During the recent World Youth Day in Portugal, one of the 10 young people who had the unique opportunity to enjoy lunch with Pope Francis, Peruvian Clara Yacolca Farfan, 24, told Catholic News Service, “Some of us asked for his advice on how young people today can face some issues that are difficult, that are very talked about – we talked about euthanasia, abortion.” Pope Francis responded with these words: “Defend life!”
“Defend life” must indeed be the clarion call of the followers of the God of Life. Because like no other time in history has human life, animal life, plant life, ocean life, life in all forms, and the earth which sustains life, come under such fierce human attack.
Globally, there are 73 million unborn babies aborted each year, tens of thousands of war deaths, 100 million refugees and displaced persons, over 5,000 fellow Christians martyred every year, and 800 million hungry people living in extreme poverty – with over 49 million of them on the brink of starvation (see: https://www.crs.org/stories/global-emergency-update-june-2022).
And if that is not horrible enough, and indeed it is, consider that the Russian, Ukrainian, U.S., NATO war has caused untold suffering, death and destruction with no end in sight.
The ongoing flood of weapons – including President Biden’s recent shipment of U.N. outlawed cluster bombs to Ukraine – is not only ensuring that the heartless flow of blood will continue but is putting the world on the brink of nuclear war. And this is no exaggeration.
Attempting to convince all of us just how close the world is to experiencing the madness of nuclear war, The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists have placed their famous “Doomsday Clock” at 90 seconds to midnight. The closest it has ever been placed to global catastrophe.
The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists have not only based their alarming wake-up call on the very real threat of nuclear war, but also on the scientific undeniable reality of accelerating disastrous climate change (see: https://thebulletin.org/doomsday-clock/).
July 2023 was the earth’s hottest month ever recorded, as measured by the United Nations’ World Meteorological Organization. And probably the hottest month in 120,000 years (see: https://www.earth.com/news/july-was-earths-hottest-month-in-120000-years/).
The increasing numbers and intensity of disastrous weather events like hurricanes, typhoons and tornadoes are due in large part to climate change, which the unrelenting human burning of oil, coal and gas is hugely responsible for.
From torrential flooding rains in India and Vermont, to starvation-causing bone-dry droughts in the Horn of Africa, to raging wildfires throughout Canada, climate change’s deadly devastation is increasingly far outpacing the irresponsibly slow, weak response of government and corporate leaders who refuse to fully commit the vast financial and human resources needed to highly accelerate an emergency full speed ahead transition from fossil fuels to clean renewable solar, wind, geothermal and wave energy.
Most people living in the more economically developed world who have not been affected yet by these increasing climate disasters appear not to care that our global home is baking.
Humanity is facing a choice we cannot escape. It is literally a choice between life and death. Will we continue to inadequately respond to the suffering and death of our fellow human beings and our deeply wounded earth-home? Or will we pray and work far harder than ever to “defend life” as Pope Francis urges us to do?”
The biblical author of Deuteronomy powerfully puts God’s ultimate choice before us: “I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. Choose life, then, that you and your descendants may live.”
Tony Magliano is an internationally syndicated Catholic social justice and peace columnist. He is available to speak at diocesan or parish gatherings. Tony can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.