Colombo (AsiaNews) – Rehan Derrick, a Catholic brother who is studying to become a priest, believes that the constant references to the Church’s social doctrine in Pope Francis’ encyclical is relevant for the Sri Lanka Port City project.
A scholar and the author of a book on theology, he has worked at the Tulan Research Centre for Encounter and Dialogue in Sri Lanka since 2011. He recently spoke with AsiaNews about Laudato si’ in relation to the aforementioned plan.
For months, human rights activists and environmentalists have been protesting the construction of a new port city in Colombo.
The US$ 1.5 billion project by China Communications Construction Co. Ltd is the brainchild of former President Mahinda Rajapaksa, who during his term in office was close to Beijing.
Right after last January’s presidential elections, newly appointed Prime Minister Ranil Wickremasinghe set up a special committee to examine the project.
At present, construction is on hold, but fishermen and activists with the People's Movement against the Port City Project are concerned that the government might change its mind.
If it is completed, such a project would lead to incalculable environmental disasters, with major consequences for the lives of the local population.
Quoting Pope Francis, Brother Derrick noted, "Many cities are huge, inefficient structures, excessively wasteful of energy and water (44)”.
For the religious, “One of the encyclical’s main aspect is the pope’s focus on the dignity of the poor in every situation. The social aspect of this encyclical is clear, and Pope Francis champions actions on behalf of the poor."
For the pope, “an environmental approach is the same as a social approach,” he said. “This is the real challenge to save the planet, our 'common home'."