By Sr. Mary Pabor, SNDdeN
Sr. Mary Pabor, SNDdeN
The Economy of Francesco is an event that sprang up as a response to the letter Pope Francis wrote to young economists and entrepreneurs worldwide on the 1st of May, 2019. Pope Francis desired to encounter young men and women in an event so as to bring about life rather than death to the society, inclusive as against exclusive economy, humane rather than dehumanizing life experiences. An economy that cares for the environment as against despoiling it. This event made the meeting of the Pope and the participants a possibility; a covenant to change today’s economy and to give a soul to the future economy was entered.
The Economy of Francesco is a prophetic call for young people to live and act differently in a fraternal manner, in a world that has a capitalism orientation. Pope Francis hopes for a new world where the earth will be cared for and its’ resources be fairly distributed to curb poverty. According to the Pope, the young people are the future of the world and the future is now. He maintains that young people who work in different institutions across the globe have to be conscientized to have a fraternal spirit, a common vision to care for the earth and to embrace a fair distribution policy of the earth’s resources. By so doing, poverty and inequality in the world will be mitigated.
The global event that was held in Assisi from September 22nd to September 24th was indeed a sign of hope for our world. Young people who were interested in committing themselves to a fraternal economy and care for the planet came from across the globe to make a commitment for a just planet for all. Indeed, the Economy of Francesco is a prophetic call. Just like the call for “care of the earth” (Laudato Si’) by Pope Francis, the Economy of Francesco is a process which sets out to reform the world through the youths. There is indeed hope for our world!
The expression of dissatisfaction regarding climate change, poverty, inequality and the passion to take action in the right direction so as to bring about solution shown by the young people gathered at Assisi brought so much consolation to me as a person. I believe that young people at different institutions and positions will implement the values of the Economy of Francesco at their various institutions across the globe.
There were also actions taken in form of projects to elevate poverty in three countries, namely Nigeria, Cuba and Brazil. This project is “The Farm of Francesco” aimed at lifting people living in poverty to live a better life.
FINANCE AND HUMANITY
In order to achieve the goal of the Economy of Francesco, the finance and humanity village (group) was formed among several other villages (groups). This focuses on the need to use finance as a source of improving the social well-being of people rather than maximizing profit. Finance is at the heart of most activities in the world. It has been used as a tool to exploit people and resources of the earth by some influential and powerful investors and politicians in the world to enrich themselves and their families while neglecting the basic and essential needs of the majority.
More than ever, the pandemic, war and climate change that the world experiences at this time has increased the number of people living in poverty. There is no equity and justice in the world’s economy and the world financial institutions play a critical role in maintaining a system in which the few benefit at the expense of the many on the planet. This is made possible through financing as the strongest form of support for economic activities by the issuance of bonds and shares, loans and direct investments; or through financial investments made on behalf of clients, for instance through commissions, dividends or price increase. By ignoring human and environmental rights in their financing and investment decisions, financial institutions hinder and prevent much-needed change and socio-environmental justice issues.
In expectation of a purely financial return, investments always directly or indirectly affect individuals, society and creation as a whole. According to Ailton Krenak, “When the last fish is in the waters and the last tree is removed from the land, only then will man realize that he is not able to eat his money.”
THE ROLE OF RELIGIOUS IN PROMOTING THE USE OF FINANCE FOR HUMAN WELL BEING
The consecrated life which is a prophetic life that brings hope to our world has a tremendous role to play in making the Economy of Francesco a means to reduce poverty and inequality in the world. As religious, the economy of Francesco and the movement of finance for humanity can be achieved via two approaches:
Firstly, the decisions we make as individuals and members of consecrated life in the financial ecosystem should be one that increases socio-environmental justice. The call of the economy of Francesco proposes that the economic result of investments made by institutions like ours (Consecrated life) not have profit as their sole criterion especially during this time of socio-environmental crisis. It was recommended as an action plan at the international level for the production and fair distribution of all that contributes to the people’s physical biological and spiritual needs, in accordance with a new ethical pattern of life, well-being and security; without commercializing human needs. There must also be a reform of the entire pattern of extraction and replacement of nature’s goods.
Secondly, as consecrated women, we are invited to promote the campaign of the need to use finance as a source of human well-being in our various apostolates and the societies where we live, in other words, a just financial investment campaign. Indeed, the EOF is a prophetic call! Our final statement in the village (group) of finance and humanity is: “We want to focus on the potential of finance to be an instrument for human integral development and care of creation, in light of Catholic Social Thought. We are committed to work locally and globally towards fraternity-driven financial markets, cultivating seed by seed and walking side by side.”
