Sacred Lands

JustFaith Ministries’ new 8-week program, Sacred Land: Food and Farming is the first in their new eco-justice series. In the Fall of 2020, I had the opportunity to participate in a pilot of this program, that “explores our relationship to the land and our responsibility for it” – namely through access to land, and the cultivation and distribution of food:

Small groups learn how food and farming practices affect the climate crisis, marginalized communities, and their own health and spiritual wellbeing. Participants also explore practical ways to implement sustainable food and farming practices in the communities and the institutions of which they’re a part.

The program emphasizes indigenous wisdom through reading the book Braiding Sweetgrass, reviews Pope Francis’ 2015 encyclical Laudato Si: On Care for Our Common Home, and includes reading and watching several other texts and videos related to food systems and food justice. The combination of these elements is particularly exciting to me as I believe there is so much alignment between indigenous wisdom and Franciscan spirituality that can be raised up to inspire work that makes our food system more equitable and sustainable. 

Together with leaders of the Southern California and Boston Franciscan Solidarity Tables, we are establishing a Sacred Lands Coalition that will engage the work that the JustFaith eco-justice series inspires us to do.  We have a preamble based on a model used by the Way of the Council, that starts off stating:

The Sacred Lands Coalition is a fellowship of people transforming ourselves and our relationship to the land through a power greater than ourselves.  Our experiences show us that we must live in harmony with the rest of creation for the continual existence of humankind and all beings on Earth. We are fed by the wisdom traditions that show us how to live interdependently with Mother Earth.

The Sacred Lands Coalition believes in the importance of putting faith into action and supporting individuals in carrying out work in their communities after participating in the JustFaith Sacred Land program. The Coalition is a network of organizations and individuals offering a supportive community for people interested in the ongoing task of learning to live interdependently with Mother Earth, thereby improving our food systems and public health. In St. Francis of Assisi’s Canticle of the Creatures which is the basis of Laudato Si, St. Francis refers to our ‘Sister, Mother Earth’:

“‘LAUDATO SI’, mi’ Signore’ – ‘Praise be to you, my Lord’. In the words of this beautiful canticle, Saint Francis of Assisi reminds us that our common home is like a sister with whom we share our life and a beautiful mother who opens her arms to embrace us. ‘Praise be to you, my Lord, through our Sister, Mother Earth, who sustains and governs us, and who produces various fruit with coloured flowers and herbs.’” [Laudato Si, 1]

The Sacred Lands Coalition recognizes that sacred land produces food that is essential for our health and well-being, and that it is the responsibility of the consumer to create demand for this food.

The Coalition believes the eco-spirituality of St. Francis of Assisi and indigenous wisdom are foundational to advancing policy, systems and environmental changes for improved human relationships with land and creation.

The Coalition, while based in the U.S., stands in solidarity with our brothers and sisters in other countries and their indigenous wisdom. The Coalition acknowledges that ecological protection cannot be constrained by geopolitical boundaries, and that many countries are filled with people who have immigrated from different countries and continents, no longer living on the lands inhabited by their ancestors, while others are living on their ancestral land but it has been claimed and co-opted by colonizing governments. While the book of Genesis in the Bible speaks of creation as very good and tells humankind to be stewards and have dominion over creation, this call has been misconstrued as giving humans carte blanche to dominate and exploit creation.

The Coalition recognizes that the 15th century series of papal documents, the Doctrine of Christian Discovery, contributed to perpetration of colonization and the trans-Atlantic slave trade, leading to native peoples being violently taken away from their lands, enslaved, and killed, violating the sanctity of life and creation. This mentality of scarcity and domination, rather than the abundance of Mother Earth and understanding humankind as part of creation, still infiltrates society today and contributes to racial and ethnic health disparities, not to mention civil unrest. Therefore, this Coalition will work towards justice, healing and reconciliation, by returning to the wisdom found in humans living interdependently with the rest of creation.

If you are interested in participating in the ongoing coalition, please complete this form.