical 1.5°C limit that governments agreed to, and that scientists, activists, and vulnerable communities are fighting for with the cry of '1.5°C to Stay Alive'." It seems we still have a long way to go to realize the vision of Bien Vivir that David Choquehuanca speaks about so eloquently. 

No comments: