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November 10, 2016

Responding To: The Global Challenge of Climate-Induced Migration

Expanding Our Limited Imaginations

Paulus Bambang Irawan

Saint John Paul II defined solidarity as “a firm and persevering determination to commit oneself to the common good” (SRS 38). The call for solidarity invites us to care for all people—not just those who live near or share the same nationality, religion, race, or gender as us. Solidarity is a powerful engine that drives us beyond our personal circles and encourages us to acknowledge our ties to different communities, as we are interdependent on one another. Through solidarity, individuals are not isolated entities, but rather parts of the fabric of the universe.  

Pope Francis continues Saint John Paul II’s vision of solidarity by emphasizing the Greco-Roman concept of the common good, as traditionally upheld by Catholic Social Teaching. In Laudato Si, the common good is not limited to the relationship between an individual and his/her community or state. Instead, the common good is a part of the cosmos, encompassing our intimate relationship with millions of beings in this universe. The common good is not based on how well we manage our community or nation, but instead, is centered on the good of the cosmos. Therefore, the cosmic common good guides solidarity and propels our firm and persevering determination to better the world.

President Tong’s call for global solidarity with the people of Kiribati is a test of our commitment to the common good. I must confess that before reading President Tong’s remarks, I did not know where Kiribati was, nor did I know anything about its history. After doing some research, I was shocked to discover that Kiribati is very close to my own country, Indonesia. But, the struggle in Kiribati is far from my imagination and the imagination of my people. President Tong’s plea for global solidarity regarding climate-induced migration led me to think about the effects of climate change more deeply. Through Tong’s words I realized that my failure to respect Mother Earth will have an impact not only on my own life, but also on the lives of people that I have never met before, like those in Kiribati who will have to leave their homes due to rising sea levels.

President Tong explained that “we have capacity to save [the] future.” If we truly want to live out the vision of the cosmic common good, we can no longer ignore the call for solidarity from the people of Kiribati and other parts of the world. We must reassess “our unsustainable lifestyles” and find alternative, “unconventional” strategies to combat climate change. For the people of Kiribati and for all of humanity, we must expand our limited imaginations and think about what the future will look like if we fail to protect the environment.  

Paulus Bambang Irawan, S.J., teaches social ethics and Catholic social thought at Sanata Dharma University in Indonesia.

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