It seems to be the season for summits! Some world leaders are currently in Egypt at the COP 27 on climate change. PM Albanese has already spent time at the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN), the G20 and the Asia Pacific Economic Community (APEC).
Even if representatives of Indigenous peoples and poor and vulnerable communities are permitted to attend side events organised to coincide with these meetings of world leaders, the sense I get when I talk to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and Pacific Islanders who raise the money and make the big effort to travel to these events is that they are very frustrated, even angry, at the lack of genuine engagement by world leaders with their concerns and perspectives on big issues like the climate crisis. Even though they may be physically close to the centre of the action at these big summits, they are left in no doubt that they remain firmly on the extreme peripheries of power. The Church needs to put those on the peripheries of power at the very heart of our concern. They have voices and ideas about what overcoming their marginalisation looks like. We need to be there, where they are, not to tell them what to do, but to accompany them in their struggle to be heard.
We, too, have much to gain in this process of “un-centring” ourselves. Jesus is with us all the way as we leave our comfort zones to be where people struggling for dignity are, but Jesus is also waiting for us when we join vulnerable and poor people on the peripheries.
We walk together on journeys towards the liberation and peace which Jesus promises us. We don’t have the answers, but, when we take the risk of going to the streets to be with our sisters and brothers, together we will find some of the answers, together we will learn, and together we will make some progress with Jesus’ help.
Office for Justice, Ecology and Peace
Australian Catholic Bishops Conference