By Chuks Nwachukwu, sponsored to attend by SPARK Social Justice

The 45th Annual conference of the National Justice and Peace Network was held on 21 – 23 July 2023 at the Hayes conference centre in Swanwick, Alfreton Derby. With the Theme ‘Sustainability? Survival or Shutdown’. It was a very great weekend filled with interesting and interactive sessions. This is my second time at the conference, and it was worthwhile.  The conference speakers were very resourceful and really inspired everyone. Brian O’Toole who is the director of the Presentation sisters Justice Desk for Ireland and England spoke on the importance of embracing the sustainable development goals. He furthered reiterated on the need to heed to the cry of the earth and to the people kept poor.

Christine Allen, who is the Director of CAFOD, in her contribution said, “Work for justice is part of preaching the Gospel.” Speaking about the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) she opined that  Catholic Social Teaching went further by addressing the sin of structural injustice. Adding that some people are rich because some people are poor and such injustice is clearly seen in our economics.

Sir John Battle, who is currently chair of Leeds Diocesan Justice and Peace Commission, urged the Catholic church to shift towards action on climate and poverty. He suggested that it was not enough for the bishops to ask people to support the common good. “We need consistent and sustained advocacy action” if the Church is to be a catalyst for change. He told delegates “Advocacy attempts to understand the causes of poverty and injustice, and to work on behalf of the poor to change the structures of injustice.” He furthermore said, “a Church that takes risks” is needed rather than “softly whispered backroom lobbying”. He suggested that Catholics should use Laudato Si’ and Fratelli Tutti to combat those seeking to create a division between care for the earth and care for the poor.

SPARK Social Justice logoI am grateful to SPARK and the Leeds Justice and Peace Commission for the opportunity to be at this year’s conference. I urge young people to join me as advocates for our common home.