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Community, faith, and action Reflections from the National Justice and Peace Conference

A man smiling in a hat

Written by Anna Barrett

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Back in July, we had the pleasure of meeting Anna Barrett at the National Justice and Peace Conference held in Derby. We invited her to share her story and experience of the event.

As someone raised a Catholic, I have been to many Catholic events and retreats, all of which have been useful and inspiring. The majority of these events have had a focus on an individual’s spirituality and the teachings of the church, which, while deeply important, has lacked that which I personally see as the most important aspect of my faith: a focus on justice, peace, and activism. A few weeks ago, I attended the National Justice and Peace Network’s yearly conference, and despite a wide variety of context clues, like its name, my expectations for this conference were low. Fortunately, however, I was very pleasantly surprised!

Anna (left) chatting with other delegates at the conference.

This September I am going into my third and final year of a degree in Horticulture and Plant Science at the Eden Project. As a 21-year-old, the climate crisis is an issue I feel very keenly, not just for myself and my future children, but also for those suffering from its effects in the present moment. The urgency of our need as humans to deal with this unarguable disaster has been reflected and encouraged in many areas of my life; from my degree to the media I consume, but not in my day to day faith. In all the masses I have been to, only one has contained a homily with an environmental focus. I have always found this strange, not only has Pope Francis dedicated an entire encyclical to the care of our common home, but part of our mission as Catholics is to care for the world’s most vulnerable and fight injustice. It is certain that those who have contributed the least to climate change will suffer the most from its consequences, be able to cope with them the least and be in the most need of help. Faith and a passion for fighting the climate crisis seem to me to go hand in hand so well, and this contradiction that I see within the church has been a real issue for me with my faith.

The urgent challenge to protect our common home includes a concern to bring the whole human family together to seek a sustainable and integral development, for we know that things can change. The Creator does not abandon us; he never forsakes his loving plan or repents of having created us. Humanity still has the ability to work together in building our common home. Here I want to recognize, encourage and thank all those striving in countless ways to guarantee the protection of the home which we share.

Pope Francis, Laudato Si', 13

However, this weekend at the NJPN conference allowed me to realise that my perception of this problem lay not just with the Church, but also with the people I had chosen to surround myself with in previous years. At this conference, I met people who not only shared views of mine, but also the same passion for enacting them within the church, despite the glacial pace it moves at.

Fr Kevin sat on a mule
Fr Kevin riding his mule through the mountains

Ours is and needs to be an active faith, and this conference infused me with the energy I needed to go further with many other things in my life. I met many other like-minded people who I am still in contact with, (one of whom is the reason that I am writing this). I attended talks by exceedingly knowledgeable people who challenged my preconceived notions about economics, Laudato Si’, COP26, the arms trade, ecological conversion, and crucially, the church. I met other young Catholics who also believed that despite its many flaws, the core of the church is good, and worth sticking with and changing from the inside. And most importantly, I have carried the energy and passion of the many people I met there into my life and activism going forward.

You can catch up on the conference here.

A man smiling in a hat

About the Author

Anna Barrett is a third-year student in Horticulture and Plant Science at the Eden Project.

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