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Xavier University – Ateneo de Cagayan (XU), through the Social Development Office, convened experts for the Food and Water Security: A Laudato Si’ Forum, highlighting the university’s commitment to Pope Francis’ 7-year Journey Towards Integral Ecology.  Held on 9 May 2024 at the XU AVR 1, the forum forms part of the Social Development Week 2024 celebration and was facilitated by Jhon Louie Sabal, Chairperson for the Economics Department and member of the Laudato Si’ University Committee.

In his opening remarks, Engr Dexter Lo, Vice President for Social Development and Chair of the XU Laudato Si’ University Committee, emphasized the significant step that XU took in 2022 as it enrolled to become a Laudato Si’ University under the Vatican’s Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development. VP Lo highlighted that the forum convened experts from different fields to provide awareness on the connection of food and water security to various societal gaps and challenges, particularly centered on the seven (7) Laudato Si’ Goals (LSG).

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[In Photo] Engr Mark Alexis Sabines, Director of Masterson Food and Agricultural Development (MFAD), provided the forum’s keynote
presentation focused on Food and Water Security: The Cry of the Poor and The Earth

Engr Mark Alexis Sabines, Director of the Masterson Food and Agricultural Development (MFAD), provided the keynote presentation focused on “Food and Water Security: The Cry of the Poor and The Earth”. Sabines delved into the complex challenges surrounding food and water security. With fervor and urgency, Sabines illuminated the harsh realities faced by communities grappling with hunger and water scarcity, stressing the inherent human rights tied with access to these necessities. Sabines’ impassioned plea resonated profoundly: "This is the challenge to our youth. You can change the direction of this development," he asserted, urging the younger generation to take ownership of shaping the future. In echoing Laudato Si’s call for environmental stewardship, Sabines highlighted the imperative of ecosystem restoration, underscoring the delicate balance between progress and preservation.

As the forum unfolded, reflections based on the seven (7) LSG shed further light on environmental and social justice issues. Dr Astrid Sinco, Director of the McKeough Marine Center (MMC), shared her reflection in light of LSG 1, Cry of the Earth, and evoked urgency, highlighting the interconnectedness between environmental degradation and food insecurity. Nestor Banuag Jr, Director of the Social Involvement and Advocacy Program (SIAP), responded for LSG 2, Cry of the Poor, emphasizing the importance of addressing underlying injustices and advocating for marginalized communities. The response for LSG 3, Ecological Economics, was provided by Dr Jerelyn Medalla, XU representative for the Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS) and faculty member of XU-College of Agriculture. Medalla stressed the significance of youth engagement and collaboration in fostering sustainable practices. Dr Anabel Abuzo, Director of XU Engineering Resource Center (XU-ERC), emphasized individual responsibility in contributing to environmental sustainability as she shared her reflection banked on LSG 4, Adoption of Sustainable Lifestyle. Ismael Salarda, Director of the School of Education – Arrupe Educational Center (SOE-AEC), shared his reflection in the context of LSG 5, Ecological Education. Salarda underscored the need for comprehensive curriculum redesign to instill environmental consciousness. Mona Lisa Pangan, Campus Minister and member of the XU Laudati Si’ University Committee, shared her response for LSG 6, Ecological Spirituality, and urged the community to cultivate empathy and compassion towards all living things. Lastly, Engr Gail de la Rita, Director of the Service-Learning Program (SLP), provided her reflection on LSG 7, Community Resilience and Empowerment. De la Rita further advocated for intensified green campus initiatives and personal consciousness in driving environmental action.

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[In Photo] Awarding of certificates and token to experts and discussants on the seven (7) LSG 
L-R: Engr Dexter Lo-VP for Social Development, Engr Gail de la Rita-SLP Director, Mona Lisa Pangan-Campus Ministries Office, Ismael
Salabrda-SOE-AEC Director, Dr Anabel Abuzo-XU-ERC Director, Dr Jerelyn Medalla-XU representative to the PIDS, Nestor Banuag Jr-SIAP
Director, and Dr Astid Sinco-MMC Director

In his synthesis, Atty Ernesto Neri, Director of the Xavier Ateneo Center for Legal Assistance (XUCLA), underscored the distinction between charity and justice, emphasizing the long-term goal of achieving environmental justice. "We have to make a distinction between charity and justice," he remarked, his words imbued with a sense of urgency, "We are called to give charity every day, but the long-term goal is to strive for justice." Neri's synthesis served as a powerful call to action, urging attendees to commit to sustainable practices and advocate for environmental justice in their communities.

The forum concluded with the Closing Remarks delivered by Dr Gina Itchon, Director of the Center for Global Health, inviting the Xavier Ateneo community to a personal commitment to care for our common home. As Xavier University strives to become a Laudato Si university, these reflections serve as a guiding beacon, inspiring individuals to harness their collective power in addressing the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor. Through dialogue, advocacy, and community engagement, the university community endeavors to foster a more sustainable and just future for all, echoing the sentiments of empowerment and agency encapsulated in Laudato Si’.