Climate Change & Human Displacement:

an appeal to listen to the cry of the Earth and the cry of the poor

On April 8th, the Scalabrini International Migration Institute co-organized the webinar Climate Change and Human Displacement. This was the third webinar in the international and ecumenical Migration, Ethics, and Theology webinar series, an ongoing conversation aimed at promoting dialogue on migration between theologians, migration scholars, church and civic leaders, activists, as well as refugees and migrants themselves. The webinar discussed how climate change is a factor in human displacement and how the Church and society should respond to this climate crisis.

Kaia Ronsdal, one of the organizers of the series from the University of Oslo, Faculty of Theology, introduced the theme of the webinar, emphasizing the need for interdisciplinary discussion on this topic. Veronica De Sanctis, Project Manager of SIMI and moderator of this webinar, introduced the speakers present. Unfortunately, Prof. Arne Johan Vetlesen, who would give field examples on the topic, could not be present. The keynot speaker, Rev. Dr. Joshtrom Isaac Kureethadam – chair of Philosophy of Science and Director of the Institute of Social and Political Sciences at the Salesian Pontifical University in Rome –  presented two critical texts on the climate crisis: Laudato Si’, a 2015 encyclical Letter by Pope Francis on care for our common home, and its sequel 2023 Laudate Deum. Laudato Si’ was such an impactful environmental text, as it was not solely addressed to believers, but to all Churches, religions, and people of good will. It was an open invitation to care about our planetary home, before it is too late. The core of Laudato Si’ was an integral vision to the climate crisis, stating that “human life is grounded in three fundamental and closely intertwined relationships: with God, with our neighbour, and with the earth itself” (Laudato Si’, 66). Fr. Kureethadam shared how the following text, Laudate Deum, explicitly used the word “climate crisis” in order to refer to climate change, as in this apostolic exhortation Pope Francis argued that the world has not adequately responded to this crisis and has not offered our world the care it needs. It was a heartfelt appeal to come to action together.

Fr. Kureethadam shared three main reflections on these texts. Firstly, in the texts, Earth is referred to as “our common home”. Fr. Kureethadam reflected that, indeed, we should not see the Earth as our “environment” only, but also as “our own home”. This also reminds us that action is needed in order to protect this home. Secondly, the texts foster a holistic understanding of the climate crisis, wherein we should integrate social questions and questions on justice too, “so as to hear both the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor(Laudato Si’, 49, italics in original). Indeed, by studying the texts carefully, Fr. Kureethadam found that Laudato Si’ is more of a social encyclical than one on climate change, as the texts emphasize that the climate crisis affects all areas of human welfare and leads to major human displacement. In discussing this, Fr. Kureethadam referred to several other studies too, demonstrating the gravity of the implications of climate change. Herein, he discussed the “ecological apartheid” into which humanity is drifting, as the climate crisis – particularly caused by “developed” countries – will mainly affect the “least developed” countries. Among the later group, more vulnerable groups such as women, children, nomads, and indigenous communities will suffer disproportionately. Fr. Kureethadam argued that after some point, there is no point of return, and many areas of the world will become uninhabitable. Therefore, we should take collective action. Indeed, his third point centered around the collective action needed “to rebuild our common home”, a shared synodal journal in which “we should listen to the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor.” He concluded by offering hope: we can still act, and we need to still act, for example through the Laudato Si’ Action Platform (

After a round of questions, Scalabrinian Gioacchino Campese – professor of theology of human mobility at the Pontifical Urbaniana University in Rome and working with SIMI – reflected on Fr. Kureethadam’s presentation, again stressing the use of the wording “common home” for our earth. This terminology makes the climate crisis an issue for everyone inhabiting this home. Thus, we should foster collaboration between communities, countries, and religions in taking action against the climate crisis. The focus on our “common home” as a human issue could also counter resistance and/or controversy surrounding the climate crisis. Prof. Campese ended the discussion by repeating the seven Laudato Si’ goals: response to the cry of the earth; response to the cry of the poor; ecological economics; adoption of simple lifestyles; ecological education; ecological spirituality; and community engagement & participatory action. This holistic approach could offer hope to the Earth as well as to the poor.

 by Annemarijn Cozijnsen, intern at SIMI

Recordings of the webinar are available here:

Previous webinars

Next webinars

  • October 28, 2024 – Migration and development: a Christian perspective
  • March 31, 2025 – TBA