Personally, I am challenged to adopt the Economy of Francesco principles by implementing them in my apostolate and also educating the young entrepreneurs in our local community about the need to prioritize the social wellbeing of people over the maximization of profit. I, therefore, invite all religious to be part of this movement by creating awareness about the need of finance to develop human well-being. The three days of the event were packed full with so much inspiration and lessons to learn. One symbol that was used throughout the event that inspired me the most was the symbol of a green plant which represents life.
Sr. Mary Pabor and a particpant
I realised that there is no country, state or region of the world that is in isolation. Whatever happens or affects one country, also affects the other countries of the world. A typical example is the climate change that has tremendously affected the whole world. Irrespective of the country or state destroying the world, the destructive effects of it’s activities are felt by all directly or indirectly. I feel a deep need to care for the earth with a fraternal mind-set, bearing in mind that whatever I do affect not just those around me but the entire planet.
There was also a drama displayed, titled, “The dream,” where an investor did not really care about how his manager makes money for him. All the investor wanted was a successful project. Whether or not, the manager exploit people and pay them very little and used all the trees did not matter to the investor. During the drama, two scenes made a strong impact in me. Firstly, people, including those who were in wheelchair were exploited by the investor not minding their physical conditions. Secondly, the trees dried up because of the misuse and lack of care they received in order to make money.
The resultant effect of the abuse and misuse was that the manager could no longer complete the project on a long term basis and worse still, the people could no longer live good life. The sight of these scenes were unpleasant. I imagined myself to be a participant in such scenario but it was undesirable. As a result, my desire to have a deep conversion and embrace the new mission of the Economy of Francesco – care for the earth and an economy that is just for everyone – increased.
In Assisi, there were over two thousand young people from around the world who were gathered to honour the Pope’s invitation. Among these young people were about ten (10) young Sisters (Religious) from Italy, Romania, India, Kenya, Uganda, Ivory Coast and Nigeria. The commitment I saw in these people inspired me to be hopeful for a better world. The world’s leadership will gradually transit into the hands of the youths. And the question that confronts us is: How can we take care of the world differently and what legacies will the younger generations after us follow?
I saw myself as a hope not just for the world but also for the congregation – the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur – where I am still discerning my vocation to the Religious life. I am one of the young Sisters who will continue to make known the goodness of God especially in the most abandoned places, and therefore, I have an obligation to commit myself to creating life-giving communities where other Sisters will experience true home and happiness and be willing to be part of the mission God handed to St. Julie Billiart.
The presence of the Pope in our midst was the most blessed moment I had during the event. I felt the presence of a father who cared for a better world. A father who did not want the generation after him to suffer what he and his generation suffered. He was willing to also correct in a persuasive way the things the younger generation are doing that will not help the world. The pope was not the only elder figure there. There were other older priests, religious and lay people who were around to encourage the young people and wish us well in this prophetic mission of the Economy of Francesco. These moments we shared were very inspiring to me. While listening to their encouraging and inspiring words to all the participants, I wished that our local communities be filled with inspiring older sisters who can take it as a point of duty to encourage and help the younger sisters to grow and truly mature. I saw the elders at the event as people of experience and wisdom whom the younger ones could rely on for guide. Their presence inspired me so much to become a source of inspiration to the generation coming after me.
In addition, one virtue I admire so much from St. Julie which was at play in the course of the event is that of simplicity. I have come to fully understand that a simple person makes a lot of difference and impact in the lives of others. Life is already filled with so much complexities and simplicity helps it a great deal. I wish to contribute my own part to be able to make life liveable for those who encounter me rather than make it unbearable for them.
The event brings to mind the words of Jesus, “…I have come that they may have life and have it in abundance” (John 10:10). In other words, Jesus did not wish us a life of bits and pieces and the pope treading in the same path wishes our world a life that puts smiles on the faces of all by giving life and hope to all. The decisive point for me, therefore, is to be a reason why someone can smile and live happily in my community as a Sister of Notre Dame de Namur.
May St. Francis of Assisi who had the choice to be materially wealthy and live large but chose to become poor in order to live and work for the poor to bring them so much hope, intercede for us all as we respond to this prophetic call of Pope Francis to bring a new soul to the economy of the world.