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Helping typhoon survivors not enough: Philippine nun

Two years after Haiyan, church needs to tackle the causes of climate change

Joe Torres, Manila

Joe Torres, Manila

Published: November 10, 2015 05:44 AM GMT

Updated: November 09, 2015 07:48 PM GMT

Helping typhoon survivors not enough: Philippine nun

An environmental activist lights a candle to remember those who perished in Typhoon Haiyan and to highlight concerns about climate change on Nov. 6. (Photo by Joe Torres)

The Catholic Church was able to serve some 1.8 million people affected by Typhoon Haiyan in the central Philippines two years ago.

But providing aid to displaced families is not enough, says a Catholic nun who works with grassroots organizations helping the country's poor communities.

"The church responded, but there is a need for a more comprehensive response," said Sister Maureen Catabian of the Good Shepherd Sisters.

Sister Catabian, who works with the Task Force on Urban Conscientization of the Association of Major Religious Superiors of the Philippines, said some church groups look at disaster and climate change issues differently.

"It would be good to look into the root causes of climate change," she told ucanews.com ahead of an Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Manila on Nov. 18 and the U.N climate change conference in Paris later in the month.

"We have to look for climate justice," she said, admitting that some church people look at the issue of climate change as the "preservation of the species."

"We should look at the accountability of countries responsible for carbon emissions that cause global warming," Catabian said.

The nun also highlighted the need for people to act and express their opposition to the "abuse and exploitation" that have been suffered by the environment.


'People’s Climate Platform'

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On Nov. 5, some 200 community leaders, workers, environmental activists, and church people gathered for what they called a "People's Environmental Conference" to launch a series of "climate actions" leading up to the APEC summit and the U.N. climate change conference in Paris.

The meeting launched a "People's Climate Platform," a 12-point policy framework that demands a legally binding international climate agreement, drastic carbon emissions cuts by polluter countries and private companies, and the reversal of destructive and pollutive government globalization policies.

Clemente Bautista, national coordinator of the Kalikasan People's Network for the Environment, claimed the Philippine government is being "complicit with the world's top polluter and plunderer countries and companies" that dominate the APEC and U.N. programs.

He said the Philippines has allowed foreign-driven fossil fuels to dominate 86 percent of approved future power projects in the Philippines.

Various groups have announced a series of protests during the weeklong meeting of heads of state in Manila from Nov. 17 to 20.

Environmental activists and church people light candles on Nov. 6 in  of the victims of Typhoon Haiyan. (Photo by Joe Torres)


Church on the side of the poor

"The church should be on the side of the poor and do concrete action," Sister Catabian said.

She said that church leaders should join the people in pushing for accountability.

"Faith and life is connected. The faith that we profess should be seen in our actions. The church should be sensitive with the issues of the people and journey with them," Sister Catabian said.

"How can we preach our faith if we do not understand the situation of the people?"

Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila echoed Sister Catabian's call.

"Being a church of the poor is not just a socioeconomic project," the cardinal said at the closing ceremonies of the observance of the "Year of the Poor" of the Archdiocese of Manila on Nov. 7.

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